Serie A Week 22 Preview: In The End, It's All About Juventus Hosting Udinese

Week 22 in Serie A brings very few must-watch matches, but Italy always has the potential to surprise. AC Milan could actually look their top-of-table selves against Catania. Bologna could pull off a surprise win against Roma. Inter Milan could continue their "revitalized" slide by falling to Palermo. But whatever you do, don't miss the final game of the weekend, in which Juventus host Udinese. Regrets? You'll likely have a few.

To Kick Us Off

Lazio v Fiorentina

Serie A Saturday starts off with Lazio, so recently at the top of the table, hosting Fiorentina, who have now slipped to 11th. While Lazio started off brightly enough last week, with Sergio Floccari scoring in the fifth minute, Bologna came from behind to win 3-1 off a brace by Marco Di Vaio. The Viola, meanwhile, had to battle hard for a point against lowly Lecce, with Alberto Gilardino's header securing the draw. Playing away from home against a better side, expect Fiorentina to sit back and defend rather than attempt to capitalize on Lazio's recent defensive lapses. Actually, if you want to wait until the late Saturday kickoff to start your Italy day, no one would blame you.

Catania v Milan

You'd like to think that a Saturday match between a relegation battler and the team at the top of the league would be worth watching, if only for the amount of goals that AC Milan will put in against Catania. Don't get your hopes up, however, because at this point, unless Zlatan Ibrahimović has the ball, Milan are more likely to make observers collapse in a fit of giggles than watch in awe. After draws with Udinese and Lecce, Milan needed an own goal from Cesena to take the lead last weekend. Catania have picked up just one point in their last five matches, but with former Inter man Diego Simeone now at the helm, the tides just might be turning for the Elephants. That is, if they can conjure up the courage to get through a midfield that now contains Mark van Bommel.

To Keep Us Going--On To Sunday

Brescia v Chievo Verona

No. Just wait until the later kickoff.

Genoa v Parma

Genoa can't shoot, and when they do shoot, they rarely find the target. Parma perfectly encapsulate a midtable team, winning 4-1 away at Juventus before losing to Cagliari and Brescia. Last week's 2-0 win against Catania at least shows they can find the net, but still, there are better matches to watch.

Lecce v Cesena

Watch this one just to see if the Seahorses continue to experience the worst luck in the league (or perhaps they're simply bad, if you want to be mean about relegation teams). Cesena have scored two own-goals in their last three league matches, with a near-draw against Inter Milan sandwiched in between. Lecce are fresh from draws against Fiorentina and Milan and a win over Lazio. They might escape relegation after all.

Cagliari v Bari

Cagliari are worth watching for the play of Andrea Cossu and Alessandro Matri, with the latter's presence being sorely missed in the 3-0 defeat at Roma last weekend. But with Bari more or less hopeless, four points below even Brescia, there's little hope of thrills in this match.

Napoli v Sampdoria

Ezequiel Lavezzi has the flu. Anytime Napoli are missing one of their fluid front three of Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik, the partenopei struggle to score and look like pale imitations of their second-place selves. Sampdoria have lost both Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini in the January window, but with Federico Macheda now settling in well at his new club, Samp could chip away at the hopes of Napoli's scudetto dreams.

Inter v Palermo

Here's a fun fact for you: it's likely that Inter will need to win 16 of their remaining 18 matches in order to beat out rivals Milan for the title. A week ago that lofty dream seemed plausible, almost probable. But after watching the Nerazzurri fall apart, utterly helpless at the feet of Udinese, that likelihood has diminished rapidly. And with Inter's questionable decision to purchase Giampaolo Pazzini and add to their strikeforce, rather than shore up a defense that relies on Lucio's use of his hands to stop goals, it's looking as though a European place will be sufficient for last year's champions. Meanwhile, Palermo have just one striker on their side, Fabrizio Miccoli, but haven't lost since December 6. Yet with both teams enduring midweek 120 minute Coppa Italia matches, this game could be played in slow motion.

Bologna v Roma

Bologna are in 13th, Roma in 3rd. Roma have just one defeat in their last seven league matches. Bologna have eight points from six. Yet if ever the numbers don't tell the full story, this might be the time. Both sides have been in fine form, with Bologna coming from behind to beat Lazio last weekend, and Roma stomping all over Cagliari before beating Juventus 2-0 in the Coppa Italia. Marco Borriello played just half the Coppa match on Thursday, so he should be keen to find the net, whereas the Roma defense will likely have a tough time with the free-scoring Marco Di Vaio.

To Finish The Week

Juventus v Udinese

Ah, the big one. Juventus are clinging, just barely, to sixth place right now, with no real signs of life flickering behind the Old Lady's eyes. Now they're stuck hosting Udinese, who are undoubtedly the hottest team in Italy right now. The eighth-place Bianconeri have scored 13 league goals in 2011, most of those coming from the work of Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sánchez. With Juventus refusing to budge from their 4-4-2 ways, the Udinese free-flowing attack will likely swarm all over the hosts. And should Juventus decide that cutting down the visiting players is the best way of coping, they'll likely find their plan backfiring: two of Udinese's goals against Inter came from set pieces, with a free kick from Maurizio Domizzi also tipped over the bar. This match is undoubtedly the must-watch of the Week 22.

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