Serie A Preview: Week 15

Napoli vs Juventus

It’s the clash we’ve all been waiting for, the league leaders take on the current champions at the Stadio San Paolo.   Despite the fact that Inter currently occupy 2nd position in the table many see this as Napoli’s biggest test of the season.  So far, Maurizio Sarri’s side have passed several tests proving their credentials and with the league being as competitive as it has been this season it never seems to be long before another huge game comes around.

It looks as though we could see one of the tightest Scudetto races in history and so three points would be huge for either side.  The big games require nerves of steel and thats so often where Juventus have had the upper hand in recent seasons.  Allegri’s side have a real opportunity to stamp their authority on this title race whilst Napoli will be looking to open up a greater lead over whom they will consider as their closest rivals for the Scudetto.

Juve’s record going into this doesn’t read well, they’ve only managed one victory in their last 13 competitive visits to the San Paolo.  Add to that the fact Mario Mandzukic, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Benedikt Howedes have not made the trip and Gonzalo Higuain’s participation is in doubt Napoli will be feeling rather confident.

The hosts welcome back Mario Rui and Raul Albiol back into the squad and that means Elseid Hysaj can return to his natural position of right back.  Defeat for either side could derail their title charge and I expect to see a cagey affair and despite what they say neither will be too disappointed with a solitary point.

Inter vs Chievo

Inter have a golden opportunity to take advantage of the fact Napoli entertain Juve this weekend.  They remain unbeaten but Spalletti will be forced to make several changes this weekend.  Many have put their success thus far down to the fact the boss has been able to name pretty much the same XI week after week, theres no question the consistency in his selections has been key.

Miranda and Gagliardini are both suspended and Vecino is injured forcing Spalletti’s hand.  Chievo got back to winning ways last weekend having beaten Spal but it remains to be seen how they will recover from their midweek cup exit at the hands of rivals Hellas Verona.  Chievo will be without Ivan Radovanovic and Lucas Castro for their trip to the San Siro this weekend.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Inter are the overwhelming favourites given that Chievo have only won at the San Siro once in their last 15 league visits.

Sampdoria vs Lazio

Sampdoria have had a great campaign so far despite having suffered defeat last week at the hands of Bologna.  Their away form has been rather hit and miss this season and so last weeks defeat wasn’t a huge surprise but nonetheless having beaten Juventus the week before many would have backed the Blucerchiati to kick on.

Lazio themselves appear to have lost their way slightly and will be keen to get a big result and silence their critics although they will be without Felipe Anderson, Nani and Davide De Gennaro who are all missing through injury whilst Sampdoria will be without Ivan Strinic who pulled up early on last week.

Sampdoria up until now have a 100% home record but Lazio boast the second best away record in the division so this will be a difficult fixture to call.  Given the strengths of the two sides you can expect goals at Marassi this weekend.

Benevento vs Milan

Gennaro Gattuso’s takes the reigns after the sacking of Vincenzo Montella and will lead his side out against struggling Benevento.  The home side are yet to register a point this season and will be desperate for any sort of result, unfortunately for them there is no sign of things getting any easier.  Milan arrive with a point to prove and will be keen to try and salvage something from whats been a dismal season so far given their aspirations at the start of the campaign were to qualify for the Champions League.  The top four looks along way away at this stage but theres no reason why they can’t go on a run and chase down the aforementioned Sampdoria in 6th place.

Benevento will be without Pietro Iemmello and star man Amato Ciciretti, as if the task wasn’t daunting enough.  However, Milan have injury concerns of their own, Calhanoglu, Borini, Conti, Abate and Calabria are all doubts but Lucas Biglia returns having recovered from a flu.

As previously mentioned the hosts are yet to register a victory this season and I think its safe to say they’ll still be waiting after this weekend.

Other Fixtures:  Bologna vs Cagliari, Crotone vs Udinese, Fiorentina vs Sassuolo, Roma vs Spal, Torino vs Atalanta and Verona vs Genoa.

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