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|SoccerAnchor's Italian Serie A Preview: Round 37|
Novara are relegated, but they have not been the talking point to come out of the midweek Serie A fixtures. Fiorentina sack Delio Rossi for assaulting Adem Ljajic, but not even that has stolen the headline to the extent that AC Milan have closed the gap at the top to only one point against bitter rivals Juventus...
Saturday, 5 May 2012
Lecce - Fiorentina
Lecce may be go down as the side that brought down Juventus' Scudetto campaign, after the Giallorossi grabbed a late equaliser on Wednesday evening. Despite it being a lucky goal - as Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a harsh first touch - Luis Muriel managed to get the ball into the back of the net. Lecce are also fighting to avoid relegation, and the point came in handy as Genoa got the three points to pull away. Juan Cuadrado will miss due to receiving two yellow cards and being sent off.
In any competition, the assault of a player by a coach would dominate the headlines. In Serie A, it hasn't. But that is exactly what happened after Viola boss Delio Rossi substituted Adem Ljajic against Novara on Wednesday. The Serbian reportedly made some gestures and comments, and Rossi snapped. The board of directors immediately sacked him and have since appointed Vincenzo Guerini for the final two matches. Riccardo Montolivo's second-half brace is something that has been completely dismissed. Stevan Jovetic missed the match, but will come back for this one, as he is the key to a Gigliati win.
Lecce need the points, but Fiorentina are playing for pride.
Prediction: Lecce 2-2 Fiorentina
Roma - Catania
Roma remained a very slender outsider to grab the final Champions League - requiring a host of results to go the Giallorossi's way - but failed to get the necessary win against Chievo, barely managing a draw. On a rain-soaked pitch, Luis Enrique's men created chances from distance, finding it tough to get close to Stefano Sorrentino's goal. Despite the return of Daniele De Rossi, the Lupi could have also lost the match, as the Gialloblu had a goal disallowed, and allowed Sergio Pellissier a clear-cut chance late on.
Catania were shock midweek losers, dropping all three points against Bologna 1-0 at the Massimino. A fortress all season long, the Elefanti let the result get beyond them. Gonzalo Bergessio believed he had scored with 20 minutes to go, but replays showed that the ball didn't cross the line, as goalkeeper Michele Agliardi got to the ball in the nick of time. Pablo Barrientos will return from suspension.
Roma have scored at least one goal in all their home matches this term, and should do the same on Saturday.
Prediction: Roma 2-1 Catania
Sunday, 6 May 2012
Siena - Parma
Mattia Destro may have been the one who got his name on the scoresheet against Lazio, but the work of goalkeeper Gianluca Pegoli must also be attributed. The shot-stopper blocked a Biancocelesti double-chance in the first-half, and was in good positions all match. The Robur are safe, but are aiming for their best-ever finish.
Parma are the in-form side in the competition, having won their last five matches. And it was no surprise that the Gialloblu defeated Inter 3-1 on Wednesday. Sebastian Giovinco played a hand in every goal, scoring once and providing the assists for the other two. His 15 goals and 10 assists put him up as a contender for the Serie A player of the season. The Ducali are only two points behind Roma, and could overtake them should results go their way.
Siena at home are quite good, but Parma has been known to get shock away results.
Prediction: Siena 1-1 Parma
Atalanta - Lazio
Atalanta have set a point-record this season, but failed to get the win against Milan in a Lombardy derby. At home, the Orobici have been difficult to break down, as was seen in the 2-0 win over Fiorentina on the weekend. German Denis still looms as the key player, but Maxi Moralez has been stealing some of the headlines recently.
Three points were required, but one will be accepted, as it means Lazio stay in the race for third place, but have it all to do. Only managing a 1-1 draw, the Biancocelesti were lucky even to score, as Siena dominated proceedings and should have been rewarded with more goals. Federico Marchetti and Andre Dias missed the match, and won't be available for the remainder of the season. Antonio Candreva is proving to be a handful for opposition sides, as he won the penalty which Cristian Ledesma converted.
Atalanta can shape the top six, as they played Milan, face Lazio and take on Juventus next week. Realistically, this could be their last chance to get a win, but Lazio are strong on the road.
Prediction: Atalanta 1-1 Lazio
Bologna - Napoli
Bologna took on an already-safe Catania in Sicily, and got an unexpected 1-0 result at the Massimino. Gaston Ramirez's curler from 25 yards was his third strike in four games. Stefano Pioli had the luxury of resting star forwards Alessandro Diamanti and Marco Di Vaio, which made the win more shocking. Noth are expected to partner the Uruguayan in the attack.
