Serie A Sunday: Udinese Crush Napoli's Scudetto Dreams With 2-1 Victory

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Napoli Vs. Udinese: A Surprise Win By Udinese Squishes Napoli's Scudetto Hopes

Gökhan Inler, who will likely be a Napoli player next season, and Germán Denis, the former Napoli forward, have destroyed Napoli's scudetto dreams by knocking in the goals in a 2-1 Udinese win. Despite the feeling that the visitors would be unable to score without the tiny wonder duo of Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sánchez, it was Napoli that were rendered impotent. The strong zebrette defense (playing with four in the back rather than the usual three) were able to mark Edinson Cavani out of the match, while Marek Hamšík was uncharacteristically sloppy and Ezequiel Lavezzi was, to put it bluntly, poor. Only Giuseppe Mascara, subbed on for Hassan Yebda, was able to put the ball in the back of the net.

Deep into Zona Napoli, Maurizio Domizzi substitute punched Cristiano Lucarelli inside the area, earning himself a red card and giving Edinson Cavani a perfect opportunity to put Napoli back in the match. In fact, it appeared as though Cavani had converted the penalty:



To be fair to Mr. Marcotti, he did apologize for the tweet, stating that he had a "childish need to be first". Napoli did step it up in the final minutes of injury time, with Cavani chesting the ball down in the area and sending in the shot. The ball ricocheted off an Udinese defender and substitute Giuseppe Mascara put the ball into the back of the net. But with 95 minutes already left to play, even the magical Napoli last-minute goals would not have time to appear. Especially with the referee blowing the whistle before a final free kick was taken.

The play of Napoli can be dissected for hours, but in the end the horrible showing means just one thing: The scudetto dreams for the partenopei  are over. AC Milan extend their lead at the top of the table to six points, meaning it will take nothing short of a miracle for Napoli to catch up.


Napoli Vs. Udinese: Gokhan Inler And German Denis Put Udinese Up, 2-0

What a blow to Napoli's scudetto hopes. First, Gökhan Inler took a shot from outside the box, an absolute stunner of a strike that took a slight deflection off Napoli defender Paolo Cannavaro and left keeper Morgan De Sanctis with absolutely nothing he could do except watch the ball go into the back of the net. The Udinese midfielder refused to celebrate his goal at the San Paolo, further fueling rumors that he's on his way out and on to Napoli

Small consolation to the partenopei, however, as just six minutes later, former Napoli forward Germán Denis put a second past his former club. The majority of the work was put in by midfielder Pablo Armero, however, who took the ball up the left side before slotting it on to Denis. De Sanctis was caught wrong footed and Udinese lead, 2-0.

With the 3-0 victory by AC Milan over Sampdoria yesterday, the scudetto dreams are likely out of Napoli's reach. A loss here means that they're six points behind the league leaders, and with no slips by Milan likely, it looks as though Napoli will have to concentrate on staying within the Champions League positions.


Napoli Vs. Udinese: Mauricio Isla Stretchered Off

After a frantic period of play in which it appeared as though every player on the pitch was inside the Udinese box, the referee blew the whistle and it appeared as though Napoli had been granted a penalty. However, it was a foul by Edinson Cavani on Udinese keeper Samir Handanovič, and the visitors were awarded a free kick. But before it could be taken, play was stopped because Udinese midfielder Mauricio Isla was down, having cut down Hassan Yebda and injured himself in the process. The Chilean needed to be stretchered off the pitch and was replaced by Juan Cuardrado.

Udinese are playing quite well, particularly considering they're missing their two front men, Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Di Natale. The loss of Isla certainly won't bolster their confidence at the San Paolo, however, as the midfielder has been one of their best this season. Yet the strength of the Udinese defense, combined with the skills of Handanovič, might allow the visitors unexpected points.


Napoli Vs. Udinese, Lineups: Alexis Sanchez And Antonio Di Natale Both Missing For Udinese

The Udinese of this season are well known for their free-flowing, attacking football, the type that should totally put to rest all those outdated stereotypes of Italy being a league in which every club is over-defensive and boring. Yet the zebrette take the pitch at the San Paolo today without both Alexis Sánchez and Antonio Di Natale, who between them have 38 goals. Last week against AS Roma, Di Natale was forced to play through obvious pain, as his sidekick Sánchez was out with a thigh injury. This week, it will be German Denis starting up front, hoping he's slightly more on the pace against his former club.

