For some teams remaining in the hunt for the Coppa Italia title, there's simply another trophy on the shelf at stake. But for other teams, this tournament represents a guaranteed spot in the Europa League, meaning the stakes go beyond simple pride.
With some of the top sides in European football still alive, the Coppa Italia quarterfinals promise to be enthralling. Let's break down the fixtures and offer predictions for the remaining games.
|Coppa Italia Schedule|
|Tuesday, January 21||Quarterfinals||Roma||Juventus|
|Wednesday, January 22||Quarterfinals||AC Milan||Udinese|
|Thursday, January 23||Quarterfinals||Fiorentina||Siena|
|Wednesday, January 29||Quarterfinals||Napoli||Lazio|
|Note: Roma defeated Juventus, 1-0|
AC Milan vs. Udinese
At this point, it's basically Coppa Italia or bust for AC Milan. The team could yet qualify for the Europa League by turning their Serie A season around, but the Champions League is out of the question unless they somehow win that tournament this season, a long shot to end all long shots.
Basically, the team is relying on this tournament to get into Europe, as assistant coach Mauro Tassotti admitted, via Jack Davies of Goal.com:
The Coppa Italia seems the best route to qualify for Europe next season. We'll play with a side to win. Every player that takes to the pitch will have to have keep this in mind.
Knockout matches are always dangerous. We're favourites because of home advantage and Udinese will play with less pressure on them.
Even though they're struggling, they're a good side, they've got good players and against us in the Coppa Italia they've got a good record. We want to progress.
So advancing in this tournament is key. And Udinese have been even worse than AC Milan this year, so the iconic Italian side should be tipped to win this one. As usual, AC Milan will likely go as far as Mario Balotelli take them.
They had better not disappoint at home. Of course, Antonio Di Natale and company won't go down without a fight. But expect a pretty miserable AC Milan campaign to at least have a bit of joy in this quarterfinal.
Prediction: AC Milan wins, 2-1
Fiorentina vs. Siena
Fiorentina has been one of Italy's best teams this season, trailing Napoli by just three points for the last remaining Champions League spot. Siena, meanwhile, are a Serie B team. It's not hard to see how the hosts are the serious favorites in this one.
With Alessandro Matri and Anderson recently joining this January, Fiorentina are locked and loaded to make a serious run at this tournament and ensure themselves a place in the Europa League. With one of the stingier defenses around—just 20 goals allowed in Serie A play, third in the league—Fiorentina should advance easily with this very favorable draw.
Prediction: Fiorentina wins, 2-0
Napoli vs. Lazio
Outside of Roma facing Juventus, this is the most intriguing tie of the quarterfinals. Napoli won the only meeting between these teams on the road, 4-2, and now the team that has lost just one home game in Serie A plays host to the Roman side.
Napoli hasn't lost a match in any competitions since falling to Borussia Dortmund, 2-0, on Nov. 26. In that span, they've won four home matches and drawn once, so they should be the favorites.
Of course, Lazio won't simply roll over. The Roman side won the tournament last year and have taken seven points in their last three Serie A matches. With Miroslav Klose and Hernanes available for Lazio, they are always dangerous.
But Napoli is simply the better side, and they'll prove it.
Prediction: Napoli wins, 2-1