Serie A, round 23 preview: With both sides in form, Rome Derby is a must-watch

Giuseppe Bellini

All eyes on Rome this week as Lazio prepare to make sure Roma doesn't do the double over them this season. In other news, Napoli and Milan battle to prove themselves, while Inter just have to get a win over relegation-battling Sassuolo.

Saturday sees three of the four teams still involved in the Coppa Italia play out their league matches, with only Roma waiting until Sunday. The giallorossi get an extra few hours rest so that they'll be all set for the season's second Derby della Capitale - which, we all hope, will be much more exciting than the first edition, in which Roma easily beat Lazio 2-0.

There's little else on Sunday that can compete with the Derby, particularly since no one really expects Verona to take points off Juventus, not even at home. Even the "highlighted" final match doesn't hold much promise, what with Inter's recent performances and Sassuolo's ineptitude.

Saturday, February 8

Fiorentina vs. Atalanta

Stadio Artemio Franchi; 6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET
It's been a tough couple of weeks for the viola - drawing with Genoa, losing at Cagliari last week, and a midweek loss at Udinese in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final. Should Fiorentina really wish to challenge Napoli for third, they're going to have to get back to winning ways. A great place to start would be by beating the side that humiliated the partenopei just last week.

Udinese vs. Chievo Verona

Stadio Friuli; 6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET
Francesco Guidolin is saving all of his side's quality for the Coppa, it seems. Because what is Udinese without European competition? It doesn't matter that the zebrette are 15th when they'll make it to Europa League by lifting the Coppa Italia. Still, it might be nice for Udi to pretend they care about the league, and demonstrate that by beating the Flying Donkeys, who are slowly sinking once more. Winless in two months? Come on, Guidolin, this one shouldn't take that much effort.

Napoli vs. AC Milan

Stadio San Paolo; 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Milan might be on the rise under Clarence Seedorf, but it'd be tough for them to have fallen any further. They're unbeaten in their last three matches, Mario Balotelli is scoring again - even from open play - and now they've got the good fortune in meeting Napoli while the hosts are down. The partenopei, winningless in three in the league, put up a fantastic comeback but ultimately lost to Roma midweek. If Rafa Benítez resists rotating his squad, trusting the likes of Marek Hamšík and Gonzalo Higuaín to be able to play three games in a week, that Napoli side should be able to finally pick up a win.

Sunday, February 9

Torino vs. Bologna

Stadio Olimpico; 12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET
Torino: unbeaten in four, up to seventh in the table, even with Inter on points. Bologna: winless in five, sitting one point above the relegation zone, just sold their top player. Go on, take a risk putting your money on the visitors. To make it a drab match, that is.

Hellas Verona vs. Juventus

Stadio Bentegodi; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
The former Bentegodi fortress (well, fortress for Verona, anyway. Not so much for Chievo) has been dismantled, with Verona losing their last two at home. Sure, those two were to Napoli and Roma, but that certainly doesn't bode well for the hosts taking points off Juve. Beating Inter 3-1 in the Derby d'Italia last week quickly buried memories of drawing to Lazio, and the Old Lady should have no trouble taking all three in Verona.

Lazio vs. AS Roma

Stadio Olimpico; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
What's better than a derby? A derby in which the weaker side may actually stand a chance. Since firing Vladimir Petković and reinstating Edy Reja at the helm, Lazio haven't lost in the league, drawing two and winning three. Roma, of course, are Roma, but it's worth remembering they needed to go all out to find the winning goal against Napoli midweek. Gervinho played the full 90, Francesco Totti put in over an hour, and the giallorossi still need to visit the San Paolo on Wednesday. Will Rudi Garcia be forced to change his game plan to get a double over Roma's rivals?

Livorno vs. Genoa

Stadio Armando Picchi; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
Genoa have been caught out, with their supposedly fantastic defense finally falling apart. They conceded four to Roma, three to Fiorentina, and lost 1-0 in a hard fought derby against Sampdoria on Monday. Now it's on to Livorno, who've scored a surprising six goals over their last two matches. Could this one be the surprise goal-fest of the weekend? Probably not with Gian Piero Gasperini looking on.

Parma vs. Catania

Stadio Tardini; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
Perhaps Catania will be willing to admit they maybe made a mistake in firing Rolando Maran, as Serie A's bottom side has managed two points from two matches. Nothing spectacular, but huge for the elefanti, particularly as they scored three goals last time out. But Parma proves a true test, more so than even drawing at Inter: the ducali are unbeaten in ten and have won their last four straight.

Sampdoria vs. Cagliari

Stadio Marassi; 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET
This match up between 13th and 14th wins Round 23's "please find another match to watch if you value these two hours of your life" award.

Inter Milan vs. Sassuolo

Stadio San Siro; 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Remember when it seemed as though Walter Mazzarri would be the man to save the nerazzurri? Well, Inter are now in sixth, though they share that spot with Torino, are in danger of being leapfrogged by Parma and are only four points above rivals Milan. In fact, the rossoneri were the last team Inter managed to beat, having picked up only two points from their last five matches. Sure, it's only relegation-threatened Sassuolo this week, but Mazzarri is certainly still sweating this encounter.

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