We're exactly halfway through the Serie A season, but it's already time for some teams to start -- well, if not panicking, at least worrying. Parma and Cesena, for instance, face off in a match that both of them probably wish is worth at least nine points. Neither of the league's strugglers can afford even a draw, much less a defeat.
Further up the table, Inter might not be pleased with ninth, but considering they're on a five-game unbeaten run, they're not panicking just yet. Rivals Milan might be, however -- winnless in four, hero-turned-coach Filippo Inzaghi just might be on his way out. Then there's the mess of sides congregating around third place, with Napoli, Lazio, Sampdoria, Fiorentina and Genoa all wanting that last Champions League spot. Oh, and Roma are now five points back of Juventus.
Lazio vs. AC Milan
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History tells us the visitors are the favorites, but a quick glance at form says it's Lazio that have the upper hand. The rossoneri are skidding down the table, reflecting the fact Inzaghi really doesn't know what he wants from his side. Results reflect the coach's struggles, with just two wins in their last four games and two straight defeats at the San Siro -- to sides most consider minnows. At least the Atalanta loss gave us the strange site of teammates Alessio Cerci and Ignazio Abate brawling on the pitch, although that's not exactly going to lift Milan's spirits.
If anything does lift the visitors, it's the news of Lazio's injury woes. Not only are the biancocelesti missing Felipe Anderson, who's been their best player this season, but they're also without a long list of defenders, including Stefan de Vrij. But Lazio will be smarting from their defeat to Napoli last week -- the loss sent them down to fifth -- and they'll throw anything possible at Milan to get back in the race for the Champions League.
Sampdoria vs. Palermo
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A pair of overachievers go head-to-head to try to prove they deserve their spots in the table. Sampdoria are even on points with third-place Napoli and they remain undefeated at home, their high press creating problems for even the best teams in the league. 'Doria are so determined to prove they deserve another chance at the Champions League (last time they made it, they were relegated the same season) that they're showing ambition in the transfer market as well. They've already brought in young Colombian forward Luis Muriel, and are thisclose to making things official with Serie A veteran Samuel Eto'o.
And yes, once again we're telling you to watch Palermo. Why? Well, because you didn't watch Palermo last weekend and what happened? Paulo Dybala only went and scored again. And Franco Vazquez remains super exciting, too. The duo love to thrill, but the rosaneri can also get the job done, as proved by the fact that they've lost just once since October.
Fiorentina vs AS Roma
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Fiorentina had a rough start to their season, and a glance at the table makes you think they're still not doing all that well. But even though they're sixth, all of a sudden the viola are just three points off that coveted Champions League spot. A win against Roma and suddenly the momentum shifts. It'd be three wins in a row for Fiorentina. They'd have beaten one of their fiercest rivals. They'd have knocked off the team sitting second.
Add to that an actual Serie A goal from Mario Gomez, who scored two against Atalanta in the midweek Coppa match, and there might be no end to how high Fiorentina can travel. But they've got to beat Roma first.
And the giallorossi will certainly be doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Roma are now five points back of Juventus in first, and with the Old Lady up against Chievo, the gap will almost certainly stand at eight points by the time this game rolls around. A win, and Roma are still in the scudetto race. A loss, and they just might be fighting to keep hold of second instead.
Serie A, Round 20 Schedule and Results
Saturday, January 24
Sunday, January 25
Monday, January 26
Napoli vs Genoa
9 p.m. CET, 3 p.m. ET at the Stadio San Paolo, Naples