Napoli welcome Edinson Cavani back from his one game suspension, hoping the Uruguayan will be rested and ready to continue the fine form he displayed in the 4-3 victory over Lazio two weeks ago.

Napoli Starting XI: De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Ruiz; Maggio, Pazienza, Yebda, Dossena; Hamsik, Lavezzi; Cavani.

Bench: Iezzo, Aronica, Santacroce, Gargano, Mascara, Zuniga, Lucarelli.

Udinese Starting XI: Handanovic; Benatia, Zapata, Domizzi, Pasquale; Isla, Inler, Asamoah, Armero; Pinzi; Denis.

Bench: Belardi, Coda, Angella, Battocchio, Cuadrado, Vydra, Corradi.


Fiorentina Vs. Juventus: Wanted -- 90 Minutes Of Life Back

I swear that Fox Soccer did not show the match between Fiorentina and Juventus this morning. Instead, the station showed an endless loop of the same two or three scenes. Adrian Mutu racing into the Juventus area, only to send a shot high and wide. Alessandro Del Piero playing the ball in to Claudio Marchisio, who can't control it well enough to threaten Artur Boruc. Riccardo Montolivo falling over. Perhaps Fox lost the tape of the real match?

That was the match in a nutshell, so how about some random observations that might be slightly more interesting than anything involving the play in Florence?

  • Felipe Melo needs some longer shorts. Yes, I get it, footballing quads are lovely. But give us a hint rather than show us the entire package, y'know?
  • If a player goes down in the area and refuses to get up despite the fact that his team continue to have possession, and then manages to get up after play has stopped, that player's team gets to kick him repeatedly in the shins. I'm looking at you, Alberto Gilardino.
  • "Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline." Alessandro Matri might have the longest eyelashes known to man (or woman) kind, but that certainly doesn't mean he has enough brains to remember to stay onside.
  • A universal truth: when Sunday at 6am my time (16:00 Italy time) rolls around, I will inevitably choose the most boring match available, leading me to contemplate things such as, "Why do the purple kits make me feel affection to Fiorentina, but pink ones don't make me like Palermo?"
  • Please, someone, pass me a time turner so I can have those 90 minutes back.

Fiorentina Vs. Juventus: Someone Wake Me When These Teams Learn To Finish

To be fair, the match between Fiorentina and Juventus is not the most boring match I've seen in my life. Fiorentina, at least, have managed to bring the ball forward again and again, raising my hopes that it will end up in the back of the net. Juventus, meanwhile, waited about forty minutes before finally remembering that if they want to keep their slim hopes of Champions League qualification alive, they're going to have to actually score. Unfortunately, every time they attempt to send the ball through to Alessandro Matri, there are multiple Viola shirts waiting to swipe it and set off down to the other end -- that, or Matri is offside, which rather symbolizes the Juve play: they just look as though they've yet to wake up.

Here's hoping for some inspiring halftime talks, or perhaps a quick lesson on exactly how to put the ball inside the net rather than over the crossbar.


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Goals By Seedorf, Cassano, And Robinho Give Milan Comprehensive 3-0 Victory

Sampdoria spent the last thirty minutes of their match at the San Siro searching around for the clock, desperate to run off the pitch and hide in the locker rooms. Although AC Milan lost their first-choice goalkeeper, Christian Abbiati, to injury in the 18th minute, and then saw Alexandre Pato hobble off with a hamstring injury in the 39th, the visitors were unable to capitalize on any weakness by the league leaders. Sampdoria barely threatened Marco Amelia in goal (in fact, he probably had as much of a workout as he normally gets on the bench) whereas Antonio Cassano, who replaced Pato, was undeniably the man of the second half. Clarence Seedorf opened the scoring in the 20th minute, with a Cassano penalty and a Robinho header completing the 3-0 Milan victory. That puts the rossoneri six points clear at the top of the table, while Parma's win over Inter Milan pushes Sampdoria down to 17th, and possibly into the relegation zone come Sunday.

