Paolo Bandini’s Serie A Betting: Federico Bernardeschi return can inspire Fiorentina while fatigued Roma should keep pressure on Juve


Sassuolo v Bologna, 11am 

Never can a throw-in have provided such a succinct synopsis of a season as the one that Adam Masina produced for Bologna last weekend – dithering for five seconds before dumping the ball haplessly at his own feet.

The Rossoblu have been awful, and will stay afloat in Serie A only thanks to the ineptitude of those beneath them. Sassuolo, despite infuriating inconsistencies of their own, are a better side.

Home win – 1.93


Chievo v Empoli, 2pm

Empoli might be the only team outside the relegation zone still realistically at risk of being dragged down. Although seven points clear of Palermo, their next five fixtures include appointments with Roma, Napoli, Milan and Fiorentina. Three of those are to be played away from home. 

They could do with a positive result here against a Chievo side with no such obvious source of motivation. But the Flying Donkeys have only lost at home to teams in the top-half of the table. If they are sitting pretty in 12th place, it is because they have been consistent in seeing off opponents such as Empoli – who have scored only six goals in 13 away matches. 

Home team to win without conceding – 3.25


Fiorentina v Cagliari, 2pm

Federico Bernardeschi returns to Fiorentina’s starting line-up for the first time in three games. They picked up just two points from that stretch without him. The most important creative influence in the side, and also the second-top scorer, he should be to the fore against Cagliari, who shipped five goals against Inter last weekend, and who have conceded more than two per game on average away from home. 

Bernardeschi to score – 2.45


Inter v Atalanta, 2pm

Since taking charge of Inter, Stefano Pioli has been flawless in the small matches but hopeless in the big ones. He has lost to each of Serie A’s top three, as well as drawing with Milan, but beaten everyone else.

So how do things play out on Sunday? Atalanta might not be one of Serie A’s traditional heavyweights, and yet they sit one point above Inter in fifth. Their manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, insists he has no vendetta against the Nerazzurri for firing him after three games in 2011, but he has enjoyed some notable successes against them, including a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture and a 3-2 victory with Genoa in May 2015 that effectively knocked Inter out of the following season’s European competitions. 

Atalanta also won away to Napoli just two weeks ago. I think the odds understate their chances of another upset. 

Double chance: away win or draw – 1.98


Napoli v Crotone, 2pm

Real Madrid might have conquered the Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday, but do not expect Crotone to do the same. The question this weekend is not whether Napoli will win, or even how many they will score, but rather: which player will do the scoring?

Arkadiusz Milik is expected to make his first league start since injuring his knee in October, with Dries Mertens making way at the end of a grim week in which gossip magazines have claimed that his marriage is on the rocks. The former Ajax player should have every chance to rediscover his scoring touch against overmatched opponents.

Milik to score – 1.72


Pescara v Udinese, 2pm

Udinese have not scored in five away games, but can that streak possibly continue against the shabbiest defence in the league? Pescara have conceded 60 goals this season, and (unsurprisingly) have shown little sign of tightening up at the back under Zdenek Zeman. Oh, and they’re also missing centre-back Andrea Coda through suspension. 

Both teams to score – 1.52


Palermo v Roma, 7.45pm

After throwing away a half-time lead against Lyon, Roma have now lost four of their last five matches across all competitions. It is not quite time to panic for a side who remain second in the league and still in with a chance of progressing in both the Europa League and Coppa Italia, but Luciano Spalletti does at least need to confront the reality that several of his key starters appear to be heavily fatigued.

A match against 19th-placed Palermo should offer an opportunity for rotation, though it remains to be seen whether he will take it. Either way, Roma ought to win, but it is hard to have faith in them keeping a clean sheet, and especially with Kostas Manolas suspended.

Away win – 1.38



Lazio v Torino, 7.45pm

With five wins and a draw in their last six games, Lazio have quietly found their form at the perfect moment of the season. Ciro Immobile, in particular, has been on fire – netting six times in that stretch and chipping in with an assist as well. 

Joe Hart is the man tasked with halting that run on Monday night, but the England goalkeeper can only do so much behind a porous Torino defence. He has not kept a clean sheet since his first game of 2017. 

Immobile to score – 2.04