The weekend in Italy starts off slow, with struggling sides Bologna and Udinese meeting, while Fiorentina try to avoid leaving Cagliari with a draw. It has the potential to heat up with Milan hosting Torino on Saturday night, but there's no doubt the calcio will be hot by Sunday. First it's a Genoa Derby, then things have the potential to get even feistier when Inter travel to Turin to face leaders Juventus.
Saturday, February 1
6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna
Round 22 starts off in a rather dull fashion, with two struggling sides meeting early on Saturday. Sure, for awhile the hope that this would be the week Udinese finally turned it around made it interesting to watch the side, but it's February now. Udinese aren't going to be making a late run. And Bologna make any match dreadful.
Cagliari vs. Fiorentina
6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET at Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari
Fiorentina could've pulled within one point of third-placed Napoli last weekend, but instead gave us a 3-3 thriller with Genoa. That's two draws in three games for the viola, who, despite the signing of Alessandro Matri, are suffering in the absence of Giuseppe Rossi. To keep up their Champions League challenge, Fiorentina are going to have to beat Cagliari - a toughie, what with the isolani being one of the best in the league at securing a draw.
8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET at the San Siro, Milan
Saturday ends with Milan attempting to prove their revival is more than just a fluke. Mario Balotelli rescued new coach Clarence Seedorf with a last minute penalty conversion against Verona, then went on to grab an equalizer against Cagliari last weekend. Giampaolo Pazzini cleaned up with a last-minute winner, and suddenly the rossoneri are just five points off the European places (although 16 off the Champions League). But they'll have to try and get their third win against Torino, currently sixth in the table and unbeaten in their last three.
Sunday, February 2
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Roma were never so pleased with city rivals Lazio as they were last week, when the biancocelesti held Juventus to a draw. That puts Roma to within six points of first and, suddenly, the scudetto race is back on. But Parma aren't to be taken lightly - let's not forget they were the first team to score against the giallorossi and, more significantly, are now seventh in the table, undefeated in their last ten games. The visitors have won four in a row and Robert Donadoni just might be prepared to put up another stumbling block in Roma's race for the title.
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, Bergamo
Twelve points out of first, six points out of second: this is what happens when a side can only get draws against two of the worst teams in the league. Napoli did beat Atalanta 3-1 just a few couple weeks back to advance in the Coppa, but going to Bergamo is another matter. Atalanta have lost just twice at home, to Fiorentina and Juventus, and been held by Roma and Inter. Napoli desperately need to prove themselves, and a win here can do a lot toward boosting their confidence after a rough couple weeks.
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania
Do you like relegation six-pointers? If so, by all means forgo watching Napoli or Roma for this match!
Chievo Verona vs. Lazio
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Bentegodi, Verona
Chievo showed some signs of life against the partenopei last week, actually playing some decent football in the first half, but now they're welcoming Lazio to town. And Edy Reja's game plan? Making Lazio as solid as possible - in other words, dull. Dull vs. Dull.
3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET at the Mapei Stadium, Reggio Emilia
Verona need to snap a three game losing streak, and what better way to do it than against struggling Sassuolo? After losing to fellow relegation-battlers Livorno last week, Sassuolo fired Eusebio Di Francesco and appointed Alberto Malesani in his place. The last time we saw Malesani was last year at Palermo, where he lasted just three matches. Perhaps Verona can kick-start the campaign to get Di Francesco re-appointed by March.
Juventus vs. Inter Milan
6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET at Juventus Stadium, Turin
Who doesn't want to watch this match? In addition to the fact that a match between Juve and Inter is always heated, both of these sides have something of a point to prove. The visitors might still be in fifth, but are hanging on by just a point thanks to a rather pitiful January, with the month culminating in a drab draw with bottom side Catania. Inter have scored just one goal in five matches and just might be about to embark on a downward spiral similar to last season's. But the nerazzurri are still just one of three clubs that managed to take points off Juventus this season. Can they do it again? The Old Lady have disappointed over the last ten days, getting knocked out of the Coppa by Roma in one of the most boring matches ever to be played, then being held to a 1-1 draw by Lazio last week. Either the time is ripe for Inter to turn themselves around or Juventus are about to throw down on one of their most hated opponents.
Monday, February 3
12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET at the Marassi, Genoa
Monday gives us the second meeting of the Genoa sides this season, and it's bound to be a better fixture than the reverse, which somehow resulted in a 3-0 Genoa win despite the dreadful start to Genoa's season. But Sampdoria have pulled their heads out of their rears now and will likely at least pretend to be interested in the Derby. Particularly since Genoa have slipped a bit in their last few outings, and Samp are now within five points of their rivals.