Serie A, Round 28 preview: plenty of questions leading up to the weekend

Claudio Villa

In Week 28, try to look beyond the surface - some games that look as though they might be boring contain hidden secrets. Or at least can send up a flicker of a flame of interest. Except if you're looking for thrills from Bologna or Lazio, of course.

And if you're looking for a question to occupy your thoughts until games start on Saturday, you might give this one a think: Just why is Roma - Udinese scheduled for Monday evening, when neither of those sides is involved in European competition?

Saturday, March 15

Hellas Verona vs. Inter Milan
8:45 p.m. local, 3:45 p.m. ET at the Bentegodi, Verona
Saturday's only match would've been much more fun a few weeks ago. Now, however, Verona's fantastic home record has slipped, and they're sitting four points back of the Europa League places. Inter, on the other hand, are on the rise, going five games unbeaten and conceding just two goals in those matches. Is Walter Mazzarri finally earning his paycheck - or is this simply a blip for the aging nerazzurri?

Sunday, March 16

Atalanta vs. Sampdoria
12:30 p.m. local, 7:30 a.m. ET at the Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Bergamo
After last week's early match featured Juventus and Fiorentina, this week's seems a bit of a first. But Atalanta and Sampdoria are dead even in the table, and Bergamo is the scariest destination outside the top five. Yet it's hard to believe Samp will be flustered. Down 2-0 to relegation-battling Livorno last weekend, Doria came back and scored four in less than thirty minutes. Will they manage a top ten finish this season?

AC Milan vs. Parma
3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET at the San Siro, Milan
Parma's unbeaten run has grown so long that it's tough to remember a time when the ducali actually lost. If you're curious, it was back in November to Napoli, and since then they've picked up at least a point from each of their last thirteen matches. Robert Donadoni has made his side's defense nearly impenetrable, with on Fiorentina scoring in their last six outings. With Milan's season more or less over (they're an astonishing 20 points out of the Champions League spots, something that might bring relief to those souls who had to watch Atlético Madrid crush them 4-1 midweek), it's tough to see Parma capitulating on Sunday.

Cagliari vs. Lazio
3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET at the Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari least Cagliari love to score at home? They've got more home goals than any side outside the top four, save for Torino. Lazio are still the Edy Reja version of Lazio, which is somehow worse than before he left and returned.

Livorno vs. Bologna
3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET at the Stadio Armando Picchi, Livorno
Ugh. It says something when Cagliari vs. Lazio is likely going to be better than this match. Davide Ballardini knows his entire job is to keep the rossoblu just one point above the drop, and by god if he should so much as think of getting three points, he may as well pack it in. Bologna have won just once in 2014 and haven't scored at all in their last four matches. Livorno might be in the relegation zone, but at least they manage to liven things up.

Sassuolo vs. Catania
3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET at the Mapei Stadium, Reggio Emilia
Not even the return of Eusebio Di Francesco is likely to help Sassuolo stay up. The neroverdi are five points from safety and have collected just one point (last week's draw against Bologna) since the dramatic 4-3 victory over Milan eight weeks ago. Sure, you could say it was Di Francesco that guided them to that point, but it was Bologna. A win over fellow relegation candidates Catania could help prove it was worth bringing him back. That and some goals.
Fiorentina vs. Chievo Verona

8:45 p.m. local, 3:45 p.m. ET at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Have Fiorentina finally found an opponent they can beat? After spending much of the season challenging for third place, the viola are now ten points out, and in danger of losing fourth to Inter - which is more of a matter of pride than anything else, as they've already got their Europa League spot sewn up. Still, with just one win from seven matches, Fiorentina need these three points, if only to give them confidence going into the second leg of their Juventus tie.

Genoa vs. Juventus
8:45 p.m. local, 3:45 p.m. ET at the Marassi, Genoa
With Fiorentina holding the crucial away goal, will Antonio Conte opt to rest players against Genoa to keep them fresh for Thursday night's Europa League challenge? After all, Juventus are on a 19-game unbeaten run and hold a 14 point lead in the league - and even Roma's game in hand isn't going to shake the bianconeri off their perch. A draw with Genoa wouldn't be the end of the world, and with their solid home record since Gian Piero Gasperini's return (they've only lost to rivals Sampdoria) fighting for a win might not be worth the effort Juve would expend.

Monday, March 17

Torino vs. Napoli
7 p.m. local, 2 p.m. ET at the Stadio Olimpico, Turin
Torino in freefall, three straight losses and down to ninth? Don't worry, Napoli will fix it. In the first half of their Europa League tie, the partenopei looked just as insipid against Porto as they had against Genoa, Livorno, and yes even in the win against Roma. But if they play as they did in the second half, in which a series of almost-accidental saves and an assist from the crossbar kept Porto ahead, then the granata don't stand a chance. However, with Rafa's eyes on just one prize - a trophy - it's likely a team of non-starters will be sent to face Torino.
AS Roma vs. Udinese

9 p.m. local, 4 p.m. ET at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Roma may have fallen last weekend, but don't look for them to stumble against fourteenth-placed Udinese. After all, the zebrette win over Milan means but little, and although Udinese have lost just one of their last six, for once, that late season surge for a European place looks out of the question.

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