Right from the start, it was apparent that there would be no miraculous Sampdoria victory in Milan. Nearly every rossoneri shirt was packed into the box, taking shot after shot at Gianluca Curci's goal. Samp must have felt a bit heartened, however, when their first spell of pressure resulted in Abbiati leaving the match, apparently with an injured hand. Unfortunately for the visitors, Seedorf scored just two minutes later, his bending free kick landing in the far corner of the net.

If Pato's injury caused any nerves in the Milan camp, they were quickly dispelled by the performance of substitute Cassano. Despite being exhausted from new-fatherhood, the former Sampdoria forward dominated the second half. After a Massimo Volta handball inside the area, it was Cassano who stepped up to take the penalty, sending his powerful shot over Curci's head and into the back of the net.

But Curci was destined to have Cassano haunt his nightmares, with the substitute also creating the third goal for Milan. Seedorf played Cassano inside, allowing him the chance to chip the ball over the head of two defenders. Curci came rushing out in an attempt to stem the bleeding, but instead just ripped off the bandage as the ball bounced past, allowing Robinho to head it into the empty net.


Parma Vs. Inter Milan: Parma Extinguish Inter Milan's Title Hopes With 2-0 Win

Going into Saturday's match at Il Tardini, Inter Milan and Parma were on opposite ends of the table. Inter Milan were just five points off of the lead and while it was unlikely that they would catch the leaders, AC MIlan, they still had an outside chance at the Scudetto. Parma were only one point clear of the drop zone and had no thoughts of the top half of the table, let alone the top. Their only concern was survival. Well, after the match Parma had taken a big step towards survival, while Inter's title hopes were extinguished as Parma defeated the visitors, 2-0.

Parma were better from the beginning, controlling possession and showing no issues in staying organized at the back. In fact, Inter only really threatened twice in the first half and both came on shots from distance by Dejan Stankovic. One struck the post and another forced a good save from Antonio Mirante, but even those chances were a result a great skill from Stankovic, not good play from the Nerazurri.

Late in the half Parma finally got the goal they deserved thanks to a 35th minute strike by Sebastian Giovinco. Cristiano Zaccardo got free along the right and played a tantalizing ball across that Francesco Modesto gathered beyond the far post before picking out Giovinco in the center. Giovinco simply slotted the ball past Julio Cesar and Parma had the 1-0 lead they so deserved going into the half.

One thing that Inter did have in its back pocket when they came out of the dressing room for the second half was Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman started on the bench, but came on to begin the second half and make an impact right away. Twice he almost scored with one of the chances beating Mirante, but missing the far post by mere inches. Inter also began to grab a hold of some of the possession, but they couldn't crack the Parma defense.

It is not as if Parma was upset that they lost some of the possession anyways. They chose to drop deeper and defend with an eye out for the opportunity to counter-attack and that's just what they did. They twice exposed Inter on the counter, once hitting the bar and another time just missing a golden opportunity, but they finally got the goal to seal it five minutes from time.

The counter-attack got Parma into a dangerous position and more specifically, Valeri Bojinov in a dangerous position. The Bulgarian couldn't shoot quick enough though and his shot was blocked, but it was blocked right to Amauri with no defender near him. Amauri took a took to clear room from an onrushing Cesar before knocking the ball into the net to put a ribbon on the match and a nail in the coffin of Inter's scudetto dreams.


Parma Vs. Inter Milan: Amauri Scores To Put Inter To Bed

Already ahead 1-0, Parma have put a nice little ribbon on their match with Inter Milan thanks to an Amauri goal in the 85th minute. With the goal, Parma now has one in the later portion of each half after Sebastian Giovinco struck late in the first half. Whenever the goals came, Parma is delighted as they look set to grab a shocking three points from Inter Milan and not a cheap three points either. Parma deserve all three of the points they are to get.

Valeri Bojinov had the first chance in the move. He found the ball 15 yards from goal, but by the time he turned and shot the defenders had closed on him to block the shot. Luckily for Parma, the block deflected the ball right to Amauri who took a touch to create space from an onrushing Julio Cesar before slotting the ball into the net for the goal that has essentially ended the match.


