Five things to look for in Serie A
AFP Sport looks at five key games in Italy this weekend.
Inter have greater needs than Juve
Juventus travel to the San Siro to play Inter Milan on Saturday in a match that matters more to the hosts.
Juve’s Scudetto title is secure, their injury list is long and early exits in the Champions League and Coppa Italia mean there are no other competitions to worry about.
But this is the ‘Derby d’Italia’.
One small target for Juventus is a shared place in the record books with themselves. If Juventus win their five remaining matches they will equal the Serie A record of 102 points they set in 2013-14.
There is also a chance that Cristiano Ronaldo could add a Serie A scoring title to his 2008 Premier League Golden Boot and his three Spanish Pichichis.
Ronaldo has 19 league goals, three fewer than Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria and two less than Krzysztof Piatek of AC Milan and Duvan Zapata of Atalanta.
Third-place Inter’s recent form has been so erratic — all-conquering away, hopeless at home — that it isn’t clear whether they should be thinking of catching Napoli ahead or worrying about fending off the snapping pack of pursuers behind.
Lazio fans in spotlight
Quagliarella is in action on Sunday when Sampdoria host Lazio, but he will be sharing the attention with the visiting fans
For Sampdoria, helping their striker to win an unlikely first top scorer ‘Capocannoniere’ title at 36 is just about the only target left after a traumatic season.
For inconsistent Lazio this is a chance to revive their pursuit of European qualification after a horrible home loss to relegated Chievo last weekend.
When Lazio rebounded by winning 1-0 away to AC Milan on Wednesday to reach the Coppa Italia final, the result was over-shadowed, once again, by their fans.
A flash mob of as many as 50 supporters assembled before the game, displayed a banner reading “Honour to Benito Mussolini,” sang fascist songs and performed the Nazi salute near the spot in Milan where partisans strung up Il Duce’s corpse in 1945.
Lazio defended themselves on Thursday by condemning “the simplistic tendency of the media to consider the entire Lazio fanbase responsible for isolated elements.”
The other half of the derby
The Derby d’Italia is shadowed by a match between the other clubs in Milan and Turin, which could be even tenser.
Only three points separate AC Milan, in the fourth Champions League berth, and the team they visit on Sunday, Torino, who are seventh and at risk of missing out on Europe altogether.
Torino have not beaten Milan in the league since 2001, but the visitors have picked up only five points in their last six league games and were, coach Gennaro Gattuso said, “embarrassed” by their cup defeat at home to Lazio.
Pulgar on the spot for Bologna
In early March, Empoli enjoyed a four point cushion ahead of the closest team in the relegation places, Bologna.
Since then, Bologna have been the hottest team in Serie A, picking up 16 points out of a possible 21. They now lead Empoli by five points.
They have been helped by a string of penalties. Defensive midfielder Erick Pulgar, who had scored four times in 87 previous league appearances for the club, has converted five from the spot. The Chilean also has netted from open play and an own goal in that span.
Napoli need to revive
Napoli can all-but seal Champions League football and relegate Frosinone on Sunday.
The visitors to Stadio Benito Stirpe need five points from as many games to be sure of a top-four place. On the face of it, faltering Frosinone offer a good chance to gain three of those. Yet there is a dangerous air of disappointment hanging over Napoli.
On Monday, Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli dominated visiting Atalanta, only to capitulate and lose 2-1.
The home fans held up a banner proclaiming their love for old coach Maurizio Sarri. At Stamford Bridge, on the same night, there was no sign of any similar declaration of love as Sarri’s new club, Chelsea, drew at home to Burnley and the manager ended up being charged with misconduct by the English FA.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Bologna v Empoli (1300), Roma v Cagliari (1600), Inter Milan v Juventus (1830)
Frosinone v Napoli (1030), Chievo v Parma, SPAL v Genoa (both 1300), Sampdoria v Lazio (1600), Torino v AC Milan (1830)
Atalanta v Udinese (1700), Fiorentina v Sassuolo (1900)
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