Seeing three Serie A squads (yes, even Inter) qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League was quite a thrill. But the attention of those qualified squads and all of Italy returns home to that beautiful boot-shaped peninsula this weekend.
Home has been a real haven for Udinese and Palermo, neither of which have dropped a single point on their own turf this campaign. Both 6-0 at home, neither should be particularly troubled this weekend.
Palermo welcome a toothless Cesena side on Saturday while Udinese play hosts to Chievo Verona.
Both visitors have atrocious away records and will have to produce special displays to trouble their hosts in their fortresses.
Other highlights of this matchday include an evenly matched affair between Siena and Genoa. The newly promoted side haven’t set the top flight on fire but they are a plucky side fans of lower-tier EPL sides could probably get behind.
You’ll have to wait for Monday for the real meat of this week’s lineup Juventus face yet another tricky trip, this time to the capital to face an unpredictable Roma side.
Coppa Italia Stretches Squads
While everyone was getting excited about the last 16 of the Champions League getting set, the last 16 of the Coppa Italia (just as prestigious, no?) was getting underway.
Juventus snuck past Serie A strugglers Bologna 2-1 to book the first quarterfinal ticket on Thursday.
Hellas Verona is the only Serie B team still going in the domestic cup (they were in Serie C1 just last year) so the tournament is chock full of top flight teams looking to win some silverware.
It’s no secret that the Coppa Italia is not normally a real priority for most Serie A heavyweights. But for clubs like Inter, Roma, and Fiorentina whose prospects of more notable hardware don’t look so hot this season the tournament could take on additional importance.
But do they expend resources on the final rounds or focus on getting back up the table? Inter already relies on aging legs while Roma’s Luis Enrique is consistently forced to field a younger squad than most Serie A managers would like.
These squads normally just waltz to the final, but it looks like it could be a much more determined dance this year.
Tevez-Milan Talks Continue
The Carlos Tevez transfer saga continues with both the striker’s camp and Milan asserting that terms have been reached.
All that remains is Manchester City’s blessing. And that’s the tricky part.
Milan only want him on loan while City are keen to sell. And now apparently free-spending PSG are trying to get in on the action.
Honestly, from my perspective PSG can have him. There are already a lot of egos that are (knock on wood) well balanced on this Milan squad. Carlito could really serve to upset that.
But the Argentine has the backing of his countryman, the one and only Diego Maradona.
Wait, that doesn’t make me feel better.
Player Spotlights: Edinson Cavani (Napoli)
I picked last year’s Serie A golden boot runner-up to top the chart this year, but early on it wasn’t looking like such a wise bet.
But the Uruguayan has climbed back into 4th place with 7 goals, 3 behind leader German Denis of Atalanta.
I shouldn’t be so impatient, as Cavani has always seemed to score in spurts.
It’s often a brace or nothing for ‘El Matador’, and it could easily be the former as Napoli roll into Novara on Sunday.
Simone Pepe (Juventus)
Another week, another spotlight on a Juve midfielder. Perhaps the most unheralded of the bunch, Pepe has pitched in with 4 goals, many of them crucial, and unending drive from the wings.
His versatility is a real strength, but now that he has firmly planted himself in the starting lineup in his preferred wide position he will prove himself worthy of mention next to names like Pirlo and Marchisio.
Daniele Conti (Cagliari)
It’s been a team effort that has kept Cagliari hovering near the European qualifying places a third of the way into the season, but the form of their 32-year old captain Daniele Conti has been a real bright spot.
Conti, a product of Roma’s youth system, has been with the Sardinian club since 1999. He’s walked a fine line between scorer and playmaker all season and leads the club in both goals and assists.
While I’m not all that impressed by the talent around him, an inspirational leader can do wonders for a squad. If Cagliari do stay in the top half all season, Conti will deserve a significant portion of the credit.
Pick of the Week: AS Roma v. Juventus
Despite being a major rival of my beloved Rossoneri, I really don’t hate Juventus.
Maybe I respect them. Maybe it’s because they produce so much quality talent for the Italian National Team. Who nows.
That said, man do I want them to lose this season!
In my heart of hearts I don’t think Roma are the side to take first blood from the Bianconeri this season, but the Giallorossi are so unpredictable I’m going to go out on a limb here.
A win over the Old Lady could really turn Roma’s season around. Their squad is nearly fully fit, and never count out the sporadic magic of Francesco Totti.
3-2 to the hosts, in what I hope to be one of the year’s best matches so far.