The spotlight falls squarely on Bologna when match day 18 of this season’s Serie A resumes on Friday, December 29. Thiago Motta’s seven-time Scudetto winners may have won the last of their Serie A titles sixty years ago but they are the team raising eyebrows across the division. The Stadio Renato Dall’Ara based outfit have matched every Italian top flight side they’ve played in the 2023/24 season.
Motta’s free spirited go getters travel to Udinese on Saturday buoyed by a 1-0 win over Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta on December 23 and a 2-1 extra time victory over twice defending Coppa Italia winners Inter Milan. Matter of fact, Bologna have only lost once in direct match ups with teams expected to qualify for Europe – a 1-2 setback at Fiorentina. Otherwise, the Rossoblus beat both AS Roma and Torino 2-0, edged Lazio 1-0 and held Inter Milan to a 2-2 draw at the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium.
Bologna are definitely punching above their weight. Having lost top scorer Marco Arnautovic to Inter Milan and Musa Barrow to Al Taawoun in Saudi Arabia Pro League, Motta’s side were expected to struggle to match last season’s ninth place finish. Instead, youngsters Joshua Zirkzee, Sydney van Hooijdonk (son of Feyenoord great Pierre) and Ricardo Orsolini have stepped up to the challenge of scoring for Serie A’s best counter-attacking unit.
Table toppers Inter Milan can move seven points clear of the chasing pack if they overcome stubborn Genoa in one of four games scheduled for Friday. Reigning champions Napoli are without Capocannonieri Victor Osimhen for the visit of Monza after the African footballer of the year was sent off in Partenopei’s 0-2 setback at AS Roma on December 23.
The standout fixture takes place at the Allianz Arena in Turin when Massimiliano Allegri’s revitalized Juventus host Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma on Saturday night. The record Scudetto winners are benefitting from playing once a week due to absence of European commitments but Allegri must juggle his players in readiness for Thurday’s Coppa Italia clash with Salernitana.
Mourinho’s Romans lie sixth in the standings, a whole 16 points behinds pacesetters Inter Milan, so he would be forgiven for having one eye on Wednesday’s cup encounter with lower division Cremonese. AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli will have similar concerns when the 19-time champions host Sassuolo as the Rossoneri welcome Cagliari in a Coppa Italia rubber on Wednesday, January 3, 2024.
Fiorentina v Torino,
Napoli v Monza,
Genoa v Inter Milan,
Lazio v Frosinone
Atalanta v Lecce,
Cagliari v Empoli,
Udinese v Bologna,
Hellas Verona v Salernitana,
AC Milan v Sassuolo,
Juventus v AS Roma