Juventus are coming off a 3-1 loss to Lazio. (PHOTO/Courtesy)Hellas Verona vs TorinoStadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, VeronaSunday, 15-12-2019 @2:30pmVerona and Torino face off in a midtable Serie A scrap on Sunday, with time running out for the visitors to mount a top-six assault.Torino were expected to compete for a European place, having splashed out on Simone Verdi and kept their best players, but just two wins between mid-September and mid-November saw them tumble down the table.However, they have picked up form in recent weeks, just as Walter Mazzarri’s position became increasingly under threat, recording successive victories over Genoa and Fiorentina – both of which came without Andrea Belotti.The Granata take on Verona without Iago Falque and Lyanco, while Kevin Bonifazi and Simone Edera are doubts ahead of the trip to the Bentegodi.Hellas, for their part, have lost three of their last four matches, but they have been spared by their rivals’ own lack of form, which keeps them 11th – just two points behind their opponents this weekend.Ivan Juric will not be able to call on injured trio Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Daniel Bessa and Eddie Salcedo, whereas defender Pawel Dawidowicz is banned and therefore also unavailable.Worse yet, the Gialloblu have won just 13 of their 62 League meetings with Toro throughout history, drawing 23 and losing 26 of the other 49, although they are unbeaten in their last four encounters.Torino have not won three Serie A away games on the bounce since February 2015.Bologna vs AtalantaStadio Renato Dell’Ara, BolognaSunday, 15-12-2019 @5pmAtalanta are fresh off their historic Champions League triumph in Ukraine, which means Bologna can take advantage of the hangover.Gian Piero Gasperini’s men were greeted in Bergamo in the early hours of Wednesday morning after their incredible 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk secured a Champions League Round of 16 berth. It was an astonishing achievement in their first ever campaign, not to mention after losing the opening three games.Inevitably, that will have taken its toll on the squad, both emotionally and physically. They may well not be ready for battle at the weekend and injuries are also beginning to pile up. Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata are still on the treatment table, so Luis Muriel has to keep going, even though he looked far from sharp in Ukraine. Papu Gomez or Mario Pasalic could be rested in favour of Ruslan Malinovskyi.Bologna are fresh from a 3-2 defeat to Milan, which left them in joint 12th place with Fiorentina on just 16 points. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men managed only one win in their last six matches, a surprise 2-1 result away to Napoli.The defence is certainly an issue, keeping just two clean sheets all season, the most recent back on September 25 at Genoa. Mitchell Dijks, Ladislav Krejci and Roberto Soriano are still out of action, but Gary Medel returns from suspension to bolster the midfield. Rodrigo Palacio should once again lead off the attack, with Riccardo Orsolini pushing Andreas Skov-Olsen on to the bench.Bologna have lost their last seven Serie A meetings with Atalanta, home and away. Since a 3-0 home victory in November 2015, the Rossoblu scored four goals and conceded 15.Juventus vs UdineseAllianz Stadium, TorinoSunday, 15-12-2019 @5pmJuventus look to get back to winning ways in Serie A against relegation battlers Udinese, but have a decimated midfield.After suffering their first defeat of the campaign against Lazio, Juve will try to regain some momentum in the title race. Despite Inter being held by Roma, the Bianconeri’s defeat at the Olimpico means that they fell two points behind the leaders.Aaron Ramsey and Blaise Matuidi could re-enter Maurizio Sarri’s starting XI as part of a midfield reshuffle due to Miralem Pjanic’s ban. Sami Khedira and Giorgio Chiellini are out of action, but Rodrigo Bentancur could rush his comeback from injury to start.Furthermore, Juan Cuadrado is also suspended due to his red card against Lazio.While the question of whether Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala can co-exist on the pitch was given an affirmative answer in Leverkusen, it is unlikely we’ll see Sarri risk that from the start. After Dybala was substituted on for Federico Bernardeschi, Juventus became much more threatening. But in a match that was relatively meaningless for Juventus, it may not play too much on Sarri’s mind.This time, it’s Pipita who is expected to drop to the bench, especially as Dybala has scored seven Serie A goals past Udinese and contributed six assists.Udinese are continuing to struggle to find the goals this year – they’ve only scored 10 times in Serie A so far. Kevin Lasagna and Stefano Okaka will likely lead the attack, but it may very well be a fruitless effort for Luca Gotti’s side. That said, Udinese did get a surprising point in their last outing against Napoli, so they may very well have some confidence going into this