Serie A Matchday 31: Juventus and Inter lock horns in Derby d’Italia
The title race and quest for Europe collide on Matchday 31 in Serie A as Juventus and Inter Milan meet in the Derby d’Italia.
On Monday, table-topping AC Milan will look to stay out in front when they welcome Bologna to the San Siro.
And there is also a potentially crucial encounter in the fight to avoid the drop as Spezia take on Venezia.
Game of the week: Juventus vs Inter Milan (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Currently on the longest unbeaten run in Europe’s top five leagues, Juventus will be aiming to make it 17 games without defeat as they face out-of-form Inter, who sit just a point ahead of them.
Despite winning only one of their last seven Serie A matches, the third-placed Nerazzurri could go within three points of top spot if they end a streak of four successive away draws.
The Bianconeri come into this match having conceded a league-best nine home goals this season. Max Allegri’s side have also kept 13 clean sheets, the joint most in the division along with Napoli.
Should Ivan Perisic feature for Inter, he will become the third Croatian to reach 200 Serie A appearances since the introduction of three points for a win, with team-mate Marcelo Brozovic (224) and Milan Badelj (210) being the other two.
Perisic has only been on the winning side three times in 14 appearances against the Old Lady, however.
October’s reverse fixture finished 1-1 as Paulo Dybala scored a late penalty for Juventus. Inter have not made it through a campaign without losing to the Bianconeri since 2008-09.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
AC Milan vs Bologna (Monday, 7.45pm)
Three points clear at the Serie A summit, Milan will hope to extend their advantage by beating a Bologna side who have lost four of five away games since the winter break.
The visitors have a miserable recent record against the league leaders, losing 11 of the last 12 meetings and conceding two or more goals in the last six of those.
Milan’s success has been built on narrow victories. No team in Europe’s top five leagues has won more matches by a single goal than the Rossoneri (11).
Bologna are on course for a mid-table finish but they have been the league’s standout performers in one aspect — Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side have conceded just one goal from a corner so far.
These teams played out a thriller in their last encounter with Milan scoring twice late on to beat the nine-man Rossoblu 4-2 at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.
Spezia vs Venezia (Saturday, 2pm)
Third-bottom Venezia travel to Spezia knowing there is a chance that just a second league win since late November could lift them out of the relegation zone.
The hosts meanwhile are not quite out of trouble yet and could do with successive home victories to give them some breathing space.
While they still have time to save their season, Venezia head to the Stadio Alberto Picco on a run of four straight defeats. They have not lost five in a row in a single campaign since 2001-02.
Thiago Motta's side have been tough to beat at home this term, conceding only 17 goals in 14 games — but they have also scored just 15.
These two last met back in September when Spezia won 2-1 in dramatic fashion through a 94th-minute Mehdi Bourabia screamer.
Atalanta vs Napoli (Sunday, 2pm)
With their top-four hopes all but over, Atalanta need points to stay in the Europa League hunt.
But they face a tough task against a Napoli side who are still firmly in the title race. They sit three points behind Milan and have lost only once on their travels all season.
The hosts’ job is made harder by their rotten home record.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s team have taken only 18 of their 51 points at the Gewiss Stadium.
Napoli will be hoping Dries Mertens produces against Atalanta again. The Belgian forward has been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists) in his last seven starts against La Dea.
December’s reverse meeting saw Atalanta come from behind in a 3-2 thriller in Naples, with Remo Freuler netting the winner.
Sampdoria vs Roma (Sunday, 5pm)
In-form Roma make the trip to Sampdoria looking to make it four league wins from five.
Only five teams have collected fewer points at home this season than Sampdoria (15) but the Blucerchiati have won two of their last three on their own patch.
Roma striker Tammy Abraham could make history by becoming only the second English player to score 16 goals in a Serie A campaign after Gerry Hitchens for Inter in 1961-62.
Meanwhile, should the hosts’ Francesco Caputo find the net, he will join Ciro Immobile as one of only two players to score 10 or more goals in every campaign since 2018-19.
The teams’ previous encounter was a 1-1 draw last December. Eldor Shomurodov gave the Giallorossi the lead 72 minutes in, only for Manolo Gabbiadini to equalise eight minutes later.
The weekend’s other games
Lazio vs Sassuolo (Saturday, 5pm)
Salernitana vs Torino (Saturday, 7.45pm)
Fiorentina vs Empoli (Sunday, 11.30am)
Udinese vs Cagliari (Sunday, 2pm)
Verona vs Genoa (Monday, 5.30pm)