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Robinho Makes It Worse For Sampdoria, Giving Milan 3-0 Lead

And the last bit of hope drains away for Sampdoria as they watch Robinho head in the third goal for AC Milan. The skill all came from the substitute, new father Antonio Cassano, who managed to break through his exhaustion and show the world that even if Pato is hurt, he's set to step up and help Milan clinch the scudetto. Cassano, played in by Clarence Seedorf, chipped the ball over the head of two Sampdoria defenders, causing Gianluca Curci to rush out in an attempt to save. Instead the ball bounced past the keeper for Robinho to head into the empty net.

With Parma ahead at the moment against Inter Milan, the Saturday matches have definite impact on the Serie A table. Inter's hopes of a title could be well over, whereas Samp could very well be pushed down into 17th. Should Cesena win over Bari on Sunday, or Brescia over Genoa, Sampdoria will be in the relegation zone.


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Antonio Cassano Converts Penalty To Give AC Milan 2-0 Lead

First choice goalkeeper Christian Abbiati had to leave the match in the 18th minute. In-form striker Alexandre Pato hurt his hamstring in the 39th and was replaced by Antonio Cassano. Yet AC Milan have doubled their lead over hapless Sampdoria, through a converted penalty by the substitute (not by Marco Amelia. That'd be weird, a goalkeeper taking a penalty).

A spell of pressure by Milan unsettled Samp, leading to a desperate handball by defender Massimo Volta. The visitors tried to claim that Volta had been pushed and had simply brought up his arm to keep his balance, but the referee made the correct decision, pointing to the spot. Cassano stepped up, all the Sampdoria players crossing their fingers that his sleep deprivation -- the forward hasn't slept in two days due to a new baby -- would prompt a mistake. But nothing doing. Cassano smacked the ball over the head of Gianluca Curci, driving it past his former teammate and into the back of the net.


Parma Vs. Inter Milan: Parma Leads At Half Thanks To Sebastian Giovinco

Inter Milan needs three points from their visit to Parma and at halftime it doesn't look like they are going to get those three, let alone one. Dejan Stankovic nearly scored twice for Inter, once hitting the bar and another time forcing a good save Antonio Mirante, but that's all Inter have mustered. On the flip side, Parma looked organized and strong before getting a goal from Sebastian Giovinco that handed them a 1-0 halftime lead.

Cristian Zaccardo spent much of the first half deep on the pitch tending to his defensive duties, but in the 35 minute he finally got to get forward. He pushed up the right and played a good ball across the Inter box that found Francesco Modesto just beyond the far post. Modesto quickly played to Giovinco in the center and the striker put the ball past Julio Cesar for the lone goal of the first half.

Parma are every bit deserving of their lead as Stankovic's shots from distance have been the only thing resembling an Inter attack, while Parma have been calm and composed in going forward. What Parma will have to deal with though, is Wesley Sneijder coming off the bench, something he is almost sure to do.


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Alexandre Pato Injury Sees Antonio Cassano Take His Place For Milan

With Zlatan Ibrahimović suspended for possibly the rest of his born days, AC Milan have been counting on Alexandre Pato to bear the weight of their scudetto dreams for the next six matches. However, in the 39th minute of the match against Sampdoria, the Duck pulled up, clutching his hamstring. The Brazilian immediately gestured for a substitute, the pain etched upon his face. Antonio Cassano, meant to be saved as a late substitution against his former club, came on to take Pato's place at the front of the Milan attack.

With goalkeeper Christian Abbiati subbed off for Marco Amelia in the 18th minute, apparently having hurt his hand, Milan are down to just one substitute for the final fifty minutes. More worrying, however, is the severity of the injury to Pato, who's been on an amazing run of form, scoring three goals in the last two matches. With a match against Palermo, who buried Roma's Champions League hopes in the early Saturday match, to look forward to next weekend, Milan likely have every reason to feel anxious over Pato's frowning face.


