By Chris E. Borowski
Lazio vs. Fiorentina and Inter vs. Palermo – these are the two most exciting matches waiting ahead in the 22nd round of Italian Serie A. The league’s leader AC Milan will trip to Sicilly to face Catania, a side that at its own ground has never been easy to play with for the big clubs. Of course, they haven’t got such an impressing winning streak in matches played at home like their archrivals from Palermo but it happened in the very last history that sides like Inter have failed to win.
On this round’s anticipo Lazio will be facing Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Fiorentina at the Olimpico. The Florence-based team which used to bully the Italian big three for a few last seasons, since the departure of Cesare Prandelli has fallen into decline while Lazio have been very impressing earlier this season and certainly would relinquish the opportunity to come back to the top. They are seven points behind AC Milan now and if on the Sunday evening they lose to Fiorentina, they might finish two positions lower in the standings.
This clash should be interesting for one more reason as well. If ex-Lazio player, Sinisa Mihajlovic, will let Viola’s latest transfer Valon Behrami play from the first minute, it will be the comeback of the Swiss national player on the Italian fields and Lazio home ground since he decided to move to West Ham United. He didn’t do well in England though and his career at the Hammers has been stopped by the injuries so he welcomed an opportunity to open a new chapter in his soccer career, especially that Avram Grant’s side may be facing degradation.
“Fiorentina is the strongest team I’ve ever played for. On Saturday I will face Lazio but if I score, I’ll exult,” said Behrami quoted by the Friday issue of La Gazzetta dello Sport. If the versatile player will avoid major injuries, he may be a well-placed investment and a good addition to Fiorentina’s current squad especially when it comes to their attack that, following the low-rated disposition of such likes as Juan Manuel Vargas or Adrian Mutu, has been through some difficulties in creating goal opportunities. The Romanian has recently met with the club’s patron Andrea Della Valle and is expected to come back on the field the following Wednesday when the next round will be played.
“It was a positive meeting. I hope I can play on Wednesday against Genoa,” said the former Chelsea and Juventus player.
This round’s blockbuster will be definitely the match between Inter Milan and Palermo, the last-season’s winner and one of the two South-based clubs that are willing to break the monopoly of their northern rivals. After the Nerazzurri failed to establish themselves on the podium during the first half of the season, Leonardo took the place of Rafael Benitez and the team is expected to do much better than the fifth place they’re currently ranked. Former Milan coach is in a better situation that his Spanish forerunner who complained about the lack of new blood in the team as Massimo Moratti decided to splash some cash on new arrivals. “The process of Italianization has just begun. Inter is becoming more ‘Made in Italy’” stated Gazzetta in today’s issue. In fact, two new players are Italian – likes of Andrea Ranocchia from Genoa and Giampaolo Pazzini have been added to the squad.
This way the last-season’s magical Sampdoria duo – Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini who led the Blucerchiati to their Champions League spot – ended up in Milan clubs, AC Milan and Inter respectively. If former Fiorentina striker will resolve the problem with his ankle it’s possible that Leonardo will field him on Sunday.
Palermo have been benefiting not only from the prolific passes of Javier Pastore but from the impact of Slovenian duo – Josip Ilicic and Armin Bacinovic – who bolstered Delio Rossi’s squad before the season as well. They’ve recorded an impressive run of home games without loss but, as it often happened in the past years, they failed to obtain three points with some lower-rated clubs. Nevertheless, they still count in the run for the European spots and are just one point behind Juventus whose crisis has been underlined by Thursday’s loss against AS Roma in the Italian Cup.
The Bianconeri will play the posticipio against Udinese guided by Francesco Guidolin, a man who guided Palermo to the top division and enjoyed an impressive run during the first half of the 2006/07 season climbing up the ladder to the third spot just to be fired two months later by Maurizio Zamparini. The Udine-based club is an example of a team built on young and talented players and a well-developed net of scouts. Zebrette are just one point away from Palermo so their victory and San Siro’s loss of the Sicilians will advance them to the sixth place. With Juve still in crisis and after Fabio Quagliarella’s injury that will keep him out of the play until the end of the season, Luigi Delneri has some serious difficulties with the strikers being far away from showing their best.
Lazio vs. Fiorentina (12 am)
Fiorentina may struggle to earn a point at Olimpico with Lazio keen to come back to the top-3 spot fight. Our prediction: 1X (2:0)
Catania vs. AC Milan (2.45 pm)
The leader goes to Sicilly where it’s never easy to win but Maxi Lopez and Diego Simeone on the bench may be too little to surprise the Rossoneri. Our prediction: 2 (1:3)
Brescia vs. Chievo (6.30 am)
The newly-promoted Brescia still fails to impress in Serie A and nothing seems to be changing this so far. Our prediction: 2 (0:1)
Bologna vs. Roma (9 am)
Bologna who have been experiencing some fiscal troubles faces Claudio Ranieri’s Roma just after they eliminated Juventus from Coppa Italia; anything but the visitors’ win would be a massive surprise. Our prediction: 2 (1:3)
Cagliari vs. Bari (9 am)
Sardegna is another tough place to go even for the biggest teams and with Bari occupying the bottom of the table the home side win is becoming even more probable. Our prediction: 1x (2:1)
Genoa vs. Parma (9 am)
Genoa was one of the top players during the summer window transfer but it seems to have no impact on how they’re doing now; Crociati aren’t without chances in this clash. Our prediction: 1x (2:1)
Inter vs. Palermo (9 am)
Palermo know how to upset their league rivals but out of Renzo Barbera they’ve been performing too much inconsistent; this is Inter’s chance to come back on top and they should take advantage of it. Our prediction: 1 (2:0)
Lecce vs. Cesena (9 am)
“Lecce, score more,” said Luigi De Canio and he’s right with that – there may be no better opportunity to start doing so than the match with previous Serie B outfit Cesena. Our prediction: 1x (2:1)
Napoli vs. Sampdoria (9 am)
After a decent performance in Coppa Italia, Napoli are eager to get back on winning and Edinson Cavani is a key man to help his team to do so. Our prediction: 1 (2:0)
Juventus vs. Udinese (2.45 pm)
Juventus have been very inconsistent this season what makes it even harder to predict the result; Udinese may be well for it. Our prediction: X (1:1)
Chris E. Borowski (@brwski)
What are your prognosis for this weekend in Serie A ? - welcome your comments below
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