encounter.Seko Fofana is in line to start for Udinese in midfield alongside Rolando Mandragora and Walace. The trio will have a job on their hands to feed their goal starved strike force while containing the likes of Ronaldo and Higuain.This fixture has not ended in a Serie A draw since 1990, followed by 20 home wins and five Udinese victories.AC Milan vs Sassuolo Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, MilanSunday, 15-12-2019 @5pmMilan are starting to find their feet with coach Stefano Pioli and hope for a third consecutive victory as they host tricky Sassuolo.The Rossoneri are unbeaten in their last three games, after drawing 1-1 at home with Napoli they defeated Parma 1-0 away before running out 3-2 winners at Bologna on Sunday. That run has allowed them to climb into the top 10 and build some much-needed confidence.Polish striker Krzysztof Piatek ended his six-game drought in front of goal, while Giacomo Bonaventura has scored two in his last three games. Theo Hernandez is remarkably their joint top scorer this season with four, despite being a left-back.Although it ultimately was a nervous ending to the 3-2 result at Bologna, that remains Milan’s best performance of the season and their fans will hope a sign of things to come. Leo Duarte is out until the New Year following ankle surgery, while Mattia Caldara is making his way back to fitness. Don’t expect many changes, as we could see the same XI start for the third game running.Sassuolo, on the other hand, are winless in their last three league games and fell to a shock home defeat in the Coppa Italia to Perugia.The Emilia-Romagna club threw away a two-goal lead against Cagliari at the weekend to draw 2-2 at the Mapei Stadium. Domenico Berardi scored his eighth goal of the season, a great way to mark his return from injury, followed by a Filip Djuricic strike. Berardi will however regret the missed penalty when it was still 2-1, as Daniele Ragatzu snatched a last-gasp equaliser.Coach Roberto De Zerbi’s side have drawn both their last two league games 2-2, albeit against high-flying Juventus and Cagliari. Gregoire Defrel and Vlad Chiriches are still out of action, but there could be a tactical adjustment. It’s rumoured De Zerbi could switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation, allowing him to use Berardi, Djuricic and Jeremie Boga behind Francesco Caputo.Berardi is famously a nightmare for Milan, as he has put eight goals past them – along with three assists – in 10 Serie A encounters. It’s also a reunion with former Rossoneri youth product Manuel Locatelli.Expect this game to be wide open, as the home side have rediscovered what it is like to win two games on the bounce for the first time since September and will want to make it three out of three.Milan lost four of their first six Serie A meetings with Sassuolo, but are now unbeaten in the last six encounters, including five victories.Roma vs SPALStadio Olimpico, RomeSunday, 15-12-2019 @8pmBottom side SPAL will find it tough to end a run of nine league games without a win, as they face a Roma side buoyed by a draw at leaders Inter last weekend.Roma currently sit fifth in Serie A after last week’s 0-0 result at San Siro, and they will be confident of keeping the pressure on rivals Cagliari and Lazio ahead, as the return of key players from injury has seen an upturn in recent results. Comfortable wins over Brescia and Verona highlighted Roma’s attacking threat, and they will fancy their chances on Sunday coming up against a depleted SPAL backline.With SPAL expected to sit deep and rely on the counter to beat Paulo Fonseca’s side, the creativity of the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Luca Pellegrini and Nicolò Zaniolo will be key, as it would be expected to see a handful of changes from what was a more defensive minded XI for the trip to Milan.Edin Dzeko should return to lead the line, however there are a handful of injury concerns once again, and coming off the back of a late scare against Wolfsberg in the Europa League, where they could only scrape the required 2-2 draw on Thursday, there are still worries for Fonseca’s side.Long-term injuries for Bryan Cristante, Javier Pastore and Davide Zappacosta see them ruled out, whilst Davide Santon and probably also Chris Smalling are out until the New Year. Justin Kluivert missed the trip to Milan with a thigh problem, but could return.SPAL fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Brescia last weekend, courtesy of a Mario Balotelli goal, moving them to the bottom of Serie A, and three points from safety.A common theme throughout the season, SPAL wasted plenty of chances, racking up an xG of 1.92 and 19 shots as they dominated the game, but chance conversion is becoming a real issue for Semplici’s side, who have only scored nine goals all season.A dive into the xG statistics highlights just how wasteful SPAL have been, under-performing by 7.45 goals, and their defensive worries are an added cause for concern, particularly when coming up against such a potent Roma