Serie A Matchday 36: Milan vying for victory in Verona
With three games to go, the Serie A title race is still not over — but AC Milan can almost taste a first Scudetto in 11 years.
The league leaders are away to Verona on Sunday night, while second-placed Inter Milan kick off Matchday 36 at home to Empoli this evening.
Elsewhere, there is a crunch clash at the other end of the table as Salernitana entertain Cagliari, while Genoa host Juventus and Fiorentina take on Roma.
Game of the week: Verona vs AC Milan (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Milan know they will be crowned champions by winning their remaining three games, so will be aiming to pick up three points and extend their unbeaten league run to 14 matches against Verona.
As for the hosts, they will be out to spring a surprise and record back-to-back victories for the first time since January — though they have not repeated the same result in any of their last 13 outings.
History has not always been on Milan's side when it comes to this fixture, with the Rossoneri only doing the double over Verona once in the era of three points for a win.
However, there have been just 10 Verona victories to date — compared with Milan's 28 — in the 59 times these teams have faced off in Serie A.
October's reverse meeting produced a thriller, with Stefano Pioli's men coming from 2-0 down at half-time to win 3-2.
Here are the other big games to watch this weekend…
Inter Milan vs Empoli (Friday, 5.45pm)
Inter can put pressure on their arch-rivals by temporarily going top with a win over Empoli — and maintaining their league-best home record in the process.
Defeat for Empoli would be their 10th in a row against the Nerazzurri with Stefano Sensi's extra-time winner edging their most recent encounter — January's last-16 Coppa Italia tie.
Should the hosts pick up all three points, it will mark the first time that they have finished a campaign with a 100% record versus newly-promoted sides since 2002-03.
And they should be confident of a result this evening. No team has conceded more goals in the second half of this campaign than Empoli (31), who have also collected fewer points (10) in that time than all bar Venezia.
Salernitana vs Cagliari (Sunday, 5pm)
Victory for Salernitana in this huge basement battle will take them four points clear of Cagliari — who are in the relegation zone — but they have not beaten the Sardinians in any of their three top-flight meetings.
As for the visitors, they will be desperate to stop the rot on the road. They are on the verge of losing four successive away games for the first time since January last year.
This fixture has been played 12 times across all competitions in Campania but has only ever produced one draw, way back in December 1955.
Ominously for Cagliari, their current total of 28 points is their joint-lowest after 35 games of a 38-match Serie A campaign. The last time they found themselves in this position (2014-15), they went down.
November's reverse fixture finished all square, with Federico Bonazzoli bagging a stoppage-time equaliser for Salernitana.
Genoa vs Juventus (Friday, 8pm)
Having already confirmed Champions League qualification for next season, Juventus will hope to go third by winning a seventh straight encounter with Genoa.
A shock victory for the hosts will keep them in contention to avoid the drop — but they have struggled in front of goal this season, finding the net a league-low 25 times in 35 games.
And the Ligurians' task is made all the more daunting by the fact that Juve are one of only three teams in Europe's top five leagues (along with Manchester City and Liverpool) to have lost just once since December.
When the hosts have scored, they have tended to leave it late — notching a league-high 68% of their goals in the final 30 minutes of matches.
These sides last faced each other in December, with Juan Cuadrado and Paulo Dybala on the scoresheet in a 2-0 win for the Old Lady.
Fiorentina vs Roma (Monday, 7.45pm)
While they can no longer finish in the top four, Roma can make it six wins in a row against Fiorentina with victory in Monday's encounter.
La Viola still have Europa League aspirations but they will need to snap a four-match losing streak.
Jose Mourinho's men travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi having not won in any of their last three league outings but will be boosted by securing their place in the Europa Conference League final with a 1-0 victory over Leicester on Thursday.
The hosts go into this encounter as the only team in the division not to score in second-half stoppage time this term, while Roma are the only side yet to concede during that period.
These two last met back on the opening weekend of the campaign, when both were reduced to 10 men in a 3-1 win for Roma.
The weekend's other games
Torino vs Napoli (Saturday, 2pm)
Sassuolo vs Udinese (Saturday, 5pm)
Lazio vs Sampdoria (Saturday, 7.45pm)
Spezia vs Atalanta (Sunday, 11.30am)
Venezia vs Bologna (Sunday, 2pm)
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