Serie A: Test for Gattuso in Top Four Showdown

Serie A: Test for Gattuso in Top Four Showdown
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
November 24, 2018

It’s hard to find a more tense game around Europe this weekend than Sunday’s meeting between Lazio and AC Milan. To make things even more interesting, that encounter is followed up by the Genoa derby on Saturday night. An Italian rivalry with a South American feel, the clash between Genoa and Sampdoria should be an intense affair.

Between these two games, we have three under pressure managers, bitter memories and a pitch torn up by the All Blacks. Ahead of Serie A’s Sunday doubleheader, we’re looking at the two encounters and everything riding on them.

Champions League Showdown

The Stadio Olimpico played host to Italy’s hammering by the All Blacks on Saturday, but Sunday evening brings a much more equal encounter. Lazio and AC Milan – the teams fourth and fifth in Serie A – meet in a battle for Champions League football. However, the very thought of that must worry the hosts.

Back in May, Lazio lost 3-2 at home to Inter Milan to surrender fourth place on the final day. This clash isn’t going to be as decisive, but the Aquile will be looking for a better result this time around. They’ve already been unable to keep pace with Inter, who are clear in third. Now the Rossoneri are threatening to surpass Lazio too. However, the visitors have issues of their own.

Gennaro Gattuso continues to be linked with the sack, despite taking them to the verge of the top four. AC Milan have spent heavily again, and with financial issues looming they can’t afford to miss out this time. That makes it a pretty inopportune time for the club to be hit by an injury crisis, with as many as nine players set to be ruled out here – including three central defenders. That’s piled more pressure onto Gattuso, ahead of this crucial encounter.

Two Limping Sides

AC Milan Tiemoue Bakayoko Olympiacos

Gattuso will miss the presence of Gonzalo Higuain, who got himself sent off against Juventus last time out. That was the latest big game capitulation, with Milan losing to all of the sides above them in the league. They have been hit with this raft of absentees at the worst time, and it could cost them in the race for the top four. Overall, we see Milan having a tough time in this visit to the capital.

It’s a huge test for the Milan boss, who has had to face questions about his suitability for the job since arrived back at Milan. He’s had many attempts at a managerial career, with little success. Now he has to find a way to grab a result with half his side out, away to a major rival in the top four race. He needs to make the most of limited resources, something which his opposite number knows about only too well.

Like Milan, Lazio are also limping towards the top four. However, the Aquile don’t exactly have a huge injury crisis, but they aren’t running at full speed. It’s been an odd year for Simone Inzaghi, who hasn’t quite got his team to the level they were at last time around. They spent most of the 2017/18 campaign in the top four – before falling apart on the final day. However, they’ve seemingly had that failure hanging over them throughout this season.

Sergej Milinković-Savić hasn’t reached his potential this term, after being linked with a summer move elsewhere. The Serbian has the potential to take Lazio to the next level, but so far he’s found the net once all season. Inzaghi has been trying to make up for his top stars not performing, while they had a limited transfer window. They only replaced key departures, instead of following Inter’s lead and trying to kick-on.

Crunch Time for Genoa Duo

The pick of Sunday night’s action comes in Serie A, with Genoa and Sampdoria meeting in the Derby Della Lanterna. The pair have a fierce rivalry, but they’ve been brought together by tragedy. The clubs’ Marassi stadium should see a poignant encounter between two sides who were affected by the Ponte Morandi disaster.

This is also a derby clash which features two under pressure managers. The clubs are each aiming to turn around some poor form, having lost their last three games. Genoa boss Ivan Juric is set for just his sixth game in charge since returning to the club. Despite that, it seems inevitable that he’ll be sacked by the Grifone for the third time in a little under two years.

Marco Giampaolo has a great record with bringing through young talents, so Samp aren’t likely to get rid of him anytime soon. Despite that, the pressure on him is still there – the club expect to be in the top six, rather than the bottom half. The one thing Samp and Giampaolo have in their favour is a superior record in head to head meetings with their city rivals, which made them favourites in our book for this weekend’s clash.

The game has been given a shot in the arm thanks to Giampaolo, who says his side need to play attractive football to win this one. He wants his team to play on the front foot, so they should really open up this game. With the fans set to put on a show in the stands, and the players playing for their futures in a high-pressure derby, this isn’t one to miss.

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