Genoa v Empoli
Sunday’s Serie A action gets underway at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in a game that will have huge consequences at the bottom. Despite Empoli sitting 13th ahead of the weekend, their trip to take on Genoa can be described as nothing other than a relegation six-pointer.
The Grifone have made a habit of avoiding defeat in recent weeks, particularly against their fellow strugglers – notably drawing with both Salernitana (home) and Venezia (away) – but their inability to take three points against those sides has them still cut adrift in 19th place. Curiously, draws against Udinese, Roma, and Inter have them unbeaten in Serie A in five games though each of those have seen points shared.
Empoli, for their part, have been on a really poor run since their impressive start to the season climaxed with a win away at Napoli in December. They’ve gone 11 games in all competitions without winning since, though they showed signs of life in a 3-2 loss at home to Juventus last weekend.
Since that Napoli game, Empoli have kept just one clean sheet – away at Bologna on 6th February – so Genoa will back themselves to score at Marassi. Apart from that goalless draw in Bologna and a 2-0 loss to Salernitana, though, the Tuscans have always scored this season, last failing to net back in October before those games.
Bologna v Torino
Bologna host Ivan Juric’s Torino at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara on Sunday hoping to take advantage of a newfound vulnerability in the Granata, who are without a win in their last five Serie A outings – last claiming three points away to Sampdoria in mid-January.
Surprise losses to Cagliari and Venezia came either side of a spirited Derby della Mole draw with Juventus in February, and Toro also fell to defeat away at Udinese earlier in the month.
Andrea Belotti has been enjoying himself since returning from a long injury absence, scoring on his return against Juventus and then again in the loss to Cagliari. He could now net in three straight Serie A matches for the first time since November 2020, though he hasn’t scored in any of his last seven against the Rossoblu.
While Toro have scored in six of their last seven, their defensive issues have left them struggling of late and Bologna will look to punish those again, just as Cagliari, Venezia, and Udinese have.
Leading the line for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side is likely to be Marko Arnautovic, who himself is in a purple patch of form. The forward could become the first Austrian to reach double figures in a Serie A season after Engelbert Koenig did with Lazio in 1946/47 – then netting 12 – and Ernst Ocwirk with Sampdoria in 1956/57 – again scoring 12.
Fiorentina v Verona
Fiorentina will want to get back on track on Sunday as they host a tricky Verona side and Vincenzo Italiano’s men are coming into this weekend off the back of consecutive defeats – first at Sassuolo in Serie A and then to Juventus in their Coppa Italia semi-final first leg.
Lorenzo Venuti’s rather hapless stoppage-time own goal left La Viola heartbroken in midweek, but they’ll be targeting the Mastini’s visit to Florence as a chance to get back into form.
Igor Tudor’s side have claimed just three wins on the road in Serie A this season – those coming at Venezia, Spezia, and Sassuolo. They have, though, managed to hold both Napoli and Roma on their travels.
Both sides have scored in seven of Verona’s last nine games, and Fiorentina have been known to find themselves in goal-filled encounters as well this season despite their recent games against Atalanta and Juventus being somewhat cagier.
While Fiorentina’s goalscoring threats come from all over the pitch – Arthur Cabral became their 17th different scorer at Sassuolo, with no sides having more – Verona’s biggest source of goals is Giovanni Simeone who has 15 this season and will want to deliver against his former side, having scored 20 in 74 appearances for Fiorentina between 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Venezia v Sassuolo
Another game that should deliver goals and entertainment is that at the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, with Serie A’s entertainers, Sassuolo, traveling to take on relegation-threatened Venezia.
These two sides have only ever met once before in their history, and that came earlier this season as the Neroverdi ran out as 3-1 winners at the Mapei Stadium. Prior to that, their paths had never crossed in Serie A, Serie B, nor the Coppa Italia.
Sassuolo served up some late drama at home to Fiorentina last time out, conceding in the 88th minute before scoring a winner in the 94th, and those final six minutes in Reggio Emilia summed up what Alessio Dionisi’s side are – relentlessly fun for the neutral.
Venezia and the Neroverdi boast two of Serie A’s worst defensive records this season, with only Salernitana and Cagliari registering fewer than their three clean sheets this term. The Arancioneroverdi last kept a clean sheet as far back as 21st November against Bologna.
If Dionisi’s men are to score then Domenico Berardi is likely to be involved, having assisted 11 times already this term and being bettered by only Thomas Muller across Europe’s top leagues. Hamed Traore is also enjoying an incredible campaign, sitting alongside Dejan Kulusevksi as one of two midfielders born this century to have been involved in over 20 goals in Serie A.
Juventus v Spezia
Although Spezia have proven themselves to be tricky opponents for a number of sides this season, Juventus’ recent form makes them hard to look beyond as they play hosts to the Aquilotti on Sunday evening.
The Old Lady have won all three of their Serie A meetings with Spezia to date, and have scored at least three goals in each of those, conceding just three. As well, the Ligurians are without a goal in their last two trips to Piemonte – drawing 0-0 with Torino in January 2021, and losing 3-0 to Juventus in March of that same year.
Despite a spirited showing with just 10 men against Roma last time out, Spezia fell to a narrow defeat thanks to a 99th-minute penalty from Tammy Abraham, but that was their third straight defeat and fourth consecutive game without a win, seeing them slip into an unwanted run of form at an inopportune point in the season.
Juventus themselves look to be on their way back to the side Massimiliano Allegri had in his first spell there and are without a defeat in Serie A since 27th November, then falling to Atalanta, chaining together 13 positive results since.
Napoli v AC Milan
The undisputed game of the weekend comes at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples with Napoli hosting fellow title contenders AC Milan, with top spot again up for grabs for the winner. A draw will leave both on 58 points alongside champions Inter, though the Nerazzurri will have a game in hand.
Milan haven’t enjoyed facing Napoli in recent seasons, managing to win just one of their last 14 against the Partenopei and losing eight of those. They’ll take some confidence from that win having come in their last visit to the Maradona, winning 3-1 there in November 2020.
It’s a game that promises so much for the neutrals, with at least three goals having been scored in each of the last five meetings between these two in Campania, with an average of 4.4 goals per game being scored to deliver 22 in those five matches.
Having drawn 1-1 with both Inter and Cagliari, Luciano Spalletti’s side had been struggling for form before their stoppage-time winner at Lazio last time out. They had also drawn and lost to Barcelona in the Europa League to go four games without a win across all competitions. But they’ll have taken confidence from the win in Rome.
Milan, for their part, have had a tough time themselves recently. Having passed up back-to-back opportunities to pull clear at the top of Serie A – drawing with Salernitana and Udinese – they managed to hold Inter in their midweek Coppa Italia semi-final first leg and will be hoping for a similarly tight defensive showing on Sunday, even against trickier attacking opponents.
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