Our preview starts at the bottom of Serie A with a “six-pointer” between Atalanta and Siena. The Bianconeri have given themselves a real chance of survival in recent weeks and are on a run of only one defeat in eight. Neverthless, they remain six points adrift of 17th position and simply cannot afford to lose if they still harbour genuine dreams of avoiding the dreaded drop. Another home win – after two recent Atalanta victories at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia – would bolster their chances of catching Udinese, who themselves host difficult opponents in Juventus. The Zebrette have slipped towards the relegation zone with a draw and two defeats from their last three outings. Coupled with Lazio’s upturn in form, they now sit just four points clear of 18th place Atalanta. Lazio themselves gained a valuable away point at the San Siro last weekend and will look to build on that at home to European spot chasing Napoli. Serie A’s bottom club, Livorno, face a difficult challenge as they travel along the Italian coastline to Genoa. The Amaranto are on a terrible run which looks set to see them relegated. They have failed to win in 12 league games and have not won away since December. The game will be extra special as a familiar name, Serse Cosmi, returns to Genoa, a scene of his many triumphs.
At the other end of the table, an epic Round 31 saw the title race blown right open. Roma, with the possible, although unlikely, return of Francesco Totti to the starting line-up, travel south to Bari. The side from the capital really have form on their side and must be favourites, not just to beat Bari, but maybe to even go on and win the scudetto. An unlikely win for Bari, themselves on a five game unbeaten run, could see them rise to eighth if results go their way. Both Milanese sides play teams from the bottom half of and both will hope to re-ignite their title challenge after some poor results lately. Inter stay at the San Siro, without the suspended Lucio, Maicon and Javier Zanetti – the latter ending a 165 consecutive game streak – and face Bologna, while Milan are on the road against mid-table Cagliari.
The rest of the action will revolve around the race to finish in the European positions. Sampdoria, with Gigi Del Neri at the helm, travel to thirteenth-placed Chievo with whom he spent two periods as head coach. Del Neri, of course, oversaw the “Chievo Miracle”, guiding Chievo to both promotion and European qualification. It is the Genoese side on this occasion however that are aiming to qualify for Europe. Level on points with Sampdoria are Juventus who play a struggling Udinese. Juve, who reportedly approached Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni to take over next season, are in inconsistent form but will fancy their chances of picking up three points to put pressure on Palermo in forth. A win for Fiorentina coach, Cesare Pradelli, against former club Parma will not be enough to move above their current eighth position, although the Gialloblu certainly have form on their side – they are unbeaten in the last six.
Game of the weekend
Focus turns to the island as the Derby di Sicilia takes centre stage with Catania playing host to Palermo. From a football perspective, Palermo will hope to consolodate forth and Catania will aim to dispell any lingering relegation fears. From an outsiders perspective, one can only hope the intensity remains on the pitch.
Blast from the past
The Catania – Palermo rivalry sunk to a new low in 2007 as supporters clashed after a 2-1 away victory. A policeman was killed in the exchanges leading to the suspension of all calico in Italy. Goals from that forgotten game came from Fabio Caserta, Andrea Caracciolo and David Di Michele.
On this Match day
10 years ago – 1999/00
Juventus’ march towards the scudetto was halted as Fabrizio Cammarata scored twice in a 2-0 Verona victory. With only three games remaining, the Old Lady lost twice, ultimately finishing second behind Lazio.
Five years ago – 2004/05
This week must be noted for the unusual fact that only one home team, Milan, were victorious. Seven ended level, including five 1-1 scorelines, with Siena and Inter winning away from home.
One year ago – 2008/09
The Derby d’Italia ended in stalemate as Juventus drew 1-1 at home to Inter. It is always an eagerly anticipated match-up between last season’s top 2 and Italy’s most decorated clubs.
Week 30 fixtures
Saturday April 3
Atalanta vs. Siena – 14.00
Bari vs. Roma – 14.00
Cagliari vs. Milan – 14.00
Chievo vs. Sampdoria – 14.00
Genoa vs. Livorno – 14.00
Inter vs. Bologna – 14.00
Lazio vs. Napoli – 14.00
Parma vs. Fiorentina – 14.00
Catania vs. Palermo – 18.00
Udinese vs. Juventus – 20.00 – Live on ESPN