Serie A, Week 31 preview and fixture list: Back on the road to Rome

Giuseppe Bellini

The Derby della Capitale finishes Round 31, but there's plenty to watch prior to Monday's contest. Numerous clubs are still fighting for European positions, while the struggle to avoid the drop continues.

In Italy, it's almost certain which side will finish first (Juventus) and which side will end bottom (Pescara). But with eight rounds left to play, there's still plenty of excitement left in Serie A.

Unless there's a simultaneous meltdown + meteoric rise from one of the relegation dwellers, two out of Genoa, Palermo, and Siena will spend next season in Serie B. On the other end, only two points separate Napoli and Milan in the race for second, while only six points separate Fiorentina in fourth and Catania in eighth.

Saturday, April 6

Juventus v Pescara (6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET)

Oh come on, this one isn't even fair. The first match of Round 31 pits the presumptive scudetto winners against the team voted most likely to be relegated. The last time these two sides met, Juve won 6-1. No one would blame the Dolphins if they decided to give Turin a miss -- an automatic 3-0 loss might be a better result.

Bologna v Torino (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

36 points v 35 points. 39 goals v 37 goals. Staying up v staying up. Dear FIGC, please rearrange your schedule so meaningful matches are given the best time slots.

Sunday, April 7

all matches at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted

Fiorentina v AC Milan (12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET)

Sorry to all those living on the west coast of the U.S. (by which I mean me), it's going to be practically impossible to watch the weekend's best matchup. Granted, it would've been better had the Viola managed to beat Cagliari last time out. Now they're a full six points back of Milan and the last Champions League slot. Plus, they'll have to try to get all three points without Stevan Jovetic, who misses through injury.

Catania v Cagliari

After allowed Lazio to come back and take all three points last week, the elefanti are almost certainly out of the European race. They're five points out of fifth and have Lazio, Inter, Roma and Fiorentina ahead. Rolando Maran needs to focus on next season and enticing the likes of Alejandro Gomez, Pablo Barrientos and Francesco Lodi to stick around. Meanwhile, Cagliari are just content to be safe.

Sampdoria v Palermo

Can Palermo build on last week's shock victory over Roma and secure a second straight victory for the first time this season? Even another win wouldn't lift them out of the relegation zone, but three points could keep that slim hope for survival alive. Josip Ilicic, instrumental in last week's result, needs to continue his form and find some of the goals he's had in training this past week.

Siena v Parma

Parma are safe and Parma aren't qualifying for Europe. But there's still pride to play for, particularly on the part of Amauri, who's still determined to prove that he's not a laughing-stock. But Siena are in a much more desperate position, considering a win could finally lift them out of the drop zone. The robur are undefeated in their last three and their survival depends on the streak continuing.

Udinese v Chievo Verona

Ugh, do we have to watch this one? Do you remember when Udinese were fun? When they were the darlings of Europe? We're pretty sure that's about the last time Alexis Sanchez was good. Oh, it seems so long ago.

Inter Milan v Atalanta (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Inter managed a midweek victory against Sampdoria, moving them back into the Europa League positions -- but nothing about the win looked convincing. Add to that the fact that Rodrigo Palacio, who scored the only two goals in the match, will now miss this one through injury, and the nerazzurri will have a tough fight on their hands. But Inter can take comfort from the fact that Atalanta haven't beaten anyone not in the relegation zone this calendar year.

Napoli v Genoa (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Napoli are second, Genoa are still struggling to avoid the drop. Napoli came back and beat Torino 5-3 in the final minutes of last week's match. Napoli have the top goal scorer in the league. Napoli can't cope with pressure. Napoli will crumble like the house of straw when the big bad wolf huffed and puffed.

Monday, April 8

AS Roma v Lazio (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Saving the best for last -- the Derby della Capitale finishes off the week, and possibly the European hopes of either Lazio or Roma (Of course, either could still reach Europa via the Coppa Italia, but that lessens the drama). Lazio are currently tied with Inter for the last European position, while their rivals are three points back, probably still weeping over the fact that they managed to lose to Palermo last week. But with Roma out to avenge last week's play, and Lazio likely to be suffering yet another Europa hangover, the edge is slightly with the home side this time around.

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