SERIE A PREVIEW | Juventus v Inter the headline act as Milan look to finish top

Following the end of the international break, Serie A returns with a bang this weekend, with eye-catching derbies and rivalries readying a promising weekend for the fans.

As the 2021/22 season nears the end, tension among the enthusiast becomes more apparent. This week, Serie A returns with a new round of fixtures. But which of them should you be looking forward to witnessing? Here are our five picks.

Are Fiorentina good enough to keep Empoli at bay?

Amid a plethora of high-octane fixtures, the match between Fiorentina and Empoli may not have gotten its deserving attention. But the match could well shape the future of La Viola’s European hopes this season. A victory on Sunday could give a massive boost to Fiorentina following the international hiatus.

Having registered 47 points from 29 games, Vincenzo Italiano’s men stand eighth this season. Finishing sixth will ensure Fiorentina’s involvement in next season’s UEFA Europa Conference League. AS Rona, who sit at 6th position with 51 points before the start of the weekend, have played one more game than Fiorentina, meaning there is a possibility of Fiorentina putting more pressure on Jose Mourinho’s troop this weekend.

As for Empoli, they started the 2021/22 season extremely well. And they are still reaping the fruits of that, with the Tuscan club currently far from the relegation zone in their welcome campaign. But the lack of top-level experience has cost them too many points thus far. They have not registered a win in their last five Serie A fixtures. That said, there remains a possibility to shock the host, who are yet to revive from Dusan Vlahovic’s departure.

Fiorentina will be missing Giacomo Bonaventura to injury, while their counterpart will be without Fabiano Parisi. The first-choice left-back will be serving his one-match suspension against La Viola on Sunday.

Will Atalanta close their gap on Napoli?

Atalanta have enjoyed a topsy-turvey run in Serie A of late, with La Dea losing two and drawing one out of their last five games in the league.

In a season where they could have taken the advantage of others’ lack of consistency at the top of the table, Gian Piero Gasperini’s boys are fighting for a finish inside the top four. This weekend, the challenge is colossal as they welcome Napoli vying for their maiden Scudetto in the twenty-first century.

Three points adrift of the top, The Parthenopeans are currently second in the points table. Thus, losing against Atalanta this weekend could prove to be too costly for the men from Naples.

Bergamo awaits an exciting fixture this weekend. But both teams could miss some of their best players. For Napoli, Amir Rrahmani and Victor Osimhen will be missing the game to a one-match suspension, while Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Andrea Petagna, and Alex Meret are yet to recover from injury. Duvan Zapata and Rafael Toloi are expected to be on the sideline for Atalanta.

Could Sampdoria get the best out of Mourinho’s men?

Jose Mourinho will be seen on the touchline once again, with his in-form side hosting potential relegation-dwellers in Sampdoria on Sunday. Although Sampdoria won their last league game against Venezia, they had gathered only seven wins in 29 matches before that. 

On the contrary, Roma have been unbeaten in their last five league games. They thrashed their city rivals, Lazio, with a 4-0 scoreline in the last league game before the international break. Mourinho will be hopeful of continuing this run for as long as possible.

There is not much optimism around Roma’s chances to qualify for the next season’s Champions League. But having made an awry start to the season, The Giallorossi now deserve some credit for turning the tide in an astute manner. They currently find themselves in the sixth position. While finishing at the same position would make them play Europa Conference League next season, finishing fifth in the league could mean a berth in the Europa League. Mourinho would surely be interested in the latter option.

Roma’s new fan-favourite in Tammy Abraham withdrew from England’s squad due to a back injury a fortnight ago. He is expected to be fit for Sunday’s clash. Manolo Gabbiadini and Mikkel Damsgaard remain absentees for the away side.

A Derby d’Italia is what this restart needs!

This is the big one, if not the biggest of the Italian footballing calendar. Both teams started the season in a completely different manner. But as it always happens in a 38-game season, some lose paths, and others make them. For Juventus, the latter option has come true this season.

Despite not playing the most pleasing football on the field, the Old Lady have salvaged results. As such, only one point now makes all the difference between a team that somehow finished fourth in the league last term and the one that re-engraved their name on Scudetto after almost a decade. Though, Inter have a game in hand.

Inter’s recent form has seen them pocketing one win from the last five league fixtures, with three of the rest being draws. The Bianconeri, on the other hand, have garnered four wins and one draw in their last five league matches. Brining in Dusan Vlahovic has come up as a masterstroke by the Juve management. With 21 goals from 28 matches, the Serbian leads the race for this season’s Capocannoniere.

For Inter, Lautaro Martínez has been inconsistent, demonstrating the void that Romelu Lukaku’s departure has left in Nerazzurri’s frontline. Both teams would like to win the derby. But as the fate of the title somewhat depends on the game, it would not be surprising to see the game finishing in a stalemate, either. Amid doubts over Stefan de Vrij’s fitness, there is a positive piece of news in the away camp ahead of the match, with Marcelo Brozovic set to make his return from injury this weekend.

Milan will hope to keep a firm hold of the top spot!

In what should be an easy affair for the league leaders, Milan host Bologna. After missing out on the Serie A title by a huge margin last time, the red part of Milan has made a comeback with a reinvigorated approach this season. They have been exceptional so far. It seems as if Milan have already drawn the lines for others to follow. 

Before the start of the 38th round of matches, Milan have a three-point lead over Inter. It could well get bigger if Inter drop points against Juventus on Sunday.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men have racked up some notable wins against Sassuolo, Sampdoria, and Lazio this season, outlining that they have the ability to emerge as a giant killer. And if certain things work in their favour on Sunday, Bologna could well bring home some happy memories from San Siro.

Going into the game, Bologna have a few absentees, with the likes of Nicolas Dominguez, Federico Santander, and Kingsley Michael all looking to miss the Milan game through injuries. AC Milan do not have any fresh fitness concern, with Simon Kjaer and Daniel Maldini being two misses for the home team. 

Jyotirmoy Halder

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