Napoli made short work of Palermo, beating the Rosanero 2-0. The biggest winners in the race for third, the Partenopei should not have been awarded a penalty on 16 minutes, as the ball involuntarily struck a Milan Milanovic arm, and Edinson Cavani converted. Marek Hamsik also scored on 35 minutes. Goran Pandev was preferred ahead of Ezequiel Lavezzi, and it was the former who won the spot-kick. What will Walter Mazzarri do? Play the Argentine or the Macedonian?
Prediction: Bologna 1-2 Napoli
Novara - Cesena
The battle of the relegated teams sees Novara host Cesena. 19th versus 20th is generally meant to mean a drab affair, but highly-entertaining matches is what teams in these similar positions provide. Novara took a two-goal lead against Fiorentina after 30 minutes when Jeda and Marco Rigoni converted their opportunities, but their defence couldn't quite do its job.
Cesena may already be relegated as well, but have proved a handful despite their position, more so than this weekend's opponents. The attacking combination of Vincenzo Iaquinta and Adrian Mutu failed to fire once again against Udinese - Mutu smashed his penalty-spot kick against the crossbar - and could have been further down had video replays been used to award a second goal. Giuseppe Colucci is expected to return in defence.
Prediction: Novara 3-2 Cesena
Palermo - Chievo
Palermo cannot wait for the season to end. Their atrocious away record continued midweek, losing 2-0 to Napoli. Without captain Fabrizio Miccoli, the Rosanero didn't get into the match, and create too many chances up front. The former Juventus and Perugia hitman will slot straight back into the starting XI, partnering Abel Hernandez. Josip Ilicic had the Sicilian's best chance to score, but his shot went straight at Morgan De Sanctis. Even Eran Zahavi fluffed his one-on-one chance, shooting it over the bar.
Chievo fans would have been hoping their side could've claimed all three points against Roma on Tuesday night, as they had the better of the chances to score. Sergio Pellissier did manage to get the ball into the back of the net, but he was ruled - correctly - to have been in an offside position. The striker also fluffed his chance from inside the box late on. Despite this, Domenico Di Carlo did have several of his stars missing, including Cyril Thereau, but the Frenchman should return to partner Michael Bradley in midfield.
Chievo haven't scored in five outings, since they played Catania on April 7.
Prediction: Palermo 2-1 Chievo
Udinese - Genoa
If the race for third place is determined by one goal, Udinese fans and Serie A followers will be able to pinpoint where the Bianconeri were harshly done by. Kwadwo Asamoah unleashed a rocket just before the half-hour mark, which almost broke the crossbar. As the ball was travelling at such a velocity, the linesman failed to see that it had in fact crossed the line entirely. Not awarding the goal, the Friuli-based outfit managed a slender 1-0 win thanks to Diego Fabbrini's debut Serie A goal.
Genoa snapped their winless run since February, by earning a 2-1 win against Cagliari. The only disappointment was that there were no fans at the ground to cheer them on, as it was behind closed doors in Brescia. Rodrigo may have opened the scoring, but it was a screamer from Bosko Jankovic into the top corner from a free-kick with 15 minutes to go that stole the show - and the three points. Alberto Gilardino made his return midweek, and he will have gained some match fitness. Watch him to fire alongside Palacio. The Grifone are not quite safe yet, but the three points here would go a very long way.
Udinese are aiming at a Champions League spot, and should win given their impressive home record.
Prediction: Udinese 3-1 Genoa
Cagliari - Juventus
Cagliari may have equalised against Genoa via Lorenzo Ariaudo, but were never really in the match. The Rossoblu's home record at their 'new' stadium in Trieste has served them well, as they are yet to lose there. The Isolani may be nowhere near the top of the Serie A standings, but will play a very big factor this weekend. The match has been moved to the evening, to coincide with the Derby della Madonnina kick-off, avoiding any form of collusion. Mauricio Pinilla will be the one to watch.
The Scudetto race is reportedly back on, as Juventus failed to secure the three points against Lecce. Despite Andrea Pirlo playing a sublime ball over for Claudio Marchisio to header home, it was Gianluigi Buffon's first touch in the 85th minute which created a howler, and allowed Luis Muriel to equalise into an empty net. It was also the first time the Bianconeri dropped points out of their last seven outings, but so much is at stake.
Cagliari's home record is strong, but Juventus have a Scudetto on the line.
Prediction: Cagliari 0-2 Juventus
Inter Milan - AC Milan