The race for the Scudetto has reached a furious pace and many Serie A squads are trying to find the right tools to construct a serious title challenge. Milan sit four clear at the top, but as much as I’d like it to be so, they have not yet tightened their grip on the trophy.
Napoli, Roma, Lazio, Inter and Juventus all have designs on the title and are well within striking distance should the Rossoneri falter. But the championship isn’t the only prize to be won. In what I think has been the most competitive Serie A seasons in recent memory, squads all the way down to 12th place Parma will believe they can make a move for European football next term.
Many of these teams made moves recently to solidify their squads and there are still some deals to be made. I must admit I’ll be glad when the transfer dust has settled and we reach the home stretch of the season. It has always interested me to see who a team picks up mid-season though, as it goes a long way towards exposing what they see as their own weaknesses.
Lots of happy managers with new toys to play with this weekend. Whether or not the acquisitions made were the right ones, well, that remains to be seen. Let’s get to the matches!
Lazio v. Fiorentina – Fiorentina added a face familiar to EPL fans this week by unveiling their new winger and former West Ham man Valon Behrami. The 25-year old Swiss international may not start right away but should provide a solid presence in Roma’s midfield and provide manager Mihajlovic with some much needed versatility.
Rather than adding someone Lazio lost a man this week, for three games anyways. Forward Mauro Zarate was suspended for three matchesfor his part in a post-game alteration against Bologna. Zarate was cited for aggressive actions and posturing as well as throwing the ball at an opponent’s face. Zarate has started 17 games for the Biancocelesti and has contributed 4 goals and 2 assists.
Floccari is the real danger man for Lazio, and the Romans’ well-oiled machine runs through Hernanes in the midfield. The biggest drawback to the hosts losing Zarate could be that it allows La Viola to focus on containing their top-scorer.
Fiorentinahave been surprisingly tough defensively and I think this one could be a real hard-nosed game. I’ll call it a 1-1 final, with a draw really helping neither team.
Catania v. AC Milan – You know what excites me about Milan’s recent shopping spree? It gives them depth. In my wildest dreams, Milan match Inter’s treble from last year and if they any chance of achieving that they’ll need bodies.
Picking up Cassanoearly in the window has already paid huge dividends and Milan have a multitude of options up front. Now they have strengthened the midfield with the acquisition of Dutch duo Mark Van Bommel and youngster Urby Emanuelson.
They are still in the market for a left-back, but I wish I had seen at least one more addition to the defense as I unfortunately still see that as an area of concern in Champions League competition.
Catania is really slipping and fans of Sicily’s second squad will be uncomfortable sitting three points above the relegation zone. I think they’ll put up a valiant fight in this one, but if Milan are close to their best, the Elefanti don’t stand a chance. 0-3 to the Rossoneri.
Brescia v. Chievo Verona – Remember those teams I was talking about before? The ones fighting for trophies and places in Europe? Yeah, these aren’t two of those teams.
Chievo have actually fought to earn two successive tough draws. Brescia may have more balance up front but the Flying Donkeys have Pellissier, their top scorer and a player I’ve always considered very underrated. He also leads the team in assists. This doesn’t to become and instant classic, but Chievo will get the breakthrough, courtesy of their faithful servant. 0-1 to the Veronese .
Bologna v. AS Roma - Roma might be someone else’s new toy soon. As OM so ably reported earlier this week, a Boston based group may be in the running to buy the club from current owner Rosella Sensi.
Whatever is going on off the field hasn’t distracted the Giallorossi this week. They won convincingly at home against Cagliari last weekend before ousting Juve from the Coppa Italia in Turin on Thursday.
Bologna can’t pay for more players because they can’t pay the ones they already have. Di Vaio, as always, will be their only hope. 1-3 to the visitors.
Cagliari v. Bari - The Sardiniansare handed the perfect opponents to rebound from a disappointing loss with in bottom of the table Bari.
Can’t score. Can’t defend. What more can be said about Bari? Cagliarishould bounce back with a comfortable 2-0 win.
Genoa v. Parma – Genoa were up to their old tricks last weekend, namely not scoring. They’ve been one of the real losers of this transfer window and need to start picking up all the points realistically available to them.
They may feel that this is one of those games but Parma are a strong side. Giovinco has put in some nice displays next to Crespo these last few weeks and if their offense can really begin to make up for some shakiness in the back, Parma could potentially climb up into the top ten. Europe, while not realistic, is still possible.
Genoa will put up a wall as usual, but Parma surely have what it takes to break it down, even if it’s only once. 0-1 to Parma, the goal coming late on.
Internazionale v. Palermo – Inter are expected to announce a big signing of their ownin the coming days. Sources have them landing Sampdoria and Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini. It looks like the Nerazzurri may try to match Milan in firepower. Their loss last Sunday was predictable, now we’ll see how Leonardo gets his men to respond.
Palermo sneaked to a 1-0 win over Brescia last weekend and squeaked into the Coppa Italia semis, defeating Parma. Inter’s depleted backline will have theunfavorable task of dealing with Palermo’s midfield duo Pastore and Ilicic who have 15 goals between them.
This could be the best match of the weekend and I’m hoping to see some goals. 3-2 to the hosts, but I won’t mind if I’m wrong.
Lecce v. Cesena - A relegation scrap between 17 and 18 in the table. This could be super dull or terribly exciting. I’ll be optimisitcand predict the latter. Either way it probably won’t be pretty, both sides will take the point from a 2-2 draw.
Napoli v. Sampdoria - Anonsters’ heart broke when Lavezzi missed the penalty which saw Napoli crash out of the Coppa Italia to Inter on penalties. Napoli must now concentrate on the larger prizes available. Napoli sit second and while I am not ruling out a championship for Napoli by any means, they will want to secure their spot in the Champions League, especially the automatic spots.
Napoli finally landed Victor Ruiz, the Espanyol defender who Wikipedia predicted they would get a week ago. He adds depth to their defense and could make an immediate impact. Lavezziis out with a fever, Sosa slots right in.
Samp were having trouble scoring with Pazzini. They already lost Cassano and I fear they will fall far from the pace of those qualifying for Europe. They’ve brought in Maccarone from Palermo, but he’s not the caliber of striker they’ll need to climb the table. He’s likely to partner Macheda in attack
The real question in this one will be whether or not Napoli can break down what has truly been a stingy Samp defense. I smell another late Napoli winner. 2-1 to the hosts.
Juventus v. Udinese - The last game of the week is another which I think has a lot of potential. Udinese are making the most of Di Natale’s productivity and could leapfrog the Old Lady with a win.
Juventus have been disappointing since the return from the break. They made a good pickup to beef up their defense by signing Andrea Barzagli from Wolfsburg. He should slot right in on Sunday and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the leagues top scorer.
A goal early and this one and it could get wide open. Juventus need to win to make a statement, and I think they’ll pull off a 3-2 win at home.
I’m very much looking forward to sitting back, relaxing, and watching some calcio this weekend. Just as soon as I shovel out my TV.