Parma Vs. Inter Milan: Sebastian Giovinco Gives Parma Surprise Lead

Few expected Parma to be able to grab points away from Inter Milan, but at least in the first half, they have the upper hand thanks to a goal by Sebastian Giovinco. Parma had played Inter well up to the 35th minute goal, although Inter had had the best chances through the fantastic Dejan Stankovic. Chances or not for Stankovic, Parma had their good run of play to surprise Inter and lead to their taking a 1-0 first half lead.

For the first time all match, Cristian Zaccardo was able to put his defensive responsibilities to the side for a moment and push forward. He did so with great effect as he played a tantalizing ball across and all the way to Francesco Modesto on the left. Modesto gathered and spotted Giovinco, who calmly put the ball past Julio Cesar for the 1-0 Parma lead.

Inter must now regroup because they need three points. Two points behind second place Napoli and five behind leaders AC Milan (who currently lead 1-0), Inter will have to find not just one, but two goals if this match is to be a success.


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Clarence Seedorf Gives Milan The Lead

It looked as though Sampdoria might manage to find a chance at the San Siro. After their first spell of pressure in the match, around the 18th minute, Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati took off his gloves and started shaking his hand, signaling toward the bench. Odd, really, as the most he'd had to do is collect a soft shot from Daniele Gastaldello, but Marco Amelia came in to take his place between the sticks anyway.

Perhaps Samp were simply distracted by the drama at the other end of the pitch, because Clarence Seedorf was able to almost instantly put the rossoneri ahead. Milan were awarded a free kick about thirty yards up, with the Dutchman stepping up to take. It was a beautiful shot from Seedorf, bending away from Sampdoria keeper Gianluca Curci to settle in to the far corner of the net.

It's a tough climb back for Doria now, both in the match and in the league. Dropping all three points here could see the club drop down into the relegation zone, depending on Sunday's results.


Parma Vs. Inter Milan: Maicon Left Out, Wesley Sneijder On Bench

Perhaps there are fitness reasons, perhaps Leonardo is still upset with his squad after their performance against Schalke midweek, perhaps Inter are focusing on the Coppa Italia match against Roma, knowing that it might be their only chance at silverware. Whatever the reasons, Maicon has been left out of the squad, while Wesley Sneijder takes a place on the bench, Dejan Stanković coming in behind Giampaolo Pazzini and Samuel Eto'o.

Parma, meanwhile, have put their leading goalscorer, Hernán Crespo, on the bench once again, preferring Sebastian Giovinco and Antonio Candreva with Amauri. And if someone would like to enlighten me as to why, exactly, I'd much appreciate it.

Inter certainly have a point to prove after their 7-3 aggregate thumping at the feet of Schalke. What better way to do so than by trampling over relegation threatened Parma?

Parma Starting XI: Mirante; Zaccardo, Paletta, Lucarelli, Gobbi; Morrone, Dzemaili, Modesto; Candreva, Giovinco; Amauri

Inter Milan Starting XI: Julio Cesar; Nagatomo, Lucio, Ranocchia, Chivu; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Kharja; Stankovic; Pazzini, Eto'o


AC Milan Vs. Sampdoria: Lineups

The pressure is on for AC Milan: one little slip and they could be sharing first place in Serie A with Napoli (assuming Napoli wins tomorrow, which, um, is far from a given). Fortunately they play host to Sampdoria, who are in free fall, having collected just two points from their last eight matches. 'Doria sit in 16th, even on points with Parma, who are lucky enough to be hosting Inter Milan today. At this point, it almost seems as though Samp have just given up, that they're merely waiting for next season to begin -- Serie B or otherwise.

Milan, as everyone knows, will be missing Zlatan Ibrahimović, possibly for the rest of his born days. No matter, however, as it's the Alexandre Pato show from here on out.

AC Milan Starting XI: Abbiati, Abate, Yepes, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Van Bommel, Seedorf, Boateng, Pato, Robinho

Sampdoria Starting XI: Curci, Volta, Gastaldello, Martinez, Dessena, Tissone, Palombo, Koman, Laczko, Pozzi, Maccarone.


