Milan – Cesena
Fresh from a draw against Juventus, Cesena travel to San Siro seeking another high-profile scalp. This one seems altogether less improbable than the one they have already claimed. Milan’s only victory in their last eight league fixtures came against last-placed Parma. With a suspension for goalkeeper Diego López adding to the Rossoneri’s woes, the odds on Cesena taking something from the game start to look rather generous.
Double chance: away win or draw – 3.00
Empoli – Chievo
They sit joint-14th in the table, a mere four points clear of the relegation zone, and yet both Empoli and Chievo have conceded fewer goals in Serie A than Napoli, Milan or Inter. If only such defensive solidity was paired with a similar effectiveness at the other end of the pitch. Neither team has even averaged so much as one goal per game.
Three of Empoli’s last five home fixtures, indeed, have ended in goalless draws. With both teams edging cautiously towards safety, another such result seems eminently possible.
Correct score: 0-0 – 7.00
Lazio – Palermo
Lazio’s sporting director, Igli Tare, said this week that he expects the team to challenge for the Scudetto within the next “two or three years”. For now they would do well just to prove that they can sustain their push for a European place. The Biancocelesti have been infuriatingly inconsistent of late, losing games that they were expected to win at home to Genoa and away to Cesena, but showing admirable resolve to beat Udinese at the Stadio Friuli.
They will be missing the suspended Felipe Anderson, but his absence is offset to some extent by a concurrent ban for Palermo’s Luca Rigoni. The Sicilians arrive full of confidence after their 3-1 victory over Napoli, and although Palermo have won only once away from home all season, they have also lost just twice on the road since October.
Parma – Udinese
It was reported at one stage that this game might not even go ahead, Parma’s enduring financial difficulties creating a situation in which unpaid stewards threatened a boycott, whilst energy suppliers to the Stadio Ennio Tardini were said to be close to shutting off services. At time of writing, it now appears that the fixture will be played behind closed doors instead.
Parma’s players, of course, have still not been paid, although new president Giampietro Manenti remains adamant that he simply needs time to bring money over from abroad. In the context of such extensive off-field turmoil, the football is beginning to seem a little meaningless. From a betting standpoint, I might advise giving this game a pass.
Verona – Roma
For 55 minutes, it looked like the Europa League might be just what Roma’s doctor had ordered. The Giallorossi dominated the early part of their home game against Feyenoord, Gervinho reminding fans just what they had been missing as he scored his first goal since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. But then the Dutch side equalised, and in the latter stages threatened to pinch a winner. Roma were ultimately forced to settle for their sixth draw in nine games.
Regardless of how Juventus fare on Friday, Roma desperately need a win to reinvigorate their flagging title challenge. Happily, they should get one against plummeting Verona, who have lost four of their last five league games, giving up 14 goals along the way.
Roma to win with a one-goal handicap – 2.95
Fiorentina – Torino
After each drawing in the Europa League this week, Fiorentina and Torino must juggle the needs of their respective league campaigns with their ambitions to reach the next round of continental competition. On paper, the Viola are certainly the better-equipped to do so, their deep squad allowing the potential for multiple changes.
Vincenzo Montella utilised a 3-5-2 against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, but is expected to revert for this game to the 4-3-3 he deployed in Fiorentina’s win over Sassuolo. The likes of Mario Gómez, José Basanta, Joaquín and Matías Fernández could be rotated out in favour of Khouma Babacar, Micah Richards, Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Aquilani. Torino have fewer such alternatives, although Fabio Quagliarella should return in attack. Both sides are in a fine vein of form, but freshness should tell for the hosts.
Home win – 1.82