Italian giant Inter Milan will look to snap a six-game winless run when it hosts 13th-placed Monza in Serie A on Saturday and eases pressure on manager Simone Inzaghi.
Inter is fifth in the table, 32 points behind runaway leader Napoli, and Inzaghi has come in for increasing criticism from a section of supporters.
Victory could lift Inter above bitter rival AC Milan, which is a point and a place above Inzaghi’s men and have a tough trip to an eighth-placed Bologna side unbeaten in four games.
Inter managed a gritty 2-0 win at Benfica in midweek to boost its chances of reaching a first Champions League semi-final in more than a decade, and Inzaghi blamed his team’s domestic struggles on the fixture list.
“Only Inter have this tough a fixture list,” the 47-year-old said. “I don’t think we should forget this is our third away match in six games, with many players who were coming off international duty.
“It’s not an excuse, but these lads are really gritting their teeth to get through.”
EASY SCHEDULE HELPS LAZIO
Second-placed Lazio kicks off the weekend’s action when it travels to 17th-placed Spezia on Friday.
Maurizio Sarri’s men are 16 points off the pace set by Napoli but have cemented their hold on second in recent weeks with six wins in their last seven games, and have kept four clean sheets in a row on the road.
Lazio was knocked out of the Italian cup by Juventus in February followed by last month’s exit from the Europa Conference League, giving it the relative luxury of having a full week to prepare for each league match.
“I am proud of the attitude of these players. The consistency we achieved months ago in training is slowly starting to bleed through to the match situations,” Sarri said after Lazio beat Juventus last weekend.
“The team plays with a different spark, aggression and confidence, it is always in the game and that pleases me.
“In the league, we are a consistent team and the only setbacks tended to be in Europe. (But) The only way we’ll see if we truly have stepped up in terms of mentality is when we can do it every three days.”
Leader Napoli, which has all but wrapped up its first Scudetto in 33 years, is widely expected to rest players – with one eye on next week’s Champions League clash with AC Milan – when it takes on lowly Hellas Verona on Saturday.
Napoli lost the first leg of their European quarter-final 1-0 to Milan at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Jose Mourinho’s third-placed AS Roma takes on an Udinese side that beat it 4-0 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, in a match complicated by the fact that it is sandwiched between Roma’s Europa League quarter-final games against Feyenoord.