Serie A Matchday 29: Milan aim to take control of title race
Serie A’s title race remains thrillingly close as the season reaches Matchday 29 with Italy’s top three separated by just three points.
AC Milan currently lead the way and will be looking to stay out in front when they entertain Empoli on Saturday night.
But any slip-up could let in arch-rivals Inter Milan, who travel to Torino, or third-placed Napoli, who head to Verona.
Game of the week: AC Milan vs Empoli (Saturday, 7.45pm)
Milan could end the weekend as many as five points clear at the top and will be filled with confidence following last weekend's 1-0 victory at Napoli.
Empoli head to the San Siro having not tasted victory in 12 games in a run that goes back to mid-December. They have collected 21 points on the road this season though, the joint-sixth most in Serie A.
The visitors could be in for a tiring night in Lombardy — only two teams have forced more high turnovers this term than Milan (252), who have taken a league-high 51 shots from such situations.
But Empoli have proved a tough nut to crack on their travels, conceding just 16 goals compared to 37 at home, which goes some way to explaining their solid away form.
December’s reverse fixture saw Milan triumph in a 4-2 thriller at the Stadio Carlo Castellani as Franck Kessie bagged a brace.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Torino vs Inter Milan (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Inter’s game in hand arguably gives them the edge over rivals Milan but they could really do with securing three points in Turin.
Simone Inzaghi's side will be boosted by their 1-0 victory at Liverpool on Tuesday, despite the result meaning they now exit European competition.
That defensive display at Anfield means they have now recorded four clean sheets in a row, not conceding since last month's home defeat to Sassuolo.
As for Torino, they are chasing their first win in seven. Ivan Juric’s men have also suffered two defeats in two at home — as many as in their first 13 home matches of the campaign.
Recent history strongly favours Inter in this one. The Nerazzurri have won their last five league encounters with Torino, averaging 2.6 goals in the process — they have also only lost on two of their last 17 trips to take on Il Toro.
Verona vs Napoli (Sunday, 2pm)
Napoli travel to Verona looking to stay hot on the heels of the two Milan teams by continuing their fine away form — the Partenopei have won nine and lost just one on the road this season.
But it will not be easy. Hellas are on a run of three straight home wins — during which they have scored nine goals — and have only succumbed to one defeat in seven matches.
The visitors have been fond of long-range strikes this term, netting a league-high 10 from outside the box. Luciano Spalletti’s side have also converted a joint-high seven penalties — along with Verona.
But the hosts belong to an even more exclusive club, with Liverpool the only other team in Europe’s top five leagues to have three players on 10 or more league goals this campaign.
These two drew 1-1 when they last met in November with Daniel Bessa and Nikola Kalinic both dismissed for Verona late on.
Atalanta vs Genoa (Sunday, 5pm)
Atalanta ceded more ground in the race for a top-four finish by losing at Roma last weekend but got back to winning ways with a 3-2 victory against Bayer Leverkusen in Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg.
As for the visitors, they are chasing a first league victory in 25 games. Only three teams have endured longer winless runs in Serie A history.
Rather extraordinarily though, Alexander Blessin’s team have drawn their last six — keeping four clean sheets — and eight of their last 10. But they have struggled for goals themselves, managing only three in the league in 2022.
The hosts have lost three of their last five top-flight matches, although they have not suffered successive defeats since October 2020 and have only been beaten in one of their last 12 encounters with Genoa.
But Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were held 0-0 by the Rossoblu in this season’s first meeting.
Sampdoria vs Juventus (Saturday, 5pm)
Juventus are in the driving seat to finish in Italy’s final Champions League spot — and Max Allegri’s outfit will aim to keep it that way with another win to make it 15 league games unbeaten.
By contrast, Sampdoria have lost eight out of 10 matches in 2022, although the other two have been home wins to nil. They have not won three in a row at home for over three years though.
No team has gained more points in Serie A this year than Juve, who have taken 19 from a possible 27. The Bianconeri are one of only five clubs in Europe’s top five leagues who are unbeaten in 2022.
To stand the best chance of springing a surprise, the hosts will need to avoid letting in another early goal — only two sides have conceded more times in the first 15 minutes this term than Samp's 10.
Juve have scored seven goals in two games against Marco Giampaolo's men this term, securing a 4-1 Coppa Italia last 16 win and a 3-2 league victory last September.
The weekend's other fixtures
Spezia vs Cagliari (Saturday, 2pm)
Salernitana vs Sassuolo (Saturday, 2pm)
Fiorentina vs Bologna (Sunday, 11.30am)
Udinese vs Roma (Sunday, 5pm)
Lazio vs Venezia (Monday, 7.45pm)
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