Paolo Bandini's Serie A Betting: Juventus and Higuain can all-but wrap up the title in bitter Napoli clash


Saturday

Sassuolo - Lazio

Seventy-five days have passed since Sassuolo won a home game. The international pause allowed them to recover both centre-back Luca Antei and midfielder Luca Mazzitelli from injury, but both will be thrown back in at the deep end against a Lazio side that has not lost to any opponent in almost as long.

The Biancocelesti have built their success on a renewed defensive solidity - conceding just once in five games. Sassuolo, meanwhile, have been shut out in three of their last four.

Away team to win without conceding - 3.45

 

Roma - Empoli

Pretty much every game is a must-win for Roma now if they are to have any hope of lifting the Scudetto, but this one feels especially critical - since Juventus play away to Napoli on Sunday night. A win would move the Giallorossi to within five points of the league leaders, raising the pressure on what is already a daunting fixture.

Roma are missing both Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi in midfield, but should be comfortable all the same. They have scored 40 times in 14 home games to date, whereas Empoli have just six goals all season on their travels.

Three-way handicap: starts 0-2, home win - 2.20

 

Sunday

Torino - Udinese

Consecutive victories over Palermo and Pescara have killed off any distant fears Udinese might have had of being dragged into a relegation scrap. Torino are four points further ahead but no longer realistically in with a shout of challenging for Europe.

There have been an average of 3.79 goals scored in Torino’s home matches this season. Why would things quieten down now when the pressure is off?

Over 2.5 goals - 1.68 

 

Chievo - Crotone

If you were looking for ways to illustrate Crotone’s inadequacy for top-flight football, then the 24-point gap between them and Chievo - precisely the sort of team they would need to be capable of getting a result against in order to have some hope of avoiding relegation - might be a good place to start.

The visitors have failed to score now in seven of their last eight league matches. Chievo have kept three clean sheets in four home games.

Home team to win without conceding - 2.60

 

Fiorentina - Bologna

The Derby dell’Appenino - so-called for the mountain range that separates these two cities - has been a little one-sided of late. Fiorentina have won the last four editions at the Stadio Artemio Franchi without conceding a single goal along the way. With the Viola also undefeated at home this season, the task before Bologna starts to look rather daunting.

Uncertainty regarding the availability of Federico Bernardeschi, however, gives them hope. Simply put, this Fiorentina team are not the same without him. He will be subject to a late fitness test, but should he fail then I think this becomes a far tighter game than the odds currently indicate.

Draw - 4.25

 

Genoa - Atalanta

Atalanta’s brilliant season earned recognition from the Italy manager, Giampiero Ventura, this week, with Andrea Petagna and Leonardo Spinazzola both making their international debuts in the win over Holland. The latter, in particular, caught the eye with his delivery and dynamism from right wing-back, although he will be back on the left for his club side on Sunday.

On the one hand, more call-ups mean more tired legs, but this team is riding a wave of enthusiasm, and I expect that this validation will do players more good than harm. Genoa, by contrast, have won just once in 13 games.

Away win - 2.12

 

Palermo - Cagliari

They have not given up hope down in Sicily quite yet. A crowd of close to 3,000 Palermo fans showed up to an open training session on Wednesday, perhaps recognising that they are close to the last-chance saloon.

The seven-point gap to 17th-placed Empoli is not unbridgeable, given how poorly the Tuscans are playing, but Palermo’s remaining fixture list includes games against Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina. They have to win games like this, against a Cagliari team who have taken eight points away from home all season.

Home win - 2.32

 

Pescara - Milan

As confusion continues to swirl around Milan’s potential sale, Vincenzo Montella steels his team for a final European push. A win here would allow the Rossoneri to leapfrog Inter ahead of their neighbours’ game against Sampdoria on Monday.

They ought to get it against last-placed Pescara. Perhaps the most disappointing statistic of all for the Delfini is the one showing that, after winning their first game under Zdenek Zeman 5-0, they have gone on to score just twice in four games.

Away team to win without conceding - 3.20

 

Napoli - Juventus

If Juventus win, then it is hard to see how anyone can still catch them this season. But if they lose then things could get interesting. Theirs is a packed April - with eight games in total, including a repeat of this fixture in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, and then the small matter of a two-legged Champions League tie against Barcelona. Now is not the moment for a wobble.

The Bianconeri could do with a hand from Gonzalo Higuaín, who will be back at his old stomping ground for the first time since joining from Napoli in the summer. His form has tailed off recently, with only one goal in his last seven games, but he has scored in both meetings with his former employers so far.

Higuaín to score - 2.65

 

Monday

Inter - Sampdoria

Marco Giampaolo is expected to receive a two-year contract extension with Sampdoria on Monday, a reward for the club’s impressive form over the last two months. Sampdoria’s only defeat since 29 January was a narrow 1-0 loss to Juventus.

The Blucerchiati did get some bad news this week in the form of an injury to Luis Muriel, but that will open the door for the promising Patrick Schick to get a rare start up front. He has mostly been used as an impact sub this season, but has scored a goal for every 116 minutes he has spent on the pitch.

Schick to score - 5.80