Friday, 1 February 2008

Serie A Week 21: Weekend Preview

AC Milan travel to Fiorentina on Sunday night looking to continue their surge up the Serie A table.

After a relatively slow start to the season, the Rossoneri have won four of their past five games, a run which has propelled them to sixth in the table with a game in hand on all the teams above them.

Striker Alberto Gilardino, whose goal against Reggina in midweek earned his side three points, is hoping for more of the same at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

"I'm going through a period where I'm feeling very well physically," he told Gazzetta dello sport. "I'm now using my time to prepare well for the match against Fiorentina which is vital for fourth place."

The Viola currently occupy that spot, however, and will not want to give it up without a fight.

And they will be looking to return to winning ways after being knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Lazio on Tuesday.

"We have to now think immediately about the game against Milan - a great team," said Fiorentina's Franco Semioli after the defeat. "They are very strong. Who would I take out if I could among Kaka, Pato and Ronaldo? All three, they are all champions."

Sandwiched between the two teams in the table and hoping to take advantage of any slip up are Udinese, who travel to Napoli on Saturday evening.

Assistant coach Fabio Viviani will once again deputise for Edoardo Reja on the Napoli bench as the head coach is still serving a touchline ban.

Napoli slipped to an embarrassing defeat against basement boys Cagliari last time out and will have a harder task against a Udinese side who took a highly credible point against league leaders Inter the same day.

The Nerazzurri will be seeing the game against struggling Empoli as a home banker on Sunday afternoon.

The visitors from Tuscany are in 19th place and have not won since October but Empoli goalkeeper Davide Bassi feels they were unlucky not to earn at least a point against Serie A high-flyers Fiorentina.

"I believe we played really well," he said. "We held our own well and created some clear cut chances going forward. "It hurts when you are aware that you have come away from a really positive performance with nothing to show for it."

Siena, who sit just one point and a place above Empoli face a similarly tough task as they welcome second-placed Roma.

The Italian capital giants are now just five points behind Inter and will be hoping for a similar result to last season's 3-1 victory as they look to keep up the pressure on the league leaders.

It is a case of the top three playing the bottom three as third-placed Juventus welcome rock-bottom Cagliari.

Rossoblu coach Davide Ballardini enjoyed his first Serie A career victory against Napoli but that would pale into insignificance if his side manage to get a result at the Stadio Olimpico.

Livorno felt the force of the Juve firepower as they lost 3-1 to the Bianconeri last time out and, having not lost a game since October before then, they will be hoping to move even further to safety with a result at Palermo in Saturday's early game.

Parma and Lazio both have difficult matches against Atalanta and Sampdoria respectively as they hope to push away from the relegation zone.

Elsewhere, Reggina welcome Torino with both sides level on points in Serie A, while mid-table sides Genoa and Catania complete the weekend's fixtures.

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