attack.There was a tactical tweak from manager Semplici which saw them opt for a 4-2-3-1 for the first time this season, enforced by injuries, and this creates a further issue ahead of Sunday’s game, as they try and keep Roma at bay.SPAL are without long-term absentees Marco D’Alessandro and Mohamed Fares, whilst Federico Di Francesco and Jacopo Sala are still recovering from injuries. Arkadiusz Reca completes the lengthy injury list, whilst Jasmin Kurtic is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card of the season.SPAL were the only side to beat Roma home and away last season.Fiorentina vs Inter MilanStadio Artemio Franchi, FlorenceSunday, 15-12-2019 @10:45pmStruggling Fiorentina host current leaders Inter, who are aiming to bounce back following their midweek Champions League elimination.Antonio Conte stated his side gave everything against Barcelona, but must now focus towards claiming their first Scudetto since 2010. Whilst also keeping their eyes on Borussia Dortmund, Inter required a victory on Tuesday but eventually succumbed to 2-1 defeat at San Siro. Having finished third in their group, the Nerazzurri will have to continue their journey through the Europa League.The previous match day proved to be frustrating for Inter following a 0-0 draw at home to Roma, as title challengers Juventus fell to 3-1 defeat to Lazio. The lead increased to two points and they’ll be hoping to at least keep that stable going into the winter break.Lautaro Martinez’s recent form and partnership with Romelu Lukaku is becoming a frightening prospect for opposition defences, scoring 18 goals between them in Serie A this season.Fiorentina fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Torino last Sunday despite having 59 per cent of the possession and more shots on goal. Cristian Ansaldi scored an excellent counter attacking goal in the 72nd minute which proved to be a decisive strike following Martin Caceres’ injury time consolation finish. Vincenzo Montella is feeling the pressure having now lost four consecutive matches and President Rocco Commisso is out of patience.To make matters worse, news came through Franck Ribery requires surgery on his ankle and won’t play again in 2019. German Pezzella is hoping to make his comeback with a protective mask after fracturing his cheekbone.It means 19-year-old Dusan Vlahovic is expected to continue leading the line with Federico Chiesa, who has been repeatedly linked with a move to Inter.Meanwhile Roberto Gagliardini and Antonio Candreva could be back in Conte’s squad, but Alexis Sanchez, Stefano Sensi and Nicolò Barella remain out.Rumours of Montella’s dismissal have been circulating in recent weeks and so a positive result will be required, as they also face Champions League hopefuls Roma next week.Fiorentina are unbeaten in their last five matches at home to Inter, with three victories and two draws. Their last defeat at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was in February 2014.Upcoming fixture – Monday, 16-12-2019-Cagliari vs Lazio @10:45pmComments Tags: AC MilanInter MilanjuventusSerie AUdinese
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Brendan Rodgers Michel Platini says UEFA will not consider any action against Liverpool for fielding a supposedly weakened side against Real Madrid, telling Brendan Rodgers he only has to explain himself to the club’s supporters.Rodgers left plenty of Reds fans – and former stars – angry with his decision to rest a string of regular players for the Champions League clash at the Bernabeu, seemingly with one eye on this weekend’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea.Champions League rules state clubs must field their strongest sides but UEFA will not be considering any sanctions, with the governing body’s president Platini stating:”First of all he has to explain to his fans why he put this team – not to me, not to you.“Are you sure it was not the best team? How can I say that? The coach of Liverpool, if I say something, he’ll say, ‘Oh, Michel Platini, I put my best team of the moment.’ And I would be stupid.“If I am the coach of Liverpool I say, ‘It’s my best team. How you can prove it’s not your best team?’ I can’t interfere with that.“I think we give a lot of money to the national associations, to the clubs to have their best teams. But they want to win, everybody, because there is the prize money, there is many things. The best team is what the coach put.”The second-string Liverpool side actually gave a good account of themselves in Madrid in the 1-0 defeat, leading Platini to joke Rodgers should have fielded a similar side in their previous meeting at Anfield a fortnight ago, when Real ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.He added when asked about the selection for the starting XI at the Bernabeu: “That is a good thing, because they put a better team now! Why they don’t change 15 days before when they lost 3-0?“You accuse the coach not to have put his best team 15 days ago? I cannot say to that. It’s the problem of the coach, it’s not my problem.” 1