Roma – Genoa
A successful midweek round has eased the anxiety at Roma. Victory over Sassuolo, coupled with Napoli’s defeat to Empoli, means the Giallorossi have once again put a five-point buffer between themselves and a drop into the Europa League places. Better yet, Roma’s opening goal on Wednesday was scored by January arrival Seydou Doumbia, previously renowned in the capital only for his absolute commitment to not warming up.
The Ivorian is expected to start again on Sunday, with Francesco Totti relegated to the bench. That would be the right choice. Gazzetta dello Sport noted on Friday that so far in 2015, Roma have averaged one point per game when Totti starts, compared to 2.2 when he does not. Although Doumbia had failed to make an impact before Wednesday, it is also true that was always a streaky player at CSKA, with a habit of scoring goals in runs.
Doumbia to score – 2.43
Atalanta – Lazio
Atalanta manager Edy Reja will experience mixed emotions as he takes on a Lazio team he helped to build. Between 2010 and 2012 he twice took the Biancocelesti to the brink of a Champions League spot. He then left the club, only to return midway through last season – a campaign which finished with Lazio falling two points short of Europe.
His insights might lend Atalanta some advantage, and so too may Miroslav Klose’s suspension – which has left Lazio without a recognised striker. But despite that absence, I envisage a high-scoring game. There have been over 2.5 goals scored in six of Atalanta’s last seven home matches, and if anything they ought to feel more liberated now that they have moved within touching distance of safety.
Over 2.5 goals – 1.89
Fiorentina – Cesena
The end is nigh for Cesena, whose already slender hopes of avoiding relegation dwindled further when they failed to beat Atalanta on Wednesday. The Fiorentina team they face this weekend has lost four games in a row and will be distracted by its forthcoming Europa League semi-final against Sevilla, but the gulf in quality here is pronounced.
If there is one optimistic note for Cesena in amongst the misery, it is the form of River Plate loanee Carlos Carbonero, who has scored sensational goals in each of the team’s last two matches. The odds on him extending his streak against opponents who have shipped 10 goals during the aforementioned losing streak are tempting.
Carbonero to score – 10.00
Inter – Chievo
Consecutive wins were not enough to brighten Roberto Mancini’s mood. The Inter manager refused to speak to his players for two days after their 2-1 victory over Udinese, so angry was he at the sloppiness with which they defended during the final stages of the game.
A repeat performance might well be punished by Chievo. The Donkeys really are flying at the moment, with only a single defeat in their last nine matches. The odds on an Inter victory, in that context, appear unreasonably short.
Draw – 4.70
Verona – Udinese
Luca Toni became Verona’s all-time leading Serie A scorer this week, raising his tally to 38 goals in less than two full seasons with the club. He has found the net 12 times in his last 12 games alone. Udinese have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last seven outings.
Toni to score (anytime) and home win – 3.65
Napoli – Milan
With grim predictability, Napoli undid their recent good work by losing 4-2 to Empoli. Now Rafa Benítez faces an even greater dilemma regarding team selection. Five points out of the top three places with five games left to go, can he afford to rotate his starting XI and keep players fresh for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final first leg against Dnipro?
Napoli ought to beat this crumbling Milan team regardless. Pippo Inzaghi managed to hold onto his job in the wake of Wednesday’s home defeat to Genoa, but probably only because Silvio Berlusconi is busy negotiating the sale of a majority stake in the club. The one encouraging note for the Rossoneri is that they do keep finding ways to score – only Inter holding them without a goal in the last two months.
Home win and both teams to score – 3.15
Cagliari – Parma
Parma have mathematically been relegated, and Cagliari will join them soon enough. Defeat to Chievo was another crushing blow for the Sardinians, and rendered all the more costly by red cards for Andrea Cossu and Nicola Murru, both of whom will miss this match as a consequence.
The visitors have been extraordinarily bad on their travels this season, collecting a total of six points from their 16 away games so far and conceding 39 goals along the way. But Cagliari have the worst home record in the division, with just two wins in 16 attempts.
Draw – 3.74