Milan (AFP) – Former Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella said respective positions in the league table will be ignored Saturday when Sampdoria face Genoa in a derby “battle for 90 minutes”.
With leaders Juventus hosting AC Milan Friday looking to extend their eight-point lead over second-placed Roma, who are in action Sunday at Palermo, the focus of this weekend’s Serie A action is on the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
Sampdoria, sitting 10th at 29 points off the lead, are nine points ahead of Genoa in 15th place in a season where top flight survival for both is the only objective.
Having won their home fixture 2-1 last October, Quagliarella is confident Marco Giampaolo’s men can make it two in a row, telling Premium Sport: “We’re going into this game totally relaxed, although it’s a game that won’t take into account our respective league standings.
“Our results recently have shown how well we’re doing, but the derby is a match apart. It will be a battle for 90 minutes. Hopefully, we’ll win our second this season.”
While a shock win for Milan in Turin on Friday could throw the title race back open, the fight for European places continues apace.
Inter Milan, one of several teams battling for a coveted Champions League spot, face the acid test with the visit of high-flying Atalanta to the San Siro on Sunday.
Amid their best Serie A season to date, Atalanta sit fifth, one point ahead of Inter and five points behind Napoli in the third and last Champions League qualifying spot.
Portugal midfielder Joao Mario admits the Bergamo side pose a “difficult” challenge, but said: “On Sunday we can gift everyone at Inter with a win, that’s what we want.”
Stefano Pioli’s men return to the San Siro for the first time since a chastening 3-1 defeat to Roma, who saw Radja Nainggolan stun the stadium into silence with a spectacular double.
A superb 5-1 win at Cagliari last week that saw Croatian midfielder Ivan Perisic hit a brace, suggests Inter are back firing on all cylinders.
Mario added: “We know what we’ve done up until now, and we want to make amends. Atalanta are a difficult side to come up against, but we’re playing at home and we’re Inter.
“We really believe we can finish third, that’s what we’re working towards. We can’t let Napoli get away.”
The chances of Napoli slipping up at home to relegation-bound Crotone, however, look slim — even if the strugglers’ club officials hope otherwise.
“We hope Napoli will be a little tired, but knowing Sarri that is unlikely,” said Crotone sporting director Giuseppe Ursino in comments to Radio Marte.
Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli dropped virtually out the title race after a shock home defeat to Atalanta a fortnight ago left them 10 points adrift of Juventus.
But they return to the San Paolo stadium looking to appease fans after crashing out of the Champions League to Real Madrid in midweek.
Ursino added: “We’re up against a great side, as they showed against Real. But we’ll go to Napoli looking to win.”
Lazio, four points behind Napoli, will maintain their push for a Champions League place with a win at home to Torino on Monday, although keeping tabs on striker Andrea Belotti will be a priority for the hosts.
Torino upped the buyout clause, for clubs outside Italy, on Belotti’s contract from 100m to 150m euros in midweek after the Italy striker hit a hat-trick in a 3-1 romp over Palermo to take his tally to a league-leading 22 goals.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Juventus v AC Milan (1945)
Genoa v Sampdoria (1945)
Sassuolo v Bologna (1130), Chievo v Empoli, Fiorentina v Cagliari, Inter Milan v Atalanta, Napoli v Crotone, Pescara v Udinese (all 1400), Palermo v Roma (1945)
Lazio v Torino (1945)
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