Mario Balotelli’s suspension will see Giampaolo Pazzini lead the line for AC Milan, while Kevin-Prince Boateng continues to be preferred to M’Baye Niang on the right side of attack. Aside from Riccardo Montolivo, Massimiliano Allegri has rotated his midfielders throughout the season but Sulley Muntari and Mathieu Flamini currently appear to be in favour. Similarly Mattia De Sciglio now appears to be first choice left back ahead of Kevin Constant.
Walter Mazzarri has no absentees, but will continue to choose between Miguel Britos and Alessandro Gamberini in defence, and Blerim Dzemaili and Gokhan Inler in midfield.
With seven games to go in Serie A both sides appear secure in the remaining Champions League places, with Milan possessing a 6 point lead over 4th placed Fiorentina, yet neither team can either expect to mount a serious challenge to Juventus, who have a 9 point lead at the top. Nevertheless Napoli will hope a victory can take advantage of any negative reaction to Juventus’ Champions League exit, whilst Milan won’t want to lose ground to the chasing pack… (Read more)
Second hosts first in Serie A with Napoli looking to reduce Juventus’ six point lead.
Walter Mazzarri will decide between Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga for the left wing back role, while Christian Maggio should return on the right. His only other selection concern is likely to be who joins Edison Cavani and Marek Hamsik in attack – does the experienced Goran Pandev return or will Mazzarri continue with young Lorenzo Insigne? Napoli’s forward selection will be important as they have failed to score in their last four games. Should Insigne be selected he would also play slightly deeper than Pandev, making Napoli a 3-4-2-1 shape, which would have ramifications for the tactical battle.
Antonio Conte will hope to welcome Giorgio Chiellini back to the starting line-up after missing two months to injury. In midfield Arturo Vidal faces a race to be fit, but Paul Pogba will be ready to step in should the Chilean miss out. In attack Juventus are rarely predictable – Mirko Vucinic has been in favour of late, so Sebastian Giovinco and Alessandro Matri are most probably competing for the remaining forward position.
The close mirroring of the teams’ formations makes this a game likely to be settled by small margins and tactical nuances. It is telling that the loser of three of the last four meetings had a man sent off – Friday’s game could be a similar story… (Read more)
Third host second in Serie A, with Lazio coming off two straight defeats up against a Napoli side unbeaten so far in 2013. Vladimir Petkovic has to do without top scorer Miroslav Klose, so has to decide between Sergio Floccari and new signing Louis Saha to lead the line. With Lazio playing 4-1-4-1 against Walter Mazzarri’s 3-4-1-2, the midfield zone is largely mirrored, meaning the positioning and movement of either teams’ defensive and attacking players will go a long way to deciding the pattern of the match. The reverse fixture in September was memorable for Klose admitting to handling the ball for a goal that would have put Lazio ahead, before an Edison Cavani hat-trick secured Napoli the victory in a game in which he also missed a penalty… (Read more)