Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 21Mar 27
Five things to watch during Serie A Matchday 22 as Lazio face Atalanta in clash of Champions League hopefuls - live on BT Sport!
A look at the biggest talking points ahead of another important weekend in Serie A, with Lazio hosting Atalanta, Napoli facing bottom of the league Cremonese and Milan taking on Torino.
The drama continues in Serie A as the race to finish in the top four and avoid relegation hots up.
There are some eye-catching fixtures this weekend, including fourth-placed Lazio taking on fifth-placed Atalanta and struggling Milan hosting Torino on Friday night.
Read on for all the major Matchday 22 storylines, along with information on how you can watch nine of the games exclusively live on BT Sport.
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A crucial clash in the top four race
There is very little to separate the pack of teams trailing behind leaders Napoli and coveting a Champions League place.
From Inter in second to Milan in sixth, the gap is just five points. And there is only a single point between the teams in fourth and fifth, Lazio and Atalanta, who meet at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
This is undoubtedly a big game in the race for the top four, although the occupiers of the Champions League spots have fluctuated throughout a season where only really Napoli have been able to find any true consistency.
Both Lazio and Atalanta could do with a win after disappointing results last time out. The former were held away at lowly Verona, while the latter lost 1-0 at Sassuolo.
For the Biancocelesti, avoiding a third successive Serie A draw will be the aim, but Atalanta are strong away from form, with only Napoli picking up more points on the road than the Bergamo outfit.
Lazio also have the first leg of their Europa Conference League tie with CFR Cluj to consider on Thursday night, so Maurizio Sarri may have one eye on that game.
Qualifying for the Champions League is the obvious priority for both of these teams, though, and it should be an intriguing contest in the capital city.
Atalanta, under Gian Piero Gasperini, are very rarely boring and will look to take the game to the hosts, so this is one to watch on Saturday evening.
Top vs bottom as Napoli continue title charge
This could be the biggest mismatch of the season in Serie A.
Napoli, a relentless winning machine under Luciano Spalletti, take on Cremonese, without a win in 21 league games this season and cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
It’s at the Stadio San Paolo too, where the league leaders have won all but one of their ten matches and scored 28 goals in the process.
Cremonese have a daunting trip ahead of them then, particularly having lost the reverse fixture 4-1 back in October.
Generally, though, Massimiliano Alvini’s side make themselves as hard to beat as possible. Despite their lowly position and measly return of eight points, thrashings have been rare and draws against the likes of Milan and Atalanta will have provided some encouragement.
Still, playing at Napoli is an entirely different proposition and one that would put fear into even the most in-form teams in Europe right now.
The Partenopei have bounced back from their only Serie A defeat of the season at Inter with five straight wins, the most recent of which was a 3-0 victory at Spezia last weekend.
Victor Osimhen took his tally for the season to 16 with another brace in that game and he will be eyeing up more goals against a leaky Cremonese defence.
Napoli’s lead is now 13 points and it would be hugely surprising if that was cut this weekend.
Milan look to end dismal run of form
Friday night could be an important one for Stefano Pioli.
Another bad result and the pressure will mount on the Milan boss, who has seen his side slip out of the top four after a dreadful run of results in 2023.
The Rossoneri have won just one game since the turn of the year, losing their last three in a row in Serie A and conceding ten goals in the process.
Two defeats to Inter - in the Supercoppa Italiana final and in the league last weekend - have angered supporters and Pioli, despite his previous success, looks to be on borrowed time.
The fixtures don’t get much easier for Milan. Friday night’s visitors Torino are in relatively strong form and won at San Siro last month in the Coppa Italia.
Pioli also has to consider his side’s Champions League last 16 tie with Tottenham, with the first leg on Tuesday night.
A defeat on Friday would be the worst possible precursor to that, so improvement is needed quickly for Milan to prevent their season from collapsing entirely.
Verona’s great escape gathers pace
Before Christmas, after a 1-0 home defeat to Bologna, Verona sat bottom of the Serie A table with five points from 15 games. They were eight points from safety and had won just once.
Fast forward to mid-February and there is suddenly optimism after a run of one defeat in six matches.
That defeat came against Inter at San Siro and they were made to work for it, seeing out a 1-0 victory after Lautaro Martinez’s early goal.
Manager Marco Zaffaroni has made his Verona side far more difficult to beat in 2023 and survival now seems like a very real possibility after impressive wins over Cremonese and Lecce and battling draws with Inter, Torino and Lazio.
With another winnable game on Monday night, at home to Salernitana, Verona could find themselves within touching distance of safety.
Their opponents are currently 16th, seven points ahead of Verona, but the momentum is very much with I Gialloblu.
Jose Mourinho’s Roma march on
Roma have hovered just outside the top four throughout the season but they appear to have hit form at the right time.
Aside from a narrow loss away to Napoli, the Giallorossi are unbeaten in 2023 and have quietly climbed up to third, capitalising on Milan’s slide and the occasional slip-up from Lazio and Atalanta.
With Tammy Abraham in fine form, Roma have plenty of firepower and the shrewdness of Mourinho could be what gives them the edge in the battle for Champions League football.
A trip to mid-table Lecce is the next test, before a Europa League play-off tie against RB Salzburg.
If Roma can keep up their levels of consistency over the remaining weeks of the season, Mourinho could well be back on the biggest European stage next season.
Your Serie A weekend on BT Sport
Milan vs Torino (7.45pm on BT Sport 1)
Lecce vs Roma (5pm on BT Sport 3)
Lazio vs Atalanta (7.45pm on BT Sport 1)
Udinese vs Sassuolo (11.30am on BT Sport 3)
Bologna vs Monza (2pm on BT Sport 3)
Juventus vs Fiorentina (5pm on BT Sport 1)
Napoli vs Cremonese (7.45pm on BT Sport 1)
Verona vs Salernitana (5.30pm on BT Sport 1)
Sampdoria vs Inter (7.45pm on BT Sport 1)