Serie A Matchday 18: Scudetto hopefuls Milan and Napoli meet in crunch clash
Title challengers AC Milan and Napoli face off this weekend as both teams bid to stay in touch with Serie A leaders Inter Milan.
The Nerazzurri will be confident of victory when they travel to bottom side Salernitana tonight knowing that they can temporarily go four points clear of the chasing pack.
Meanwhile, Atalanta will look to consolidate their position in the top four when they host inconsistent Roma.
Game of the week: AC Milan vs Napoli (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Any slip up from Inter will see Milan seize pole position with a win over early pacesetters Napoli, who have fallen away amid a spate of costly injuries.
The Rossoneri have a dreadful recent record against the Partenopei, winning only one of the last 13 league meetings. However, the visitors have now suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time in just under a year.
Victory for the hosts would be head coach Stefano Pioli’s first triumph over Luciano Spalletti in Serie A. Spalletti has won six of the previous eight encounters between the two managers.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Salernitana vs Inter Milan (Friday, 7.45pm)
Salernitana will need to spring a serious surprise if they are to move off the bottom of the Serie A table. They face a rampant Inter outfit who have won 10 of their last 13 games in all competitions — and their last five in the league.
With 43 goals so far, the Nerazzurri are comfortably the top scorers in the division. That, coupled with the hosts’ second-worst defensive record of 37 conceded, makes this match look rather like a foregone conclusion.
Salernitana have lost their last three home matches without scoring, while Inter have found the net at least twice in seven out of nine away outings in the league.
Atalanta vs Roma (Saturday, 2pm)
Atalanta are chasing a seventh straight Serie A victory when they entertain Roma, who beat Spezia last time out after consecutive league losses.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have been inconsistent at home this season though, accumulating only 12 of their 37 points at the Gewiss Stadium.
That said, the Giallorossi’s away form has been particularly up and down — Jose Mourinho’s team have failed to win consecutive away games in all competitions since August.
As one of the most intense pressing sides in the league, Atalanta have forced the second-most high turnovers ending in a shot (32) this term. Roma have scored three goals from high turnovers to La Dea’s four.
Bologna vs Juventus (Saturday, 5pm)
History does not favour Bologna ahead of this clash at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara. The Rossoblu are on a run of 10 straight league defeats against Juventus, the team they have lost to more times than any other in Serie A (77).
Juve also head to Emilia-Romagna in better form than the hosts, having won three and drawn one of their last five games. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side, by contrast, have lost three of their previous five fixtures — including the last two.
Despite managing just 23 goals — the eighth-fewest in the division — the Bianconeri have struck in each of their nine away league matches so far. Bologna, though, have netted at least twice in six out of nine home games.
The weekend’s other games:
Lazio vs Genoa (Friday, 5.30pm)
Cagliari vs Udinese (Saturday, 7.45pm)
Fiorentina vs Sassuolo (Sunday, 11.30am)
Spezia vs Empoli (Sunday, 2pm)
Torino vs Hellas Verona (Sunday, 5pm)
Sampdoria vs Venezia (Sunday, 5pm)