Serie A found itself in the midst of another ugly incident this week, an anti-racism campaign from the official league office right receiving world-wide condemnation for its use of three images of monkeys.
“For an artist, there is nothing more important than trying to change people’s perceptions via their work,” artist Simone Fugazzotto said as he tried to defend the pictures. “With this trio of paintings, I tried to show that we are all complex and fascinating creatures, who can be sad or happy, Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist, but at the end of the day, what decides who we are is not the colour of our skin.”
Serie A Match of the Weekend – Fiorentina vs Roma
Another huge clash for Fiorentina awaits on Friday, La Viola welcoming AS Roma to the Stadio Artemio Franchi just five days after they held Inter to a draw at the same venue. Vincenzo Montella will be hoping for a positive result, and will hope his players can replicate the form they displayed in last season’s 7-1 thrashing of the Giallorossi in the Coppa Italia.
Both teams have undergone major transformations since that day back in February, but their plans have been hit by injuries to key players as this latest encounter approaches. Fiorentina will be without Franck Ribery for around three months after he underwent ankle surgery, while Chris Smalling – arguably the best defender in Italy this season – is set to miss a week after suffering a knock last weekend.
With two sides who both look to attack at every opportunity and each equally desperate to collect three more points before the Winter Break, this could well be a hugely entertaining start to the weekend.
Best of the Rest
Following on from that opening clash of the round, the Sunday lunchtime (11:30 GMT) meeting between Atalanta and AC Milan also looks set to be a must-watch encounter. The home side are always excellent value for viewers, and – having slumped to defeat against Bologna following their Champions League exploits last week – they will be eager to end 2019 with a positive result.
For the visitors, a chance to extend their four-game unbeaten run awaits and sitting tenth in the table, they can ill-afford to drop more points no matter how good their opponents have been in recent months.
Also a note that Juventus – who take on Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana on Sunday – already played their Match Day 17 fixture in midweek with the 2-1 win over Sampdoria.
Serie A Player to Watch – Joao Pedro – Cagliari – £0.62
Even the most cursory glance of the current Serie A table makes it impossible to ignore Cagliari’s start to 2019/20, the Sardinian outfit sitting fifth going into this weekend’s round of action. Sandwiched between Atalanta and Roma, the Rossoblu have been nothing short of sensational, earning a victory over Napoli back in September and never looking back as only Lazio and Atalanta (38) have scored more than their tally of 32 goals thus far.
While team-mates Radja Nainggolan and Giovanni Simeone get much of the credit, that record would not have been possible without the performances of striker Joao Pedro who has already reached 10 goals for the season.
The 27-year-old looks likely to add to that tally when Cagliari take on relegation threatened Udinese on Saturday, and with his side in such blistering form, it is hard to imagine him not getting on the score sheet.