After a couple weeks of Friday football, it almost started to feel normal, to be expected. Then Week 30 in Serie A arrives and there's no match until Saturday at 17:00 GMT and suddenly you feel betrayed, aimless, bereft of purpose. Either that or you've realized you can watch one of the best derbies in existence, Galatasaray v Fenerbahçe, and suddenly it becomes ok that Serie A returns to its Saturday start this week.
So let's jump on in to the madness, with a few witty (read, sarcastic) sentences on each of this week's matchups:
Hey, a week that starts with Lazio can only get better, right? Apologies to Lazio fans but it seems almost rude to allow such a boring club to fill one of the European slots. Then again, watching last week's derby against Roma was at least entertaining, although I'm sure the Biancocelesti would rather be impressing with their play rather than amusing observers with headbutts and arguments with the officials. As both Stefan Radu and Cristian Ledesma were sent off last week, it's safe to say the hosts will be fielding a weaker side this week against Cesena. The Seahorses, meanwhile, might be in 17th but are undefeated in their last four matches. The visitors have their minds set on a second season in Serie A and they're not going to let a bunch of face-stomping whiners stand in their way.
A struggling club against a "struggling" club. Palermo haven't won since beating Juventus -- that's six straight losses, in case you're thinking that there were some draws in there (if you're a Rosanero supporter, you're likely trying not to think about it as all). Possibly more significantly, they haven't scored in their last three matches, which, considering their out-and-out attacking style earlier in the season, is rather worrisome. Meanwhile, Milan were dumped out of the Champions League by Tottenham Hotspur before being held to a draw by bottom-dwelling Bari last week. They're without Zlatan Ibrahimović and everyone knows he's the most important player on the team. Pato, who? The Rosanero can certainly beat a Rossoneri squad without the Swede, although your English-speaking head might start to swim if you stare at those nicknames long enough.
Finally, two clubs on the ascendancy! This one's almost worth waking up at 4:30am Pacific time. Almost. Roma were looking sharp against Lazio, at least in the second half. Or maybe that was just Francesco Totti. Who might be sitting out for this match, which could be an issue, considering Mirko Vučinić is suspended and Jérémy Menez looked out of sorts last match. The Viola are hoping to upset Vincenzo Montella's unbeaten record in the league by taking all three points, a feasible goal for Fiorentina, who have recently climbed up to eighth in the standings. Credit to Adrian Mutu who's finally decided he wants to remain in purple, putting in two goals against Catania to prove it.
Bari v Chievo Verona
There's simply not enough money in the world to make me tune in to this match, even though most of the other matchups during the 14:00 hour aren't exactly compelling. Bari may have improved under Bortolo Mutti, and definitely made an impact last week after drawing 1-1 with Milan, but the amount of chances they manage to waste means that watching them is more frustrating than anything else. Chievo, meanwhile, are known for their defensive football and haven't scored in 299 minutes. Even with a weakened Chievo defense, it seems unlikely there will be goals in this one.
Beats out Bari - Chievo only due to the desperation of both clubs. Parma took the lead against Napoli last weekend but fell apart in the second half, allowing three goals from the visitors. Now just one point above the drop, the visitors will be absolutely frantic to avoid a loss, but considering Sampdoria are just two points above them, taking more than one point could prove impossible. Now that I think about it, this match could be a hysterical mix of sweat and tears.
This match makes me hungry: Bolognese sauce pitted against pesto. One a hearty, meaty, rich ragù, one a light, airy, sauce filled with the essence of summer. Two clubs separated by a point, with little hope of European qualification and little fear of relegation. Let's call it a draw, shall we?
Juventus v Brescia
Fair play to Juventus; they managed not to lose to 17th placed Cesena last week...although they threw away a 2-0 lead. That makes one point in four for the Old Lady, and now they're stuck facing Brescia. On first blush that seems to be no big deal, as the Rondinelle are in the relegation zone, but considering Brescia have held the much more formidable Inter, Napoli, and Udinese to draws recently, they shouldn't be taken lightly. With just one player seemingly capable of putting the ball in the net, should Brescia manage to subdue Alessandro Matri, or at least take away his mascara and eyeliner, Juventus won't have a hope.
Inter missed a wonderful opportunity last week (is it missing an opportunity when your team plays first? hmmm...) to gain points against rivals Milan in the scudetto race. Instead, it took a spectacular save by Gigi Buffon to keep Brescia from taking all three points. But, as everyone knows unless you've been off meditating in an ashram, the Nerazzurri pulled off a fantastic come - from- behind win against Bayern Munich in Champions League play, and if they can't ride that high to a win over relegation - battling Lecce, well, they don't deserve another trophy.
Udinese v Catania
Speaking of meditating in an ashram, if you haven't figured out by now that Udinese are the most exciting team in Italian football than I'm assuming you're cut off from the rest of the known universe. If you ask "Who is Alexis Sánchez," well, we can't be friends anymore. Dorothy and his little dog Toto have led the Zebrette into fourth place on the back of an unbeaten run of 12 matches. Udinese esta caliente, and you really have no excuse to not be watching the partnership of Sánchez and Antonio Di Natale.
Napoli v Cagliari
Hey, remember when Napoli were the most exciting team in Italy? I'd say they're back on form but I don't want to jinx it and see a boring match as a result. However, in last Sunday's match, which has absolutely no bearing on future matches, Ezequiel Lavezzi returned, combining brilliantly with Marek Hamšík and taking some of the pressure off Edinson Cavani. Again, this will affect in no way the match of this weekend and you probably shouldn't even watch. Cagliari fell 4-0 to Udinese last week and will be desperate for revenge, but Napoli haven't conceded a goal at the San Paolo since November 21st. The visitors will be banking on catching Morgan De Sanctis napping.