Friday, 22 February 2008

Serie A Week 24: Weekend Preview

Inter visit Sampdoria on Sunday looking to bounce back from their first defeat in five months.

The Nerazzurri went down 2-0 to Liverpool in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie, with late goals giving the English Premier League side a commanding lead to take to the San Siro for the return.

Inter pointed to the harsh dismissal of defender Marco Materazzi after 30 minutes as the reason behind the setback. "Marco's sending-off changed things dramatically," said Inter coach Roberto Mancini.

"It is hard enough to play at Anfield with 11 men, but with 10 it is very tough. But I will not concede that the task is now beyond us. We have another 90 minutes on our own ground."

Despite the slip, Inter President Massimo Moratti was proud of his team's performance. "For 86 minutes, the team has played with heroics," said Moratti.

"I cannot criticise Mancini or my players. In fact, I have told my team not to be down, we have played a great game and we have shown a lot of character."

Inter's European struggles are in stark contrast to their dominance domestically. Mancini's side are 11 points clear at the top of Serie A and will look to maintain that advantage over Roma at the weekend.

The Eternal City giants host fourth-placed Fiorentina in buoyant mood after their 2-1 home triumph over nine-time European champions Real Madrid on Tuesday.

The Giallorossi will be looking to make amends for their 1-0 slip at Juventus last weekend which hampered their Scudetto ambitions.

Another Roma defeat would further benefit third-place Juve, who travel south to take on Reggina on Saturday night looking to leapfrog the Giallorossi in the standings.

Juve trail one-point behind Luciano Spalletti's outfit with 15 games to play.

Fiorentina successfully wrapped up a 3-1 aggregate victory against Rosenborg on Thursday to set up a last 16 tie with Everton in the UEFA Cup.

AC Milan will be hoping for a favour from Roma as they aim to cut their three-point deficit with the Viola, who hold the last Champions League qualifying spot.

The Rossoneri take on Palermo at the San Siro on Sunday night after a goalless Champions League encounter at Arsenal on Wednesday, and are unbeaten in six Serie A games.

Udinese cannot afford a slip when they host Genoa if they wish to defend the last UEFA Cup qualifying spot, with Sampdoria just two points behind them in seventh.

Lazio will be looking to end their winless run on the road when they take on bottom-side Cagliari in Sardinia. The Biancoceleste have not won away from home since a 1-0 victory over Livorno in October.

Atalanta will be eager to bounce back from last weekend's 3-0 defeat against Lazio when they entertain Siena.

Livorno will fancy their chances when they take on Napoli, who have won just one game away from home this campaign.

In other games, a third-straight win for Empoli would see them leapfrog visiting Catania and continue their climb away from the relegation zone while struggling Parma will be looking to clinch their first win on their travels this season when they meet a disappointing Torino side in Saturday's early game.

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