5 things to know about the Italian league
Juventus visits Hellas Verona looking to maintain its charge to a third consecutive league title with a 14th win in 15 Serie A matches.
Antonio Conte’s men have a nine-point lead over second-placed Roma, which has played a game less and visits Lazio in the capital derby on Sunday.
Napoli is third but 15 points behind Juventus in what is rapidly becoming a two-horse title race. It hosts AC Milan on Saturday.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league this weekend:
Roma is brimming with confidence ahead of Sunday’s derby match at bitter city rival Lazio.
Rudi Garcia’s team has one foot in the Italian Cup final after winning the first leg of its semifinal against Napoli on Wednesday.
Roma has lost just one match in all competitions this season and sits second in the Serie A table.
“Yesterday was a great match against a great opponent,” tweeted Kevin Strootman — who scored a fantastic goal against Napoli. “Now we have to prepare and be ready for the derby on Sunday.”
Roma is nine points behind two-time defending champion Juventus, albeit having played a game less.
It won the first derby match of the season 2-0.
Gervinho has gone from strength to strength since his move from Arsenal to Roma in the summer and is the capital club’s top goalscorer.
The Ivory Coast striker scored twice in Wednesday’s 3-2 Italian Cup win over Napoli, including a late winner, to take his tally to eight.
The last time Gervinho was as prolific was three seasons ago at Lille, under current Roma coach Rudi Garcia.
“He’s full of confidence but I think he can still improve,” Garcia said. “I’m not talking about the Napoli match where he played brilliantly, but overall. He plays to hurt opponents, whether with goals or assists.”
Sassuolo players will be dreading their trip to Inter Milan on Sunday night.
The last time the two teams met, newly promoted Sassuolo was given a baptism of fire to life in the top flight as it lost 7-0 at home.
There have been a couple of notable results since that hefty defeat in September, but Sassuolo remains in danger of relegation in its debut season in Serie A.
Sassuolo hired well-traveled Alberto Malesani as its new coach last week after firing Eusebio Di Francesco but lost 2-1 to Hellas Verona.
It has lost seven of its past eight matches but is only one point off safety.
SEEDORF’S BIGGEST TEST
AC Milan coach Clarence Seedorf has yet to lose a league match since starting his managerial career at the beginning of this year.
Since replacing Massimiliano Allegri, Seedorf has steered Milan to wins against Hellas Verona and Cagliari and a draw against Torino.
However, he faces his toughest test yet at third-placed Napoli on Saturday.
Adel Taarabt is likely to make his debut after signing on loan.
“On top of the Italian (Mario) Balotelli, Milan now has the Moroccan Balotelli,” Taarabt said. “Signing for Milan was a dream come true for me.
“I’m honored to be here, I’m at a top club. It’s a big change for me and I cannot wait to make my debut with this shirt.”
Kaka is a doubt for Milan with ’flu but Balotelli — who scored in each of his previous four matches — returns from suspension.
VIDAL ON SONG
Arturo Vidal is looking to continue his record-breaking season when Juventus visits Hellas Verona on Sunday.
The Chilean striker scored in Juventus’ impressive 3-1 win over Inter Milan last weekend to take his tally to 11 goals in Serie A this season.
Vidal — who has also scored five in six Champions League appearances this season — has never scored that many in a league campaign.
“I’m happy for the team too,” Vidal said. “We’ve shown that we want to win that third consecutive title. Let’s continue like this until the end. We’re strong.”