Friday, 18 January 2008

Serie A Week 19: Weekend Preview

Inter new boy Maniche and Parma acquisition Cristiano Lucarelli could make their first appearances when those two teams meet in Serie A on Sunday evening.

Maniche, a Portugal international, sealed his loan switch from Atletico Madrid this week and will be looking to make an immediate impact for Roberto Mancini's team, who lead the Championship by seven points.

Lucarelli, the former Livorno star, who spent the first half of the season playing for Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, has happily returned to Italy and will attempt to help Parma avoid relegation by season's end.

"To be here - it's a dream come true," said Maniche. "I have arrived at one of the greatest teams in the world, where top footballers play. I am proud to be another Portuguese in a squad that is proving to be really strong.

"I know that having joined a top club I will have to compete for a starting place but I know my value and I know that I will have a chance to play in this team."

Second-placed Roma host Catania looking to keep up the pace with unbeaten Inter. The Giallorossi will have to do without suspended duo Max Tonetto and Cristian Panucci.

Juventus, who trail by a further three points, received bad news ahead of their home clash against Sampdoria. Defender Giorgio Chiellini sustained a right knee injury in midweek and will be out of action until the end of February.

The Bianconeri will be looking for their fourth straight league victory in Turin.

In-form Udinese host AC Milan hoping to avoid the same fate that saw Napoli lose 5-2 again the Rossoneri.

A defeat by the Friuli outfit would see Fiorentina climb to fourth in the standings, provided the Viola beat Torino on Saturday night.

Palermo will be under pressure to win against Siena at La Favorita if they wish to defend their current sixth position.

Sampdoria are just one point behind the Sicilian giants while European hopefuls Napoli are two away.

With Samp facing a challenge in Turin, Napoli will be hoping to take advantage when they meet struggling Lazio for the second time in a week following their 1-1 midweek Coppa Italia draw.

The Biancoceleste travel to Naples looking for their second win on the road this campaign and extend the gap with the relegation zone.

Atalanta will be looking to bounce back from their home defeat to Roma when they travel to Genoa in the early Saturday game. More importantly, however, the players and fans will be thinking of the Bergamo club's President Ivan Ruggeri, who is in hospital in a serious condition.

In the weekend's other games, bottom side Cagliari meet Reggina at the Stadio Granillo in a relegation six-pointer - both looking to spark their season into life.

Empoli will be hoping to get a favourable result at Tuscan neighbours Livorno as they look to avoid dropping into the relegation zone.

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