AS Roma Vs. Palermo: Two Penalties Put Sides Level At Halftime

Just as people were beginning to nod off, wondering if there was any way that the Manchester City - Manchester United match could be more boring than this (hint: yes, yes it can), Palermo managed to make the game interesting for approximately sixty seconds. Roma, once again deciding that a one goal lead would be sufficient, made no real attempts to score after Francesco Totti converted a penalty in the 20th minute. Instead the teams just passed the ball around midfield, with Palermo seeming to have no desire to bring the scoreline level.

The visitors weren't going to turn down a free chance at goal, however. Mauricio Pinilla, waiting for the ball inside the area, was brought down by a tug on his shirt, courtesy of Nicolás Burdisso. You'd think the Roma defender would have learned, considering that was almost exactly what Armin Bačinović did to Jérémy Menez to give the Giallorossi their penalty...but then again, you'd think Menez would learn to pass as well, so maybe it's just a Roma thing. Anyway, Pinilla took the penalty, leaving Doni with nothing to do but look befuddled.

1-1 at the break, a scoreline that Palermo would happily take back to Sicily. But Roma are the ones desperate for a Champions League position -- will they find another capitano winner?


AS Roma Vs. Palermo: No Spooning Allowed - It's Another Francesco Totti Penalty As Roma Take The Early Lead

Last weekend saw Roma take the lead against Udinese off a typical capitano penalty, with Francesco Totti sending in his curving cucchiaio shot. This week, the Roma captain stepped up again to give his team an early lead against Palermo. Totti sent the ball into the edge of the area, with Jérémy Menez surging forth to get on the end of it. Armin Bacinovic, apparently unnerved by the man that had already sent two shots straight to Salvatore Sirigu, decided his best course of action would be to drag the Roma forward down by his shirt. Good eyes by the ref as he pulled the card and pointed to the spot. Alas, there was no spoon today, with Totti's shot going low and to the right of Sirigu.

Palermo have every right to feel slighted, as Mauricio Pinilla was dragged down inside the box in the seventh minute. The referee turned a blind eye to that one, however, so Palermo will have to do this the hard way.


AS Roma Vs. Palermo: Lineups

Roma have been forced to play with a weakened defense as they host Palermo, with Juan suspended and Philippe Mexes injured. Marco Cassetti moves to center back and Simone Loria slots in at fullback. Mirko Vučinić takes the bench, because Vincenzo Montella clearly hates me, and Jérémy Menez takes his place.

Palermo leave out captain Fabrizio Miccoli and have Josip Iličić out injured, but at least welcome back Javier Pastore from injury. He starts just behind Abel Hernández and Mauricio Pinilla.Other than that, it's just a question of whether we see good  Salvatore Sirigu or bad  Salvatore Sirigu.

AS Roma Starting XI: 32 Doni; 77 Cassetti, 29 N. Burdisso, 15 Loria, 17 Riise; 7 Pizarro, 16 De Rossi; 87 Rosi, 94 Menez, 11 Taddei; 10 Totti

Palermo Starting XI: 46 Sirigu; 16 Cassani, 3 Goian, 5 Bovo, 42 Balzaretti; 8 Migliaccio, 21 Bacinovic, 23 Nocerino; 27 Pastore; 51 Pinilla, 9 Hernandez.

Thanks to Adam Digby for the lineups.


Serie A, Week 33 Preview: The Struggle To Stay Up Nearly Eclipses Scudetto Pursuits

With just six weeks left to play in Serie A, "every match is a final." Actually, it's not -- try as they might (and they do try) clubs typically can't affect the results of other matches, whereas in an actual "final," it's you and the other team. That's it. In other words, no, these are not finals. However, one wrong step, one misplaced pass, a poor deflection, an errant thought, a bird flying overhead, a mis-cut blade of grass, and the dreams of the season could be over. In Week 33, every single match includes at least one team crossing their fingers, trying to hang on to hope for just another week. They might not be finals, but I submit that end of the season drama is even more exciting.

