5 things to know about the Italian league
MILAN (AP) — There are two mouthwatering clashes in the Italian league this weekend, with Roma entertaining Inter Milan on Saturday and leader Juventus travelling to Clarence Seedorf’s AC Milan on Sunday.
Also, Fiorentina welcomes Lazio and Napoli visits relegation-threatened Livorno.
Here are five things to know about the Italian league this weekend:
Roma will be hampered for Saturday’s crucial clash with Inter Milan, which is a must-win battle for both sides.
The capital club will have to make do without a huge faction of its support, with three sections of the Stadio Olimpico closed because of anti-Naples chants in several of its matches this season.
Roma’s injury-list also continues to grow and it is likely to be without talismanic captain Francesco Totti, who — at best — is only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Defenders Maicon and Alessandro Florenzi and midfielder Vasilis Torosidis are also doubts, while Dodo and Federico Balzaretti are definitely sidelined.
Second-placed Roma is nine points behind Juventus, but has a match in hand. It has lost just once in the league all season and has won five of its past six matches.
Inter Milan is once again struggling ahead of its trip to Roma after signs it had turned a corner.
Back-to-back wins against Sassuolo and Fiorentina had given Inter hopes of a revival after a dismal run had left it without a victory in 2014.
However, it was held to a 1-1 draw at home to relegation-threatened Cagliari last weekend to dent its European hopes.
“Doing well for us means doing well each Sunday,” midfielder Fredy Guarin said. “Roma is a very strong team, which is doing very well this season, but we have only one aim: to win every match.
“We didn’t do so against Cagliari, but we won the previous two with a good performance and grit, which is what (coach Walter) Mazzarri wants.”
Inter is fifth, just a point above Hellas Verona, with several other teams not far behind.
AC Milan has impressed of late and has slowly started picking up the points under new coach Clarence Seedorf.
Milan put on the best performance of its season in last week’s narrow defeat to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, and followed that up with another delightful display in a 2-0 victory at Sampdoria.
However, it faces one of its sternest tests yet against leader Juventus on Sunday.
“We won this weekend without conceding so we’re on the right road,” Milan Cristian Zaccardo said. “Now the real test will be against Juventus, but we have the basis to do well.”
Milan is ninth, but only five points behind fifth-placed Inter.
FLASHBACK FOR CONTE
Juventus is on course for its third title in a row and travels to Milan confident of protecting its nine-point advantage in the Italian league.
However, coach Antonio Conte will be glad not to be facing AC Milan manager Clarence Seedorf on the pitch.
The last time they faced each other was 10 years ago, as players for the teams they now manage. Seedorf scored twice as Milan won 3-1 at Juventus.
Conte’s team has struggled on the road of late, drawing its past two league games away from the Juventus Stadium as well as losing at Roma in the Italian Cup.
Fiorentina hosts Lazio on Sunday without its manager and one of its most influential players.
Coach Vincenzo Montella was banned for one match for remonstrating with the referee at the end of Monday’s 2-2 draw at Parma, which also featured three red cards.
A more severe punishment was handed out to Borja Valero who was banned for four matches for “putting a hand on the match official when protesting, and pushing him” after his stoppage-time red card.
The club is appealing Valero’s suspension but whatever the outcome the midfielder will be unavailable for Sunday’s visit of Lazio.
“Borja Valero did not push the referee,” Montella said. “What is written on the report does not correspond to the truth; you only need to look at the images.
“In my case I will not be appealing. I made a mistake Monday night, believing that the referees had to talk to the managers. I was wrong and so there will not be an appeal against my one-match ban.”
Fiorentina is fourth, six points behind third-placed Napoli in the race for the final Champions League spot.