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Preview: Venezia vs. Empoli - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Venezia vs. Empoli - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Venezia and Empoli, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Both sides will seek their first win for over a month on Sunday, as relegation-threatened Venezia welcome Empoli to Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo.

Promoted together last spring, the clubs convene following comprehensive defeats last week, and they have picked up just one point between them in 2022.

Match preview

With their fate effectively sealed when centre-back Michael Svoboda was dismissed for hand-balling a goal-bound shot just before the hour mark, Venezia conceded a third goal to Scudetto-chasing Milan from the resulting penalty and were ultimately beaten 3-0 last Sunday.

Now without a win in seven straight Serie A matches, the Arancioneroverdi suffered an 11th league defeat of the campaign at the hands of the rampant Rossoneri, and sit in 17th place - just a point above the drop zone.

A total of just two points from that period - in which their only relief was a Coppa Italia victory over Serie B Ternana last month - puts Venezia in severe danger of an immediate return to the second tier, having just returned to the elite following two decades away.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Venetian outfit also failed to reach the third round of the cup for the first time since 1999 in midweek, being eliminated by one of Calcio's strongest sides, Atalanta.

The top flight's youngest coach, Paolo Zanetti, therefore has pressure mounting on his shoulders, given the Lagunari's investment in new recruits over the past few months.

If he is to steer his men to just a third home triumph of the season, though, the 39-year-old tactician will have to address some serious defensive deficiencies - particularly at the Penzo, where Venezia have conceded at a rate of two goals per game.

After emerging from Serie B as champions - ahead of this week's opponents - Empoli enjoyed a stellar first half of their top-flight comeback campaign, but now arrive in Venice hoping to avoid their fifth straight game without victory.

By contrast with his opposite number on Sunday, the Azzurri are coached by the oldest manager in the division, Aurelio Andreazzoli, whose side suffered a 5-1 defeat to Sassuolo at Stadio Carlo Castellani in their last outing.

Extending their winless streak to four matches, that shocking setback - partly attributable to Mattia Viti's second-half sending-off - leaves them in 11th spot in the standings - though they only trail sixth-placed Roma by four points and Serie A survival is all but assured.

Though their home form has been short of the standard required - they have leaked nearly three goals per game at the Castellani - on the road, Empoli stand sixth in the rankings, having won half of their fixtures outside of their Tuscan headquarters.

Indeed, they could even equal or exceed their away points record for an entire Serie A season set back in 2015-16 if they prosper again this time, but the club have won just one of their last eight away games against Venezia in either of the top two tiers.

Venezia Serie A form:
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Venezia form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • L

Empoli Serie A form:
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L

Empoli form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L

Team News

Paolo Zanetti will have to make at least one change to his struggling back four on Sunday, as Michael Svoboda will serve a suspension for his desperate handball against Milan.

That will open the door for Mattia Caldara to return in central defence, having been banned last week and subsequently featured in Wednesday's Coppa Italia exit, though full-back Tyronne Ebuehi is still on international duty with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Meanwhile, Ethan Ampadu's place in midfield could be under threat from Antonio Vacca, with recent signing Michael Cuisance set to continue in the engine room. Another new arrival, Nani, has joined his fellow Manchester United alumni Sergio Romero at Venezia this week, but will not feature just yet.

Empoli will be without full-back Fabiano Parisi until next month due to a hamstring injury, so Riccardo Marchizza should continue on the left of the visitors' back four, which could include Lorenzo Tonelli as cover for the suspended Mattia Viti.

Midfielder Nicolas Haas is also sidelined for the next few weeks, but Nedim Bajrami should make another appearance in an advanced role, having scored his first Serie A goal in the reverse fixture against Venezia earlier this term.

The Albanian playmaker has scored three times in his last six league appearances, and since the beginning of December, only Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has registered more among Serie A midfielders.

Venezia possible starting lineup:
Romero; Mazzocchi, Ceccaroni, Caldara, Haps; Ampadu, Cuisance, Busio; Aramu, Johnsen; Henry

Empoli possible starting lineup:
Vicario; Stojanovic, Romagnoli, Luperto, Marchizza; Bandinelli, Ricci, Zurkowski; Henderson, Bajrami; Pinamonti

We say: Venezia 2-1 Empoli

Not long before the mid-season break, Empoli would have been favourites for this battle of promoted clubs, but Venezia can now take advantage of their visitors' loss of momentum to snatch a precious three points.

Neither side has proved themselves capable defensively, so expect goals at either end in this encounter, played out at one of Calcio's most iconic venues.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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