Friday, 21 March 2008

Serie A Week 30: Weekend Preview

Inter coach Roberto Mancini has regained his optimism ahead of this Saturday's Derby d’Italia clash with Juventus.

Only last week, following the Nerazzurri's exit from the UEFA Champions League, Mancini declared his intention to leave the club at the end of the season.

But two games and four points later, Mancini is focusing again on a third successive Scudetto.

Despite only managing a 1-1 draw at Genoa on Wednesday, the champions increased their lead over second-placed Roma to seven points after Mancini's former club Lazio triumphed 3-2 in the Rome derby.

"It is always better to be in this position," Mancini said. "If at the start of the year someone would have told me that with nine games remaining we would be first in the standings with a seven point advantage over our closest rivals I would have taken it immediately."

Mancini though is hoping his team finish the game with all 11 players on the pitch on Saturday night.

The Nerazzurri played with 10 men for 50 minutes against Genoa after having Pele sent off. "We can't always play down to 10 men," the coach said. "We have several players unavailable through injury and I didn't believe Pele deserved to be sent off."

Before the big evening clash, all the rest of the Easter weekend matches take place. Roma welcome struggling Empoli looking to bounce back from their last-gasp defeat to Lazio.

Despite the setback, the Giallorossi have still not given up hope of bringing the Scudetto back to the Italian capital for the first time since 2001.

"We lost three points that could have been crucial to improve our position in the standings," said coach Luciano Spalletti. "Despite this, we will do what we have been doing which is to try to reduce our gap with Inter."

Elsewhere, AC Milan will be desperate to return to the winning ways when they travel to Torino after their 2-1 defeat against Sampdoria.

The Rossoneri missed a golden chance to close the gap on fourth-placed Fiorentina, who slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Napoli in midweek.

The Viola, who hold the last Champions League qualifying spot and a four-point advantage over Milan, take on in-form Lazio, who come off the back of that Rome derby win.

Udinese host Livorno hoping to keep up the pressure on Sampdoria, who are in the final UEFA Cup spot in thee standings, one point clear of the Friuli-based outfit.

Walter Mazzarri's men entertain bottom-side Cagliari and a win could put them in the race for a Champions League spot. Samp are just five points behind fourth spot.

Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin will be under pressure to get a positive result when his team take on Genoa.

The Sicilian giants have only managed to collect two points from their last four games to turn up the heat on the under-fire Guidolin.

Parma travel to Siena looking for their first away win this campaign. They will be looking to build on their 2-1 win over Palermo on Wednesday, a result which marked Hector Cuper's first victory since taking over at the club last week.

Reggina will have an added motivation when they face Napoli, with the Amaranto looking to climb out of the relegation zone with a win.

The Southerners are two points behind Livorno, who hold the last safety position.

Catania will have their work cut out when they travel to Bergamo to meet eighth-place Atalanta. The Bergamaschi have lost just twice at home all season.

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