Can Milan continue their positive streak against Juventus despite facing numerous of their past transfer target? In his pre match press conference, Vincenzo Montella stated that getting a positive result against Juventus was almost a prohibitive proposition and that in order to do so his players would have to approach the game like a final. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Max Allegri brought up the fact that in the past few years, regardless of the gap in the standings, the matches against Milan were very balanced.
Of course both statements are true, on the bright side for Milan the past three times they faced Juventus they did very well. They lost the Coppa Italia final in overtime after Alvaro Morata scored his last goal for Juventus but likely deserved to win the match. They followed that up with a win at San Siro thanks to a goal by Manuel Locatelli with Gigio Donnarumma sealing the win with a great save at the last minute, and then got revenge for the Coppa Italia by winning the Super Cup in Doha on penalty kicks.
Juventini on the other hand can hang their hat on fact that all of these matches didn’t take place at Juventus Stadium where the bianconeri have a 30 game win streak in Serie A. On Friday nightAllegri could start Marko Pjaca to replace the suspended Juan Cuadrado- interestingly both players were linked to Milan last summer (if that isn’t enough Allegri will likely start Mehdi Benatia on defense, another player brielfly linked to Milan). Montella will likely have to count on Jose’ Sosa, who has been playing very well, and Mario Pasalic since Locatelli will almost certainly miss the game because of a fever and because Riccardo Montolivo isn’t quite ready to return to the pitch.
Can defensive specialist Mandorlini contain Sampdoria’s underrated attack? Genoa made a coaching change a few weeks ago after Ivan Juric failed to win a match since last November (of course didn’t help that the club sold two of his best players in January and Perin tore his ACL). After Andrea Mandorlini rescinded his contract with Hellas Verona, president Enrico Preziosi acted quickly to hire him to bring some much needed defensive stability.
Mandorlini will face a huge test in the very underrated derby della Lanterna on Saturday night when Genoa will “host” Sampdoria. Giampaolo’s squad has one of the most underrated attacks in Serie A since he can count on Bruno Fernandes and Dennis Praet supporting Luis Muriel and Fabio Quagliarella (who recently got a huge relief after the person stalking him past few years was convicted), with super sub Patrick Schick ready to come off the bench- no player in Europe has scored more goals after coming into a game this season.
Can Napoli bounce back against Crotone? The first half on Tuesday against Real Madrid may have been the apex of the Sarri revolution at Napoli. The partenopei put in a brilliant display, but just like in the first leg, the wheels came off quickly once second half started. The schedule plays to their favor since they will look to bounce back against Crotone (who is just 2 points above last place Pescara) at the San Paolo on Sunday.
Sarri will likely give Arkadiusz Milik his first start since returning from his ACL injury, there could be more turnover with maybe Nikola Maksimovic and Ivan Strinic getting a start- but Sarri will also be focused on not letting an opportunity to make up some ground on Roma for second place (and the automatic qualification to group stage of CL) slip away.
Can Roma keep their lead over Napoli against Palermo? While Napoli has (what on paper looks like) a layup, Roma will have a slightly bigger challenge when they travel to Sicily to face Palermo just three days after playing in Lyon for the Europa League. Luciano Spalletti will also have to go without the suspended Kostas Manolas when facing Palermo’s very underrated striker Ilija Nesterovski. Even without the Greek defender Roma can count on Toni Rudiger and Federico Fazio who have been playing very well this season, it will be interesting to see if Spalletti sticks to his 3 4 2 1 formation and plays either Juan Jesus or Daniele De Rossi (who really should only be playing as the libero on a 3 man backline at this point) as the third defender.
The match on Sunday will be a return to Sicily for Emerson Palmieri, one of the revelations of the season- his performances have made it very hard for Mario Rui to start at left back since returning from an injury, and not surprisingly Roma exercised their option to acquire Emerson’s rights for just around 3 million, a great value move for one of the most impressive left backs in Serie A this season. Roma will need a win to keep their two point lead over Napoli- considering their disastrous performances in the preliminary round of Champions League last summer they need to go straight to group stage.
Can Gasperini get revenge on Inter? A huge crowd is expected at San Siro on Sunday afternoonfor the match against Atalanta which will have big implications for Inter’s aspirations of playing in Europe next season- a win can keep their hopes alive for the last Champions League spot while also allowing them to surpass Atalanta for a spot in the Europa League.
Atalanta’s coach Gian Piero Gasperini is rightfully getting a ton of praise this season, his team plays attractive football and he’s launched numerous young players this season including midfielder Roberto Gagliardini who has been brilliant since joining Inter during the January window. Gasperini will have extra motivation since the low point of his managerial career was getting sacked at Inter after just five games during the 2011/12 season- Gasperini will need strong performances from Andrea Petagna and Papu Gomez while hoping future Juventus center back Mattia Caldara and wing back Andrea Conti can continue red hot Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi who has a great scoring record at San Siro this season.