Wow, it seems like forever since we've been blessed with Serie A football -- and forever plus eternity if you're a fan of Genoa, Inter, Juventus or Napoli, who haven't played a league match in three weeks. Sure, we had internationals to hold us over, but when the majority of your time spent watching a friendly involves yelling at players not to hurt your babies, it's almost more stressful than taking in a competitive match.
Speaking of injury, what a poor time for Stevan Jovetic to pick up a thigh strain. The Montenegrin came back from Euro 2012 playoff qualification both injured and, one shall assume, heartbroken, as the national team were eliminated by the Czech Republic. But with or without Jojo, Fiorentina must host Milan on Saturday, hoping that new coach Delio Rossi will demonstrate why Sinisa Mihajlovic should have been shown the door weeks ago. But Rossi faces a tough challenge: despite a few long-term injuries, Milan have been red-hot recently, beating Catania 4-0 in their last match. Kevin-Prince Boateng sits out the final match of his suspension, so either Clarence Seedorf or Alberto Aquilani will play behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho.
Saturday features the other two Italian Champions League contenders as well. Apparently Claudio Ranieri believes a win over Cagliari will propel Inter back into the race for the scudetto, but unfortunately his delusions won't be what is shown on the pitch, so go ahead and save yourself in preparation of watching both late games. Lazio meet Napoli at the San Paolo in what would be termed a "must-win" match for the azzurri, should any such games occur so early in the season. The partenopei have flashed both hot and cold thus far in Serie A, and are thought to be so focused on the Champions League that they won't be able to stay competitive in Italy. A win over second-place Lazio should help quiet the critics for a week or so, while also giving them confidence going into their midweek match against Manchester City. With Lazio missing their best scorer in Miroslav Klose, it just might be Napoli's chance to shine.
On to Sunday. I'm going to be blunt here -- there is really no reason to watch the first match of the day, with Cesena having yet to win and Bologna just being, well, Bologna. Roma gets the spotlight in the late match, but playing at home against Lecce...yeah, it's best to concentrate on the midday cluster of games. While Catania under Vincenzo Montella are fairly fun to watch this season, they'll be hosting the blue and yellow bus that is the F.Flying Donkeys, so feel free to pass. Novara have won but one match this season, while Genoa are undefeated at home, so go ahead and place your bets before ignoring that one as well. Finally, Siena and Atalanta seems a fairly even match-up, so if other streams fail, try your hand there -- it should at least have goals.
But of course there are bigger fish to fry this weekend. First-place Udinese travel to Parma, where they'll hope to capitalize on the latter's horrible defensive record by playing their best attacking football. Granted, the zebrette have scored just once in their last four away matches, but I'm willing to bet Antonio Di Natale will make sure to improve upon that record. But Udinese will have to be on the lookout for Sebastian Giovinco, who has recovered from a thigh injury picked up in international training and will start for Parma.
Finally, Juventus host Palermo, secure in the knowledge that the visitors have picked up just one point from 15 away from home this season, while the bianconeri remain unbeaten. They may have slipped down to fourth in the standings, but remember, they've got a game in hand on their rivals. Juve somehow escaped from azzurri duty with nary an injury, despite, at one point, half the Italia squad belonging to the Old Lady, so they've got a wealth of options to choose from on Sunday. Palermo will be missing Abel Hernandez, but they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they've won the last three of their matches in Turin. They might want to buy a bottle of whisky just in case, however.