Serie A schedule and preview, week 16: it all starts on Thursday, folks
This week in Italy’s top division, the cities of Milan and Rome go head-to-head, as does Verona.
The Serie A week begins on Thursday, as both Juventus and Napoli need to get in an early game before jetting off to Doha for the SuperCoppa Italiana. That doesn’t mean the fun will end quickly, though. The city of Milan meets the city of Rome this weekend, and if that’s not enough for you, the struggling Verona sides meet at the Bentegodi on Sunday. It’s an early kickoff, but if you prefer to sleep in, the state of the Serie A table means that the afternoon matches should be quite interesting, with Fiorentina and Palermo looking to keep moving up, and Genoa and Sampdoria wanting to stay their ground.
Here are three matches we think will be most worth devoting some attention to:
Cagliari vs. Juventus
Yes, it’s the champions and current league leaders. And yes, they’re taking on a team in the relegation zone that hasn’t won in seven matches. But we’re willing to wager it’s going to be fun anyway. Cagliari’s games are almost never dull, thanks to the gung-ho philosophy of their coach, Zdeněk Zeman. When they lose, they often lose spectacularly, in the matches with lots of goals, but the isolani always manage to create chances. Juve, with an almost-unthinkable two consecutive draws in the league, cannot afford not to win, with Roma breathing down their neck. But the Old Lady has a SuperCoppa match to think about, and while Serie A is more important, a trophy is a trophy, and they will almost certainly have an eye toward Doha.
The giallorossi want to bring Scudetto back to Rome after more than a decade, but they will be without Miralem Pjanic, Davide Astori and Jose Holebas, all suspended, as well as coach Rudi Garcia. Yet Roma, one point behind Juventus, are still the favorites. Milan finally managed a win last week, against Napoli, but the rossoneri still aren’t playing particularly well, relying on the individual talents of former Roma player Jérémy Menez or Keisuke Honda. Riccardo Montolivo helps, but the biggest problem for Milan is their weak and slow defense. While the giallorossi don’t have the quickest attacking trio in Adem Ljajic, Gervinho and Francesco Totti, they all are technical players who are capable of giving defenders nightmares.
The week closes with another duel between the cities of Milan and Rome. This one, on the surface, promises much less spectacle, but should still be an entertaining match. Inter have been through a rough patch since Roberto Mancini replaced Walter Mazzarri on the bench. Mancini has experimented with some weird ideas, like putting Mateo Kovacic or Zdravko Kuzmanovic out wide in attempt to transform Inter into a more possession-based team. Mancini finally got his first win last weekend, but it came against struggling Chievo, while Lazio are currently third. They play in waves, so to speak, alternating between series of wins and losses. The biancocelesti are currently three games unbeaten, and Inter’s defense will likely have trouble coping with the in-form attacking trio of Stefano Mauri, Filip Djordjevic and Felipe Anderson.
Serie A, Week 16
Thursday, December 18
Cagliari vs. Juventus — 7 p.m. CET, 1 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. Parma — 9 p.m. CET, 3 p.m. ET
Saturday, December 20
AS Roma vs. AC Milan — 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, December 21
Inter Milan vs. Lazio — 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET