Friday, 23 January 2009

Serie A - Week 20: Weekend Preview

Inter may have endured a difficult start to 2009 but the three-time defending champions still top Serie A and club owner Massimo Moratti has given a thumbs-up to the job done by coach Jose Mourinho.

A 1-1 draw against Cagliari and last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Atalanta cut Inter's lead over Scudetto contenders Juventus to three points at the halfway point of the campaign.

But with the Nerazzurri unbeaten at the San Siro and having only suffered two defeats in 19 games, Moratti has called Mourinho's spell in charge "extremely positive".

"The first six months leading the Serie A standings is a very difficult thing for any coach," Moratti said.

"Therefore, it is absolutely positive. Three points more or less doesn't really mean much at this stage of the campaign."

Mourinho is equally satisfied. The Nerazzurri are through to the UEFA Champions League last 16, where they will take on Manchester United, and also still alive in the Coppa Italia.

"I am very proud," Mourinho said. "Not many coaches can say the same thing."

Inter will be without their top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension on Sunday night when they host strugglers Sampdoria.

Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw at Lazio last weekend and face another big test when they take on Fiorentina in Turin on Saturday night.

AC Milan have been boosted by the confirmation that Ricardo Kaka will remain at the club instead of joining Manchester City in a world-record transfer.

The Rossoneri are six points behind Inter and three adrift of Juve as they make the journey to Bologna.

"Now that we have Kaka, we plan to go all out for the Scudetto," said AC Milan vice President Adriano Galliani.

Surprise package Genoa will fancy their chances when they host Catania. Gian Piero Gasperini's side are fourth in the table and remain unbeaten at home.

In-form Roma expect to have Francesco Totti available for the encounter at Napoli, with the captain having recovered from a muscular injury which has sidelined him since December.

Meanwhile, a defeat for Udinese at Palermo could bring to an end Pasquale Marino's coaching reign.

Despite the Udinese boss having been given numerous votes of confidence by the club hierarchy, the Bianconeri have collected just three points from their last 10 league games.

Atalanta will be looking to pick up where they left off in last weekend's 3-1 win over Inter when they travel to Tuscany to meet Siena.

Delio Rossi's Lazio will go after their third win in four games when they meet Cagliari in the Italian capital.

The Stadio Oreste Granillo hosts a relegation scrap as bottom side Reggina and Chievo lock horns in Saturday's early game. Chievo are level on 13 points with Reggina after 19 games.

Finally, Lecce will be under pressure to beat Torino, knowing that a defeat will drop them into the bottom three. Lecce, who hold the last safety position, are two points clear of Toro heading into the game.

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