Serie A, Round 24 preview and fixtures: Four days of top-flight action

Mario Carlini / Iguana Press

On Friday, Bologna's visit to Milan starts the Serie A week, followed by a 4th vs. 5th clash between Fiorentina and Inter on Saturday. It all wraps up on Monday with Verona and Torino trying to prove they deserve a European position.

The Coppa Italia semi-finals just finished, but there's just one day free of top-flight Italian football this week. The Serie A round starts on Friday, with Milan playing an early match so they can be rested to face Atlético Madrid in the next round of Champions League action. Fiorentina, too, get an early game in advance of Europa League action, while Napoli and Roma both play on Sunday, needing the rest after a lively Coppa Italia semi-final saw Napoli advance, set to meet the viola in the final.

Friday, February 14

AC Milan vs. Bologna

8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the San Siro
It's time for Milan to recover from a stuttering performance against Napoli last weekend, one that saw the first loss of Clarence Seedorf's reign and had Mario Balotelli reduced to tears in the dugout. The loss left Milan in the bottom half of the table and while they're still able to reach the Europa League places, they're going to need to turn things around very soon. Bologna may be in 16th but they're finally starting to turn things around, picking up points in four of their last five matches and beating Torino at the Olimpico last time out. Who really needs Alessandro Diamante, anyway?

Saturday, February 15

Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan

8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the Stadio Artemio Franchi
These two sides may be sitting fourth and fifth, but that gap of eight points looks awfully insurmountable. For all of Inter's impressiveness at the start of the season (scudetto challenge, anyone?) the curtain has been pulled back and their squad exposed to the harsh light of day: an aging assembly of players that don't quite fit into Walter Mazzarri's unchangeable system. The viola, meanwhile, hit a bit of a blip when they found themselves with no strikers, but have Mario Gómez back now, can still count on Juan Cuadrado and are likely lifted by the fact that they're headed to the Coppa Italia final.

Sunday, February 16

Catania vs. Lazio

12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET at the Angelo Massimino
Despite playing host to second-place Roma last weekend, Lazio remain unbeaten with Edy Reja back at the helm. Unfortunately, they're also quite dull to watch. Not a Lazio fan? Unconcerned about the fate of bottom-side Catania? It's probably ok to give this one a miss.

Atalanta vs. Parma

3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Atleti Azzurri d'Italia
It's 11 unbeaten for Parma now, but still no one seems to be giving them any attention, despite being three points out of fifth with a game in hand. Instead the ducali are quietly going about their business, making life difficult for teams at the top. It's quite likely they'll make it rough for Atalanta as well, but with just two losses and two draws at home for la dea, this one will probably end in a stalemate.

Cagliari vs. Livorno

3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Stadio Sant'Elia
Livorno may be looking slightly better as of late, but don't expect too much from this one - it pits one of Serie A's draw-masters against a side looking to survive.

Genoa vs. Udinese

3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Marassi
An Udinese comeback has finally started? Yeah, we've already thought that a few times this season. But the zebrette remain 14th and, after getting kicked out of Coppa Italia by Fiorentina midweek, have only one option to make it to Europe this season: pull off another late-season unbeaten streak that Francesco Guidolin so loves to use to frustrate the rest of Serie A. Udinese have beaten their last two opponents while keeping cleansheets and scoring more than one goal per match, but Genoa, currently in tenth, are a tricky proposition at home.

Juventus vs. Chievo Verona

3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at Juventus Stadium
Hey remember last week when Juventus fell asleep on a 2-0 lead, allowing Hellas to come back and demand their share of the points? Yeah...don't expect the same to happen against that other side from Verona. For all the talk about the Serie A race being "blown wide open" by Juve's stumble, the Old Lady remain nine points clear of Roma and it's not going to be the Flying Donkeys that trip them up.

Sassuolo vs. Napoli

3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Mapei Stadium
The last time Sassuolo and Napoli faced off, things didn't go so well for the third-place club. Now, with Sassuolo still fighting a relegation battle, the match will be Napoli's to decide once more. And keeping Fiorentina at bay - a more pressing problem than catching Roma in second - means that the partenopei can't afford to drop a single point. Perhaps it'll be the Coppa win that carries them through, but considering Rafa Benítez will more than likely revamp his entire starting XI, the points might be there for the neroverdi to snatch once more,

AS Roma vs. Sampdoria

8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the Stadio Olimpico
Siniša Mihajlović has done wonders with the Sampdoria squad since taking over at the end of November. He's suffered just three losses - to Juventus, Napoli and former side Fiorentina - and managed to get Samp back up into 12th. But it's another tough challenge for Miha's boys this weekend, traveling to Rome to try to be one of the few that knock points off the giallorossi this season. But however faint the hope of a title might be, it's still there for Roma, and they've got a Coppa beating to make up for as well. Sampdoria should be worried about this one.

Monday, February 17

Hellas Verona vs. Torino

8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the Bentegodi
Whoever thought, at the start of the season, that this matchup had the potential to put on a great show? Verona were just up from Serie B; Toro were playing some pretty dull football last season upon their return to Serie A. But as it stands, these two sides have just three points separating them, and both are contenders to slip into fifth place and a Europa League spot (c'mon...who believes Inter have a lock on that place?). Verona certainly have the edge, however, maintaining an excellent record at the Bentegodi and buoyed by last weekend's last minute equalizer against Juventus. Torino? Well, they managed to fall to Bologna at home...which might inspire them to go out seeking revenge on their next opponent.

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