Paolo Bandini's Serie A Betting: Immobile-led Lazio to down Napoli as Juve continue Scudetto march


Saturday

Empoli - Pescara

How often do you see a team that has lost seven league games in a row listed at shorter than even money to win the next one? That is the case for Empoli this weekend, favoured to beat last-placed Pescara and, as the team occupying 17th place, effectively stick the last nail in their opponents’ coffins.

At that price, though, I’m not buying. Pescara have only scraped together 13 points all season, but they drew with Milan in their last match - with 18-year-old Mamadou Coulibaly making an impression as he started his first game in midfield. There is no gulf between these two bad sides, so why not take better odds on two potential outcomes, instead of one?

Double chance: away win or draw - 2.00

 

Atalanta - Sassuolo

Atalanta have dropped only two points in six home games, and have not conceded in the last five of those. Their prospects of another clean sheet are dented by the fact that Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi ended his personal seven-month scoring drought last weekend, as well as by a suspension to their own Franck Kessié, but the gap between these two teams is significant. And unlike some others, Atalanta actually are enthused by the prospect of a Europa League spot.

Three-way handicap: starts 0-1, home win - 2.18

 

Juventus - Chievo

Despite failing to win either of two back-to-back games away to Napoli, Juventus return to Turin in fine shape. A draw in the league encounter allowed them to maintain a six-point lead over Roma at the top of Serie A, and a 3-2 defeat in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg was insufficient to overturn the advantage that they held from the first.

Is there a risk that such exertions, allied to the prospect of a Champions League appointment with Barcelona on Tuesday, might weaken them against Chievo? Perhaps. But this is still the same Juventus team that has won 31 consecutive home games in Serie A. 

Home team to win without conceding 1.82

 

Sunday

Sampdoria - Fiorentina

Supersub no longer. Patrik Schick seized his opportunity to start for Sampdoria with both hands, scoring the equalising goal in an upset win away to Inter. The man he replaced, Luis Muriel, is not expected back from injury for at least a month, so the 21-year-old will get more opportunities to demonstrate his worth.

Fiorentina have not conceded to anyone since late February, but they have faced some modest opposition in that stretch. The odds are attractive enough for me to keep on backing a player who has now scored a goal for every 112.5 minutes he has spent on the pitch.

Shick to score - 3.10

 

Milan - Palermo



The good news for Palermo is that Alessandro Diamanti will be available for selection, after successfully appealing to have his two-game ban reduced to just one. The bad news is that this team has taken one point from its last seven matches, most of which he played in.

Milan also have Suso returning, and will be eager to right the wrongs of last week’s draw against Pescara. Oh, and Palermo have only held one of their last seven opponents to fewer than three goals.

Home team: over 2.5 goals - 2.07

 

Bologna - Roma

Knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Lazio, Roma have only the Scudetto left to aim for. It is not yet unthinkable that they might catch Juventus - the gap is six points, and they have a home game against the Bianconeri coming up in May - but there can be no further slip-ups from here.

Bologna have won a couple of games lately, levering themselves out of the relegation battle, but - with the exception of one rogue 4-1 rout of Chievo - they are still struggling for goals. Only three teams in the whole division who have scored fewer.

Under 2.5 goals - 2.30

 

Cagliari - Torino

Torino stuck five past Cagliari in November. Repeating that figure might be a stretch, but it certainly seems reasonable to expect a high-scoring encounter between two teams who have conceded 109 goals combined. Rather than take short odds on the overs, I might consider backing Marco Borriello to find the net - as he has in three of his last four matches for Cagliari.

Borriello to score - 2.50

 

Crotone - Inter

Crotone’s win over Chievo has given them hope, moving them to within five points of escaping the relegation zone. But if Inter had any complacency in them, it was surely stripped away by Monday’s surprise defeat at home to Sampdoria.

The visitors are without Roberto Gagliardini, but it goes without saying that the gulf in quality is significant. And Crotone have failed to score in four of their last five home games.

Away team to win without conceding - 2.12

 

Udinese - Genoa

The mood around Genoa is toxic, with just a single win to show for the last four months and fans angrily protesting against owner Enrico Preziosi. At this point, the team might feel more at ease playing away from home, but there are so few positives to cling onto that it is hard to see how they would engineer a result, even against an Udinese side lacking in any great urgency as it drifts towards a midtable finish.

Home win - 1.78

 

Lazio - Napoli



Lazio lost the battle but won the war in midweek, suffering a 3-2 defeat in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma but winning the tie on aggregate anyway. Napoli had the exact opposite experience, and it will be interesting to see what lasting impact there is on each side’s outlook ahead of a critical match in the race for Italy’s last Champions League berth.

Just four points separate Lazio, in fourth, from Napoli, and the Biancocelesti really do seem to have the bit between their teeth. Ciro Immobile has scored eight goals in as many games, and a supporting cast led by Felipe Anderson, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo is likewise thriving. Simone Inzaghi, furthermore, has shown his growing confidence as a manager, flexing between different formations to unpick different opponents.

Napoli, too, have played some scintillating football recently, including against Juventus on Wednesday - when they put three goals past the champions. They will score at the Stadio Olimpico, where they have not lost to Lazio since 2012. But something tells me that this might just be the time when they come unstuck.

Home team to win and both teams to score - 4.50