Salernitana v Fiorentina
Had Fiorentina made the trip to Salernitana’s Stadio Arechi two weeks earlier it would’ve been hard to see anything other than a Viola win in Sunday’s early Serie A kick-off, but the Granata have found a bit of form that has – against all odds – given them a chance at avoiding the drop to Serie B in recent weeks.
Davide Nicola has somehow lifted Salernitana off the bottom of the table after back-to-back wins over Sampdoria and Udinese, and now they are looking up at Cagliari who sit just six points above them and outside the relegation zone.
History favours the visitors on Sunday though as Fiorentina have won three of their five top-flight meetings with their hosts, and each of their last three games against newly-promoted sides without conceding a single goal.
But coming up against a confident Salernitana, Vincenzo Italiano is going to have to find a way to reverse an unwanted recent trend. His Viola have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 12 Serie A matches on the road, and the last time they suffered a longer run of this kind came over a decade ago between November 2009 and October 2010, failing to keep their hosts out in 16 straight matches.
With Salernitana’s form and newfound belief, Fiorentina might have their hands full on Sunday.
Bologna v Udinese
As exciting as the game in Salerno is to kick Sunday’s action off, Udinese’s trip to the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara to face Bologna is possibly the least significant of all of the weekend’s Serie A action.
Neither the Rossoblu nor the Zebrette have anything left to play for in the final five rounds of the season, with the visitors having done enough in the last couple of months to guarantee their place in the top flight for another year and Bologna’s status was never really in doubt.
Although Udinese have found real form in front of goal, they’ll come up against a stubborn Bologna side who have held both AC Milan and Juventus in recent weeks, shutting out the Rossoneri at the Stadio San Siro and conceding just once against the Bianconeri in Turin before going down to nine men.
Bologna have tightened up since the turn of the year and have conceded just 1.08 goals per game on average in the second half of the season – better than 14 of Serie A’s sides in 2022 – and they’ve already kept seven clean sheets at the Dall’Ara this term, which is their best return there since keeping ten in 1999/2000.
Each of their last four top-flight meetings has ended in a draw, too, with three of those being 1-1s.
Empoli v Napoli
Empoli are still winless in Serie A since December 12 but on Sunday afternoon they’ll welcome Napoli to the Stadio Alberto Castellani, with the Partenopei being the last side they managed to better in league action.
Since that famous win in Naples, though, 16 games have come and gone for the Azzurri without ever managing to pick up three points. Eight of those have ended in draws, and eight defeats. Their current run is the worst in any of Europe’s top-five leagues, and no team has ever managed to avoid relegation without a single win in the second half of a campaign.
Surprisingly, Empoli have managed to win each of their last two games against the Partenopei, but have never managed to get the better of them twice in the same Serie A season. That is likely to remain true after this weekend as Napoli have the joint-best away record in Italy this season, having taken 37 points from 16 games on the road, averaging 2.31 points per game away from the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Although Napoli’s title chances were dealt a potentially-fatal blow by losing to Fiorentina and then drawing with Roma, it’s hard to see anything other than a win for Luciano Spalletti’s side on Sunday.
Genoa v Cagliari
Away from the top of the table and the title race, Cagliari’s trip to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to take on Genoa is arguably the most high-stakes game taking place in Round 34. The Grifone had been in impressive form since the turn of the year, but they’ve slipped back into their old habits in recent weeks and the Sardinians will smell blood as they make the journey to Liguria.
Three consecutive losses against Verona, AC Milan and Lazio have Genoa again scrambling and knowing that they need to pick up points fast if they are to overturn the six-point gap that separates them from their visitors on Sunday, and anything other than three points will likely see them spending next season in Serie B, having managed to cling onto their Serie A status for a number of years.
Cagliari, on the other hand, will have their eyes set on securing survival this week knowing that a win will all but confirm Genoa’s relegation, and it could well see them put nine points between themselves and the other two relegation candidates – Salernitana and Venezia – depending on results elsewhere.
But Genoa have been here plenty of times in recent seasons, and there is a certain inevitability about them finding a way to survive when they look dead and buried, so don’t be surprised to see the Grifone rise again.
Lazio v AC Milan
AC Milan visit the Stadio Olimpico to take on Lazio knowing that they’re likely to need an almost perfect return from their remaining five games to stand a chance of dethroning Inter as Serie A champions. Maurizio Sarri’s side could pose problems.
A comfortable 2-0 win over Genoa last time out saw Stefano Pioli’s contenders get back on track after back-to-back slips against Bologna and Torino, in which they failed to score a single goal.
But Lazio are likely to come out and play when they welcome Milan to the capital, and that will play into the hands of the likes of Rafael Leao and Alexis Saelemaekers, presenting them with space to exploit behind the Biancocelesti’s backline. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has enjoyed recent meetings with Lazio, and Olivier Giroud will be hoping to prove himself once again as the man for the big occasions for Milan with the Frenchman set to lead the line.
Lazio themselves have plenty to give Milan problems of their own. Ciro Immobile continues to be Italy’s most lethal No.9 despite criticism of his performances for the national team, and it won’t be any surprise to see him find the net on Sunday night.
As unpredictable as Lazio’s results have been this season, both teams scoring at the Olimpico should be close to a certainty as we’ll get this weekend.
Sassuolo v Juventus
Their draw at home to Bologna last time out aside, Juventus’ form in the second half of the season has been rather ominous and Massimiliano Allegri will be hoping to see his side return to winning ways as they take on a tricky Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium on Monday night.
Alessio Dionisi’s side recorded a historic win when they visited the Allianz Stadium earlier in the campaign, showing just how much of a problem they can be for the Bianconeri. They’ve also beaten European hopefuls Atalanta in recent weeks, while their win away at Milan was another highlight of their season.
But Juventus – disregarding their Champions League shortcomings – have largely been able to do what they’ve needed to since November, having overcome a frustrating start to the 2021/22 season. Their trip to Sassuolo will be another test of their resilience ahead of a potential title push next term.
In each of their last four trips to Reggio Emilia, Juventus have scored exactly three times. Of those games, three have ended victorious for the Old Lady with the other being a thrilling 3-3 draw in July 2020.
Although Sassuolo have won three on the bounce at home, they’ve never won four in a row at home in their top-flight history, and Juventus should be able to make sure that record remains true after this weekend’s games.
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