Serie A Key Battles to Watch This Weekend: Tussles at Top, Brawls at the Bottom
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With just seven games left, it is now time for teams in Serie A to either raise their betting, show their hand or leave the table.
Whilst it may be the team from Naples that have the current ace of spades in league-leading goalscorer Edinson Cavani, Juventus have scored a royal flush just when it counts with Andrea Pirlo, Mirko Vucinic, Giorgio Chiellini and Arturo Vidal all hitting form at a crucial period to leave boss Antonio Conte holding a full house.
One of the standout games—and there are a few—is not until Monday night when Juventus, smarting from their midweek exit of the Champions League, head to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to take on Lazio.
Whilst a cataclysmic downturn of form saw Lazio's dreams of topping the table—or even coming second—have all but ended, they can placate their current fifth positioning with the fact that they are in May's final of the Coppa Italia.
In addition, they host Fenerbahce Thursday night with every chance of overturning the 2-0 deficit they incurred when in Turkey last week.
If they are to progress, they will need to rid themselves of the profligacy which saw Monday's Rome derby end in a 1-1 draw. It's also probable that Hernanes is off penalty-taking duties for the Biancocelesti: With his team 1-0 up, the Brazilian midfielder scuffed his attempt wide just before halftime.
Whilst a Juve victory would make great strides in securing the title, the real howitzer of this weekend is between the teams immediately below la Vecchia Signora.
On Sunday night, Napoli travel to their adversary who is on their coat tails one place below them, as they bid to fight off the challenge of AC Milan.
Unbeaten in 2013, the Rossoneri are resurgent and rampant, galvanised by the January signing of Mario Balotelli and his subsequent prolific pairing with the mohawked magician, Stephen El Shaarawy.
What is the most prolific pairing in Serie A?
Four points adrift of the Partenopei, AC Milan will be deploying their best poker face in order to call Napoli's bluff.
With the gauntlet thrown down, this is the weekend when Cavani—with four goals in his last three games—and his teammates must show their mettle to cement second place for Napoli.
Whilst it will be a gripping episode of high-octane and end-to-end calcio, the battles at the foot of the table are equally alluring.
Fans of basement boys Pescara may argue that their team's current performance is akin to car-crash televison—picking up only one solitary point in their last 12 games, they have not won since the opening games of 2013—although they do have a gilt-edged chance Saturday to spark an unlikely salvation.
Whilst it would take a brave man to back them to survive, the Delfini are only six points adrift of safety.
This weekend, Pescara host Siena, a team that has of late managed to piece together a fine run of form: Unbeaten in four, they have taken vital points off fellow strugglers Palermo and Genoa. This has largely been down to the fine form of Innocent Emeghara, the on-loan Swiss striker who has bagged six goals in his 10 appearances since being recruited in January.
Pescara's opposition is understandably confident, but Cristian Bucchi must convey one overriding message to his charges: If his side fail to win this, they are all but certain to be relegated.
With games coming up against Roma, Napoli and Milan—as well as a gargantuan battle with Genoa in three weeks—they must reverse their abysmal form if they are to upset the odds and beat the house.
Saturday, 13 April (All times CET)
Pescara vs. Siena, 18:00
Sunday, 14 April
Palermo vs. Bologna, 12:30
Chievo vs. Catania, 15:00
Cagliari vs. Internazionale, 15:00
Torino vs. Roma, 15:00
Genoa vs. Sampdoria, 15:00
Milan vs. Napoli, 20:45
Monday, 15 April
Lazio vs. Juventus, 20:45
Which game are you most excited about? Do you think it's a more enthralling battle at the top or the bottom? Can Lazio salvage a Champions League place? Let me know your thoughts—either in the comments section below or via Twitter.
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