Serie A, Round 20 preview: Expect few surprises (sorry)

Claudio Villa

With the top four all facing Serie A's strugglers, don't expect many surprises this weekend.

Last weekend saw Bologna hold Lazio, Domenico Berardi defeat Milan, and Chievo draw Inter. There's always the potential for such surprises, of course - but looking at this week's Serie A fixtures, it's hard to imagine there will be many surprises in Round 20.

Saturday

AS Roma vs. Livorno

6 p.m. CET; 12 noon ET at the Stadio Olimpico
Can anyone conceive of a legitimate scenario in which Livorno, even with bottom side Catania on points, will leave Rome with anything other than hanging heads and heavy hearts? It's often wise to bet on new coaches getting a result in their first match, but unless Attilio Perotti dabbles in the dark arts, this one is all Roma.

Juventus vs. Sampdoria

8:45 p.m. CET; 2:45 p.m. ET at Juventus Stadium
Poor Sampdoria. Siniša Mihajlović was doing so well getting them back on track, pulling them out of danger with a run of six games undefeated. Then Samp had to face Napoli at the San Paolo and Roma in the Coppa. They easily beat Udinese at the Friuli last weekend, but the trip to Turin is unlikely to provide anything but misery. 12th straight win for Juve, coming right up.

Sunday

Udinese vs. Lazio

12:30 p.m. CET; 6:30 a.m. ET at Stadio Friuli
Quite a few matches this weekend have predictable endings. This one, not so much. Sure, Lazio still haven't won on the road, but under Edy Reja anything can happen. Plus, in Udinese's last six matches, they've managed just one win, over Livorno - and the zebrette even let Livorno score. The trusted formula Francesco Guidolin employs just isn't working this season...yet Udinese have managed to beat Fiorentina and draw Napoli. So, really, anything could happen. Including a drab draw.

Atalanta vs. Cagliari

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at Atleti Azzurri d'Italia
Both sides sit on 21 points, and both sides have consistent methods for winning those points. For the visitors, it's draw, draw, draw: Cagliari have nine draws in nineteen matches, the most in Serie A, and were on a seven match unbeaten run until Juve showed up to spoil the party. As for Atalanta, they're nearly unbeatable at home, with only Fiorentina and Juve doing the deed. Seriously, why do we let Juventus play again?

Bologna vs. Napoli

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara
Bologna trail Napoli by 26 points, so is there any reason the visitors should fear this excursion? Only because they're Napoli, and they sometimes get tripped up by the littlest things. That, and the tendency of Rafa Benítez to sometimes totally ignore his best starting XI. Fortunately the partenopei have no European commitments for another month, and they've got Chievo next. But Rafa would do well not to underestimate his opponent on the bench: Davide Ballardini has but one task, to keep the rossoblu from sinking into Serie B. If that means Bologna need to close ranks and play for a point at home, so be it.

Catania vs. Fiorentina

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Angelo Massimino
Even Fiorentina won't be able to mess things up against the bottom-dwelling elefanti, right? Last week, with 27 midfielders on the pitch, the viola were unable to make a dent against Torino, leaving with just a point. But now Vincenzo Montella can call upon Alessandro Matri to make up for the absence of Giuseppe Rossi, so all should be peachy. As for Catania, they just got knocked out of the Coppa by a Serie B side, so maybe it's best just to leave it at that.

Chievo Verona vs. Parma

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Bentegodi
Everyone loves a flying donkey, right? Wrong. Since re-appointing Eugenio Corini as coach, Chievo have scored seven goals in seven matches. That doesn't sound so bad, until you realize three of those were against Livorno. Chievo's permanent Serie A strategy seems to be to try and play for a point, and if one goal happens to come, fantastic. Makes for rather boring watching, which is unfortunate as Parma are one of the more fun sides for a neutral to take in. Heck, even Amauri is scoring now.

Genoa vs. Inter Milan

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at the Marassi
Genoa's defensive facade came crumbling down last weekend, when Roma scored four in a rout over the rossoblu. Suddenly Genoa are struggling for some consistency, with just one win from seven. That's gotta be good news for Walter Mazzarri, who, after being hailed as the second coming at the beginning of the season, is starting to see the tides turn. Thus far in 2014, his Inter lost to Lazio, found themselves dumped out of the Coppa by Udinese, and could only draw Chievo at the San Siro. What next?

Sassuolo vs. Torino

3 p.m. CET; 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Città del Tricolore
Sassuolo are fresh off a fabulous victory over Milan last weekend, but they might have planned things better - allowing Domenico Berardi to grab four goals while the January window is still open might mean they see him snatched away. But for now, the neroverdi will simply be hoping the teenager might get just one. Safety would taste so much sweeter if Sassuolo were more than a point above the drop. But Torino's steadiness means it's likely the most Sassuolo can hope for is a point.

AC Milan vs. Hellas Verona

8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET at the San Siro
Will Milan be able to recover from the humiliation of losing to a relegation-threatened side? I daresay they might just be used to it by now. However, it was the straw that stabbed Massimiliano Allegri through the heart, so now it's time to see what Clarence Seedorf can do. Will the name be enough? Or will the ex-rossoneri man have a few thoughts beyond dai! dai!? Fortunately for the new manager, Verona's road bite is much less than its home bark, and this should be simple enough for Milan.

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