There comes a weekend in every league, in every country, in every season, where you just know something is going to happen. This may well be that week in Italy’s top flight, in particular in the increasingly unpredictable battle for top spot.
The race for the scudetto is truly a three-horse race now and Roma have form and momentum on their side. They host champions and current front-runners Inter in what could turn out to be a decisive game in the championship race, with added spice as the teams are the league’s top scorers. Milan simply do not want to take full advantage of their city rivals recent slip-ups and will host the other team from the capital, Lazio, at the San Siro. Lazio’s relegation trouble has eased somewhat and they now have breathing space between themselves and the bottom three. Their fans will be ideologically torn however between wanting their side to ensure their Serie A status, yet hoping the Milanese clubs will prevent rivals Roma from turning their exceptional unbeaten run into a league triumph. A win for Milan and Roma would leave the top three with just one point between them, turning a title race into a title grapple.
The team that drops points this weekend may decide the battle for the last Champions League place, more than those who are victorious. Palermo, Juventus and Sampdoria are all at home and all will be expected to claim maximum points. Palermo will fancy beating mid-table Bologna after two solid draws in their last two games. Juventus, level on points with the Aquile, welcome Atalanta to the Stadio Olimpico who themselves will want to build on their valuable win against Cagliari in midweek. The other side with a say in the fight for forth, Genoa, travel to strugglers Siena in another very winnable fixture.
The fight for Serie A survival may not be as cut and dry as the league table currently suggests. Lazio have a four point cushion over 18th placed Atalanta who have a further three point advantage over Siena, with Livorno a further point behind. With Lazio unlikely to get any points out of title-chasing Milan, the bottom-three have the chance to drag the Biancocelesti back into the scrap. Atalanta have a tough trip to Turin to face Juventus, while Siena and Livorno, with two of the worst defensive records in Serie A, are at home to Genoa and Bari respectively, although both may feel they can get points out of those fixtures. Siena in particular have been performing well lately and will look to get back to winning ways having lost to fellow strugglers Lazio on Wednesday evening. Udinese and Catania will also be looking over their shoulders and both will not be looking forward to difficult away trips to European chasers Fiorentina and Napoli respectively. This weekend’s dead rubber fixture comes from the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi as tenth place Parma, fresh after their victory over Milan, travel to thirteenth place Chievo.
Game of the weekend
Without a doubt it is Inter’s visit to Rome that tops the bill this weekend. Roma’s form has been outstanding and contrasts greatly with that of the Nerazzurri. A result that follows the form guide would blow the title race wide open and many would begin to fancy the Romans to break Inter’s recent scudetto dominance.
Blast from the past
May 1999 saw an epic tactical battle unfold as Inter coach Roy Hodgson matched Roma’s Zdenêk Zeman’s 4-3-3 system. An enthralling battle ensued resulting in a 5-4 Inter victory. The Roman trio of Delvecchio, Totti, and Paulo Sergio were outshone by Inter forwards Ronaldo, Zamorano and Roberto Baggio, the latter involved in four of his side’s five goals.
On this matchday
10 years ago – 1999/00
A decade ago Lazio were on their way to their second scudetto, unlike their struggles today. Goals from Argentine midfielders Diego Simeone and Sebastian Veron saw them complete a valuable away win against Piacenza.
Five years ago – 2004/05
Siena feared their hard work had come undone when they went 1-0 down to Milan after holding out for an hour. However, goals from Enrico Chiesa and Francesco Cozza saw them pull off a memorable win.
One year ago – 2008/09
Round 31 saw goals galore in the Derby della Capitale. Roma scored twice through Philippe Mexes and Daniele De Rossi, but Lazio were not to be beaten scoring four through Goran Pandev, Mauro Zarate, Stefan Lichtsteiner and Aleksandar Kolarov
Week 30 fixtures
Saturday March 27
Roma vs. Inter – 17.00 – Delayed coverage on ESPN 20.00
Palermo vs. Bologna – 19.45
Sunday March 28
Chievo vs. Parma – 14.00
Fiorentina vs. Udinese – 14.00
Juventus vs. Atalanta – 14.00
Livorno vs. Bari – 14.00
Napoli vs. Catania – 14.00
Sampdoria vs. Cagliari – 14.00 – Live on ESPN
Siena vs. Genoa – 14.00
Milan vs. Lazio – 19.45 – Live on ESPN