NAPLES ITALY - JANUARY 30: Edinson Cavani of SSC Napoli celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and UC Sampdoria at Stadio San Paolo on January 30 2011 in Naples Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Serie A, Week 23: It Seems Inevitable Inter Milan Will Gain Ground With A Win At Bari

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Palermo Vs. Juventus: 2-1 Full Time, Old Lady Falls To Eighth

A variety of injuries, combined with mediocre performances from fit players who are usually quality led to Juventus losing 2-1 to a Palermo side who, despite not creating many chances at all in the second half, were able to come away with all three points thanks to some quality finishing in the first 20 minutes of the game. Javier Pastore and Fabrizio Miccoli combined for a great first goal, while Giulio Migliaccio added an impressive second. Claudio Marchisio brought one back for the visitors, but his 36th minute score would be the last goal of the match.

Juventus have had a crisis at the striker position, and Alessandro Matri didn't exactly cure it in his first appearance in a Juventus shirt. However, it would be difficult to argue that he was not an improvement over Amauri, who was absolutely horrid in his last handful of performances for Juve before moving on loan to Parma. If Juventus are to push on for a Champions League place, they will need Matri to contribute more than he did today.

Palermo are on the move up the table, and they currently sit in sixth place. They're two points behind a Champions League place, thanks to Roma's draw today.


Palermo Vs. Juventus: Claudio Marchisio Goal Makes It Interesting

Palermo and Juventus aren't necessarily defending that well, but they're certainly slapping down the "boring Serie A" moniker in emphatic fashion. At the end of an odd sequence where Claudio Marchisio was actually booked for dissent, he's the man who has ultimately scored the Old Lady's first goal to get them back into this match.

Just a couple of minutes before the goal, there appeared to be a handball by Palermo in their own penalty area. The referee apparently disagreed, which Juventus didn't take too well, and they decided to protest, for which Marchisio was shown a yellow card. That decision or lack thereof was quickly made almost moot less than two minutes later. Off of a corner kick, Marchisio slapped a loose ball into the back of the net, making the score 2-1 in favor of Palermo.


Palermo Vs. Juventus: Giulio Migliaccio Goal Doubles The Lead

Earlier this week, when a member of the Italian press asked Luigi Delneri about his team's chances of winning the Scudetto, Delneri said he did not want to discuss the Scudetti. Today, we might be finding out why he didn't want to discuss a surge back into the race for the championship. His team is now down 2-0 to Palermo, and the worst part is, Palermo's lead is well deserved.

This goal came off of a header by Giulio Migliaccio shortly after a corner kick, assisted by Mattia Cassani's cross from the right hand side of the penalty area. Migliaccio's header was a great one as he rose well above all of Juve's defenders before directing a snapped header with some pace past Gianluigi Buffon. 

New signing Alessandro Matri has not yet asserted himself for Juventus, while Milos Krasic, who has been Juve's best attacking player throughout most of the season, has also not played anywhere near his best to start the match. Additionally, Felipe Melo is back in the lineup and jawing at the official. It's just another weird match in the Old Lady's bizarre season.


Palermo Vs. Juventus: Fabrizio Miccoli, Javier Pastore Combine To Open Scoring

Before signing a new contract this season, Javier Pastore was linked to every big club in Europe. Tonight, in Palermo's match against Juventus, he's shown everyone why after just seven minutes. Fabrizio Miccoli is the man who finished off the chance after Pastore's assist. It was the slightly rare type of goal where the assist and finish were equally impressive.

Pastore picked up the ball in the middle of the pitch and took off, beating Claudio Marchiso and Alberto Aquilani during his run before hitting a chipped pass to Miccoli on the left side of the penalty area. Miccoli beat his defender and hit his shot into the back of the net, finishing into a tight space from an acute angle. Gianluigi Buffon looked to be in good position to make a stop, but Miccoli somehow slit it by into the back of the net.

Unfortunately, Federico Balzaretti of Palermo was injured at around the same time as the goal, and has had to come off for Matteo Darmian.


Serie A, Week 23: AC Milan And Lazio Draw But Don't Forget About Wednesday In Italy

Lazio and AC Milan played out a 0-0 draw on Tuesday, which, despite what other outlets might be publishing, gave Milan just one extra point over second-place Napoli, and Lazio aren't too far behind in third. Inter Milan and Roma could both catch Lazio with wins later in the week, but if either falter, Udinese are right behind, determined to continue their climb up the table. With the only real excitement in the game at the San Siro being Zlatan Ibrahimović's shot that hit both posts before being saved by Fernando Muslera, we'll move on to the rest of the Serie A showdowns.

Go Ahead, Pick Just One On Wednesday.

With eight matches all being played out at the same time on Wednesday, how to decide which to watch? Here they are, from least promising to most:

Fiorentina v Genoa

It's a battle at midtable with little at stake for either club. Really, when the most exciting thing to mention involves the off-the-pitch antics of Adrian Mutu, there's not much to recommend this match.