Saturday, April 16

1800 CET (1 PM ET)

AS Roma v Palermo

Last week, Francesco Totti scored the winner in the very last move of the match against Udinese, allowing Roma to close the gap between the two clubs to just three points. They'll be looking over their shoulders this week, however, as Juventus finally look threatening, having won three games in a row for the first time in anyone's recent memory. But with Palermo unable to hold off even Cesena, allowing the Seahorses two goals in injury time last weekend, Roma will likely not need the power of a capitano cucchiaio to see out the win.

2045 CET (2:45 ET)

Parma v Inter Milan

Inter take their freshly wounded egos down to Parma, who seem intent on proving that they deserve to spend next season in Serie B. This should give the nerazzurri a perfect opportunity to make amends for their midweek showing against Schalke 04, getting knocked out of the Champions League quarterfinals 7-3 on aggregate. Leonardo's side are desperate to fight their way back into the scudetto race, needing some sort of trophy to compensate for the humiliation they've felt this season. But even though they're almost certain to take all three points from Parma, there's nothing Inter can do about the leaders...

AC Milan v Sampdoria

No Ibra? No matter. Sampdoria could find themselves in the relegation zone after this weekend, depending on the points collected by Cesena and Brescia. Although Samp have a decent enough defense, they simply can't seem to score, and considering they won't be able to entirely stop the likes of Pato and company from tormenting the back line, it's impossible to think that Milan won't maintain their lead at the top of the table.

Sunday, April 17

1500 CET (9 AM ET) (No early Sunday match, yay!)

Chievo Verona v Bologna

Yeah ok, I lied. These two teams have nothing to play for. Carry on.

Catania v Lazio

Lazio have just realized that people don't like them, and to counteract that, have decided to play some strange mental games, establishing a "task force" to watch the final six weeks and address any issues the club has with the results of other matches. Clearly they haven't got the memo that these games really aren't finals. Also, Lazio, most people don't like to be friends with paranoid personalities who have a tendency to headbutt. Just something to consider. Instead of the mind games, Lazio might want to bring a bit of offense to this match, as Catania still aren't safe from the drop and will be looking to take points wherever possible.

Genoa v Brescia

Wonder if Brescia will be able to convince Genoa to play nice and allow them a much-needed win? Nah, it's more likely the visitors will simply sit back and defend -- again -- and keep attempting to climb out of the relegation zone, one boring point at a time.

Lecce v Cagliari

Lecce have no guarantee of safety, sitting in 15th place. However, Cagliari have very little incentive to do much of anything, with no way to see Europe and no chance of going on. This might be the best match for Andrea Bertolacci to be injured...unfortunately for Lecce's hopes of staying above the drop, the playmaker will be out for three weeks.

Cesena v Bari

Relegation six pointer! Nothing less than three points will do! Football cliche! Seriously, though, Bari aren't going down without a fight, even though only some sort of divine intervention will save them at this point. But if the fightback against Palermo last weekend is any indication, the Seahorses aren't about to go back to Serie B. This match is either going to be an all-out goalfest or a total snoozefest. And will likely end in a draw that will help neither team.

Fiorentina v Juventus

Certainly the choice match of the Sunday cluster. Can Juventus defy its detractors, collect a fourth straight win, and legitimately fight for a Champions League position? Well, it's going to take a lot of failure on the part of other clubs, but after last week, the Old Lady might be putting its faith, oddly enough, in veteran striker Luca Toni, possibly starting him up front with Alessandro Matri after his impressive display last weekend. As for the Viola, they may have put up a bit of a fight last week against Milan, but seem to be more concerned with not losing rather than actually winning. At least the always amusing Adrian Mutu is back, although that doesn't change the fact that this one will likely end in a draw.

2045 CET (2:45 ET)

Napoli v Udinese

Saving the best for last this week -- or, we can hope. Udinese had been the thrillers of 2011 before fading fast in the last two weeks, the effects of a long season finally showing in their starting lineup. In fact, Antonio Di Natale was obviously in pain against Roma last week, even gesturing to be substituted. The captain was not indulged, however, possibly due to a lack of Alexis Sanchez, and now the zebrette are paying the price. Both Toto and Sanchez will be out with injury, not ideal for a trip to face a Napoli side determined to keep hold of second place. Edinson Cavani is back from suspension this week, which is really all that needs to be said.

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