There were some surprise slips from the sides at the top end of Serie A as Sampdoria, Roma and Fiorentina all dropped points despite their respective home games being very much winnable. Lazio failed to capitalise after losing 2-0 to champions elect Juventus but Napoli took full advantage of the teams surrounding them after an impressive 3-0 victory away at Cagliari. It reduced the gap between them and Lazio in 2nd to 5 points.
Udinese v AC Milan
These two sides are usually much higher up the table and competing for Champions League places but it’s been a disappointing season for both sides. Everything about this game heads towards a draw being played out as Udinese have only won 1 of their last 10 home league games whilst AC Milan have only won 1 of their last 11 away league games.
AC Milan have picked up of late with 8 points from their last possible 12 available including that elusive away victory against Palermo. Back-to-back draws to Sampdoria and Inter Milan is no embarrassment either.
Udinese continue to rely solely on 37-year old forward, Antonio Di Natale but even he has had trouble bailing out the club he has served so loyally despite scoring 15 goals in 25 appearances. After Cyril Thereau who has 12 goals, their next top goal scorer has just 3 goals and that has primarily been their Achilles heel this season.
Di Natale made his return from injury in the 1-1 draw with Chievo and manager Andrea Stramaccioni will be pleased to be able to recall on his captain to lead the line with the support of Thereau. Jeremy Menez has contributed in 36% of AC Milan’s league goals this year, scoring 16 of the 44 they’ve scored but the Frenchman drew a blank last Sunday in the Milan derby.
Keisuke Honda and Mattia Destro returned from their minor injuries to come off the substitute’s bench against Inter and both could start against Udinese on Saturday.
Inter Milan v Roma
An interesting statistic from the Roma camp is that they’ve scored just 1 goal in each of their last 4 fixtures but they’ve managed to stay unbeaten during these 4 games and have gained 8 points.
1-0 wins over Cesena and Napoli have been followed up with 1-1 draws against Torino and Atalanta. Their draw against Atalanta would’ve been particularly disappointing for Rudi Garcia given Lazio’s loss to Juventus as they could’ve leapfrogged over them into 2nd.
Inter Milan are labouring in 10th position and Roberto Mancini has found it hard to inspire his old side since returning. Freddy Guarin and Zdravko Kuzmanovic are valuable players missing from midfield for Mancini but have worthy candidates filling their void in Hernandes, Gary Medel and Mateo Kovacic.
Mauro Icardi has scored 16 in 26 Serie A matches but has struggled of late and has only scored 1 goal in his last 6 appearances. The Argentine forward needs to rediscover the form he showed at the start of the season if Inter are to climb Serie A.
Roma are still missing the influential Kevin Strootman in midfield but do have Kostas Manolas and Daniele De Rossi returning from suspension. Gervinho and Miralem Pjanic are creative players missing through injury for Roma.
Napoli v Sampdoria
Rafa Benitez’s side are starting to gain some momentum at the crucial time of the season and with 5 Serie A matches left, maximum points could possibly achieve 2nd place.
A demolition job of Wolfsburg in Germany for the 1st leg of the Europa League was a masterclass performance in Europe but Sampdoria sit just 3 points behind Napoli and have only been defeated 5 times in 31 Serie A matches.
Sampdoria laboured to a 0-0 draw with Cesena that wasn’t particularly impressive and Sinisa Mihajlovic is unlikely to make any drastic changes despite the poor result. Lorenzo De Silvestri shook off an injury to play a part in their clean sheet and the attacking quartet of Eder, Samuel Eto’o, Luis Muriel and Stefano Okaka will be given another chance to prove their worth despite lacking ideas against Cesena.
Napoli will be without Christian Maggio who picked up two yellow cards against Cagliari and will be suspended for 1 match. Gokhan Inler and Dries Mertens were rested but will likely make a return ahead of such a crucial game.