All roads lead to Rome? Ha, all you'll find there this weekend is Lazio trying to beat another relegation-fodder squad. No, in Round 26, all roads lead to the north, where they converge on Milan. That's right, this week features the second Derby della Madonnina, and it has the potential to be a great one. Inter and Milan are separated by just a point in the standings, but the nerazzurri are in a bit of a freefall, while the rossoneri are quickly climbing the charts.
But there are plenty of other matches to occupy your time until (and after) Sunday evening. Chart out your road trip here:
Saturday, February 23
8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
The week begins down south in Sicily, this week's southernmost match. It's pretty far south in terms of the table as well, with the hosts sitting dead last, and Genoa just four points out of the drop zone.
Sunday, February 24
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted
Sampdoria v Chievo Verona (12:30 p.m. local, 6 a.m. ET)
It's probably best to hop a plane to get from Sicily up to Genoa, where Samp will be hosting the Flying Donkeys. That is, if you have a hankering to watch a side sit back and play for a point on the road. Perhaps it's best just to go out for a delicious meal instead.
Now, it's time to choose which of the relatively short drives (or plane rides) you want to make for the afternoon matches. Just watch out for the snow...
This route takes you past your final destination, landing you north of Milan in Bergamo. I'm sure it's a very fine place to be, but the point here is to evaluate if Roma are really on their way back up, after beating Juventus last weekend. While you're at it, pop into a local hospital and note the babies wearing la dea kits -- apparently each newborn gets a free itty bitty shirt.
Assuming the predicted snow doesn't derail your plans, you can simply drive east from Genoa and wind up at the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, where the Viola will pay a visit. Normally I'd suggest simply gorging yourself on the delights of Bologna and foregoing the match, but after last week, it'd be a crime not to keep your attention focused on Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic.
Sorry, everyone, there are no seats available on the RyanAir flight from Genoa to Cagliari on Sunday. You could try to hop a ferry, but that's a lot of effort to go watch two sides that rarely seem to score. Plus, you'd have to sit in a stadium which could collapse at any minute.
With all the winter weather blustering about the peninsula, it could be tough to get from Genoa to Turin -- but this one might be worth the effort. Siena managed to thump Lazio last week, while Juventus fell to Roma. If the robur manage a result here, they just might be booking their spot in Serie A next season.
Parma's probably the closest jump from Genoa, and provides an easy detour on the way to Milan. Plus, you get to enjoy some great ham while cheering on the local side, who haven't won a match in their last six outings. Or you could support Catania, who have snuck into seventh while everyone's backs were turned.
Inter Milan v AC Milan (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)
Finally, we've all converged on Rome, where we shall all cross our fingers and hope for a much more exciting match than took place back in October. Remember that one, where Walter Samuel scored in the third minute and then nothing. else. happened. Yeah, me neither.
But the week's not over yet! You can either head to the mountains for a spot of skiing, followed by a stop at the Stadio Friuli, or you can finally find the Roman path and head off to the Olimpico.
Monday, February 25
Behind door number one lies heartbreak and disappointment. The local side is sitting ninth and haven't had a consistent run of form this season -- quite sad for a side that started out trying to qualify for the Champions League. As for Napoli, they failed to take all three points from Sampdoria last week, showing that Juventus are, indeed, the scudetto-elect. Then they crashed out of the Europa League with a 5-0 loss (over two legs, but still) to Viktoria Plzen.
And behind door number two we have a slippery slope that leads to utter darkness. Lazio may still be tied for third, but they're now 11 points behind Juventus and haven't won any of their last five matches. Even worse, their opponents included Genoa and Siena, both who beat the biancocelesti, and Palermo, who earned a point. Now it's another relegation-zone side set to take on Lazio, and if the delfini manage a win this time, it's likely Vladimir Petkovic will be shown the door.