Friday, 5 October 2007

Serie A Week 7: Weekend Preview

Two sides eager to maintain their fine start to the Serie A season meet this weekend as Juventus travel to unbeaten Fiorentina.

Claudio Ranieri's Juve have put together two wins and a draw since their surprise reverse at home to Udinese on September 16 to climb to second in the standings, just a point clear of Fiorentina, who have won three and drawn three so far this season.

Juventus must travel to the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday afternoon without the backing of their supporters, however, after Florence's chief of police Andrea De Martino announced on Wednesday that the visitors' section at the stadium will be closed this weekend.

Bianconeri fans were involved in clashes prior to last Sunday's derby against Torino and the authorities in Florence are eager to avoid a repeat.

The Viola, who are the only remaining Italian reprasentative in the UEFA Cup following a penalty shoot-out win over Dutch outfit Groningen on Thursday, will look to build on their 3-0 win at Tuscan rivals Livorno last weekend as they bid to leapfrog Juve into second place.

Confidence at the club is high and fans were delighted this week when coach Cesare Prandelli pledged his future to the club. "I have no intention to go anywhere," said Prandelli. "I have a contract until 2011, and I will fight to create a competitive Fiorentina that can battle against anyone for the Scudetto.

"But in the meantime, our priority is to finish in the top four this season and be able to play in the Champions League."

It could get even better for Prandelli's men this weekend, as a slip for Inter at home to fifth-placed Napoli on Saturday night coupled with a Fiorentina victory would see them to the top of the standings.

The chances of that appear slim, however, with Roberto Mancini's Inter riding high after posting two comprehensive victories this week. A thumping 4-1 win over title rivals Roma last weekend was followed by an assured 2-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in midweek.

However, the reigning Serie A champions will be without injured trio Marco Materazzi, Patrick Vieira and Olivier Dacourt for the visit of newly promoted Napoli, while Brazilian defender Maicon is suspended.

Napoli will be happy to come away with a point from their trip to the San Siro, a match that marks the start of a tricky run of fixtures. Edoardo Reja's troops also face Roma, Juventus and Fiorentina in the coming weeks, and confidence has taken a knock following their loss to fellow top-flight newcomers Genoa last week.

In Saturday's other fixture, eighth-placed Atalanta play host to Udinese, a team just one point and one place ahead of them in the standings.

On Sunday night, AC Milan will look to kick-start their season when they face draw specialists Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

Milan are 11th in the standings with just one win in six outings. They also slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday, the same day that Lazio posted a morale-boosting 2-2 draw at home to Spanish champions Real Madrid.

That was Lazio's sixth draw in eight Serie A and Champions League matches this season and coach Delio Rossi will fancy his side's chances of bagging a much-needed win against the off-key Rossoneri.

In other games on Sunday, fourth-placed Roma travel to Parma hoping for their first win in four Serie A matches and to get back into the Scudetto race, Catania host rock-bottom Livorno and Genoa welcome Cagliari to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris - searching for a third straight win.

Winless Reggina make the short trip to Sicily to face Palermo, Siena, also without a win this season, entertain Empoli and Torino, another side yet to register three points, meet 10th-placed Sampdoria. Palermo, Empoli and Samp were all dumped out of the UEFA Cup at the First Round stage this week, so the trio will all look to get back into form with vital wins.

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