Foreign Leagues

Serie A Preview: Leaders Juventus Travel to Cagliari

 • by Frank Smith
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This weekend, Juventus travel to Cagliari with the intention of continuing their good recent form and maintaining their lead at the top of Serie A, which currently stands at seven points. The Turin giants have serious motivation to keep winning — having won five consecutive league titles, should they win another this season they will break the record for successive Scudetti.

Elsewhere in Italy’s top flight, Juve’s nearest challengers Roma travel to Crotone, while third-placed Napoli prepare for next Wednesday’s Champions League second round tie with Real Madrid by hosting lowly Genoa in the Stadio San Paolo. This round of fixtures will be completed on Monday night, when AC Milan take on Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in what should be a riveting clash of European hopefuls.

Team News

Juventus may be without Andrea Barzagli for their clash with Cagliari, though they may not have used the experienced centre-back anyway — in recent weeks Massimiliano Allegri has opted for a back four with only two central defenders in Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini — the results have been exciting.

bonucci-juventus

Juve are now using a 4-2-3-1 in Serie A, with Gonzalo Higuain backed up by Lionel Messi’s footballing lookalike Paulo Dybala and width supplied by the tricky Juan Cuadrado and the indefatigable Mario Mandzukic. Since the change in system, the champions have won five straight games, including victories over Lazio, Milan and Inter.

There is a chance that Cagliari may not have powerful centre-forward, and former Juventus player, Marco Borriello available, meaning a 4-3-2-1 system may be deployed with Marco Sau alone up front. Their key man will be Davide Di Gennaro — if the creative midfielder is on form, Juventus’ two-man midfield could have problems.

Form

Atalanta 2-0 Cagliari         Crotone 0-2 Juventus
Cagliari 1-1 Bologna          Juventus 1-0 Inter
Roma 1-0 Cagliari              Sassuolo 0-2 Juventus
Cagliari 4-1 Genoa             Juventus 2-1 Milan
Milan 1-0 Cagliari              Juventus 2-0 Lazio

Prediction

No team in the bottom half of Serie A has scored more than Cagliari’a 32 goals this season, but their central defensive partnership of Bartosz Salamon and Bruno Alves will be put under serious pressure by Higuain, Dybala and Mandzukic. Juventus are almost guaranteed to score and, with the league’s best defence by quite some distance, they will have enough to secure the win.

OTHER GAMES

Napoli vs. Genoa

Napoli are playing some of the best football in Europe right now, and Maurizio Sarri’s side will be confident of handling Genoa after an exceptional 7-1 win away to Bologna last weekend.

Genoa have struggled this term and, without a win since last December, they find themselves in a disappointing 16th place. The only thing that could hamper the home side is the sheer excitement of taking on Real Madrid next Wednesday but, even if they rotate personnel ahead of that mouth-watering clash, they should have too much attacking firepower for their visitors, with Leonardo Pavoletti potentially set to lead the line against his old club.

Prediction: Napoli win

Fiorentina vs. Udinese

Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina have struggled to kick on from their stunning 2-1 home victory over rivals Juventus in January, with defeats to Napoli and Roma stunting their quest for a top-six spot. The Roma loss was particularly galling, with a 4-0 scoreline leading to severe criticism of Sousa’s tactics.

Udinese are a sound defensive side with power in attack thanks to Duvan Zapata’s presence, and they could take advantage of a fragile Fiorentina here.

Prediction: Draw

Crotone vs. Roma

Few will be betting on Crotone this weekend as they welcome Roma to the Stadio Ezio Scida.

Sitting in 19th place with just 13 points to their name, the hosts have lost their last two — one of which was against fellow strugglers Palermo — and will be up against an in-form side. Roma’s destruction of Fiorentina last time out evidenced what they are capable of at their best, and striker Edin Dzeko is firing on all cylinders, with six goals in his last five outings.

Prediction: Roma win

Palermo vs. Atalanta

Palermo are undefeated since the appointment of Diego Lopez as head coach. Granted, that run is only two games long, but it’s still impressive considering one of those results was a 1-1 draw away to Napoli.

Atalanta have been exceptional all season long and will see this weekend as a real opportunity to pick up three crucial points in their bid to seal a surprise European qualification place, but they haven’t won in their last three away games.

Prediction: Draw

Torino vs. Pescara

This game pits one of the most coveted young strikers in European football up against the worst defence in Serie A. Torino’s Andrea Belotti has broken out this season, with 15 goals in 20 league appearances leading to rumours linking him with top clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Here he gets the chance to add to his tally against a Pescara side who have leaked 50 goals on their descent to the foot of the Serie A table.

Prediction: Torino win

Sassuolo vs. Chievo

Chievo are one of Serie A’s unsung teams. They aren’t as attractive to watch as Sassuolo, but they remain two points ahead of their hosts in the Serie A table.

Rolando Maran’s side make life difficult for most teams they face, and against a Sassuolo team missing Gregoire Defrel’s goals, they could cause problems.

Prediction: Chievo win

Inter Milan vs. Empoli

Inter’s stunning seven-match winning run in Serie A came to an end last weekend with a 1-0 defeat away to Juventus.

Stefano Pioli’s side hung in with the champions for the most part of a back-and-forth game, but failed to offer enough attacking threat to take away a point or three. With their bubble burst they now must welcome Empoli without Ivan Perisic and star striker Mauro Icardi due to suspension, but with Eder and Ever Banega as potential replacements they should still prove too strong.

Prediction: Inter win

Sampdoria vs. Bologna

Sampdoria are one of the more aesthetically pleasing teams to watch in Serie A and, with an array of young talent, the future looks bright too.

Against a Bologna side recovering from a shocking 7-1 home defeat to Napoli and a late loss against Milan, Samp’s speed and skill in attack should do damage.

Prediction: Sampdoria win

Lazio vs. AC Milan

Milan have endured a terrible start to 2017, with a poor January window followed up by an injury to key player Giacomo Bonaventura. All of this was compounded by three consecutive league defeats that saw them fall away from the top three. However, with a stunning late win away to Bologna in midweek, they will visit Lazio in high spirits.

Unfortunately for Milan, their Roman opposition are in fine fettle themselves having knocked Inter out of the Coppa Italia and struck six past Pescara last time out.

Prediction: Lazio win

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