Sampdoria v Cagliari

Sampdoria didn't just look out of sorts against Napoli on Sunday, they looked as though no one had ever explained how to kick a football. Perhaps Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini took those trade secrets with them as they hightailed it out of town. Cagliari lost their most exciting player when Alessandro Matri headed off to Juventus on Monday, and although Robert Acquafresca can likely step back into the role, don't expect a flawless transition.

Parma v Lecce

Parma are five points clear of the drop and Lecce just one above it. It's sort of a relegation six-pointer, but not one exciting enough to have neutrals tuning in. With Parma typically able to score at home, and Lecce notorious for conceding away, expect the visitors' four-match unbeaten streak to end.

Cesena v Catania

Ah, the true six-pointer. Just two points and a couple consonants separate these two clubs. Cesena will still be buzzing from Erjon Bogdani's 93rd minute equalizer against Lecce, whereas Catania will be able to console themselves with the fact that they only lost to Milan. Both sides aren't exactly known for their defense, so this one might at least feature goals. If not, choose either the Seahorses or the Elephants and take joy in the nicknames.

Roma v Brescia

Is inevitability really ever fun? Roma have just one loss from their last seven league matches, and it's hard to imagine that struggling Brescia are going to take any points from a team bent on making a scudetto challenge. Brescia have scored just nine goals away from home and are coping with yet another managerial change, with Beppe Iachini returning to replace Mario Beretta, who had just five games in charge. As for Roma, even if Marco Borriello fails his late fitness test, Mirko Vučinić is set to step in. The Montenegrin helped lead his team to the Coppa Italia semifinals with the opener against Juventus, and is infinitely more exciting than Borriello, anyway.

Palermo v Juventus

Every week, or even twice per week, Juventus supporters must be settling in to watch their team, thinking to themselves, "This is the week. This is the week we turn it all around." And yet it still isn't happening for the Old Lady, making it very, very difficult to resist all sorts of age-and-speed jokes. But give Juventus a hand for offloading Amauri to Parma, which should double their speed. In return they picked up Alessandro Matri from Cagliari, although since he's been with the club less than two days it seems likely he'll start on the bench. In that case, it's difficult to see where Juventus will find a goal, given that Alessandro del Piero is more prone to antics and Miloš Krasić is really good at building up play before coming to a screeching halt. Palermo, meanwhile, have won their last six Serie A matches at home, and will be eager to avenge the weekend's demons after going up 2-0 to Inter only to lose 3-2. The visitors will have a difficult time containing Fabrizio Miccoli and Javier Pastore, who tend to combine to devastating effect.

Udinese v Bologna

It must be exhilarating to be a true Udinese fan these days (rather than one with a mere crush on the team). Come from behind wins in their last two matches--and those matches were against Juventus and Inter Milan. A back-and-forth with Genoa that saw an eventual 4-2 win. A 4-4 battle with AC Milan. 13 goals in total over those four matches, which saw Udinese move up to seventh in the table. Now they face Bologna, who, despite being in 14th, aren't quite safe from relegation. The visitors will take comfort in the fact that Alexis Sánchez  was sent off late in the match against Juventus, and hope that Antonio Di Natale will be less effective without his partner. But can even that stop the Zebrette?

Chievo Verona v Napoli

Ok, so the second place club pitted against a midtable side that's barely able to grind out wins against lower opposition shouldn't seem like the must-watch match of Wednesday. But after Napoli absolutely dominated the match against Sampdoria on Sunday, with Edinson Cavani scoring his third hat-trick of the season, it's impossible to recommend anything else. Napoli do have a couple quirks going against them as they head to Chievo. First, it seems as though they enjoy making life difficult for themselves. They are legitimate challengers for the scudetto, yet every time Milan stumble, the partenopei fail to capitalize on those dropped points, and are unable to gain any ground. Will tomorrow be any different? Second, Ezequiel Lavezzi will miss the match with an accumulation of yellow cards, which was likely a tactical decision on the part of Walter Mazzarri, considering Lavezzi was booked for encroachment during a free kick. The Argentinian was an absolute beast on Sunday, setting up two of the four goals and muscling every Samp player out of his path. But even more than that, when one of the front three of Cavani, Lavezzi and Marek Hamšík goes missing, Napoli falter. The fluid front line is integral to their attack and Jose Sosa, who will likely slot in to replace Lavezzi, just doesn't cut it. Yet before their 3-0 victory at Brescia, the Flying Donkeys hadn't won in eight matches, so it seems unlikely their revitalization will continue when faced with Cavani and Company.

You've Got No Choice On Thursday

Bari v Inter Milan

Thanks to the infinite wisdom of Serie A planning, aficionados are stuck watching Bari attempt to hold back Inter on Thursday. Because that's a match that's likely to end in anything but a win for the visitors. Bari are adrift at the bottom, four points off Brescia and seven points from safety. They've suffered four straight defeats and although Inter, even under Leonardo, have shown certain weakness in the back, Bari's measly 14 goals at home are unlikely to strike fear in the hearts of the Nerazzurri. After the 3-2 comeback over Palermo, however, Bari have plenty of reason to be afraid of Gianpaolo Pazzini, who scored a brace on his debut for Inter. Should this one not be a total rout...oh, who are we kidding. This one will be a total rout.

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