Paolo Bandini’s Serie A Betting: Roma can hold under strength champions-elect Juve to a draw


SATURDAY

Fiorentina - Lazio, 17:00

Fiorentina’s prospects of winning this match have twice been boosted in the past week: first when Lazio secured Europa League qualification, and second when Juventus claimed their place in the Champions League final. The Bianconeri’s European success obliged the Italian Football Federation to reschedule the Coppa Italia final - which would have taken place on 2 June - to the middle of next week instead. 

As a result, we can expect to see a weakened Lazio team on Saturday, with Ciro Immobile, Felipe Anderson, Lucas Biglia and Stefan de Vrij among the players likely to be rested. As disappointing as Fiorentina have been this season, they have still only lost one game at their Stadio Artemio Franchi. 

Home win - 2.1

 

Atalanta - Milan, 19:45

Could we see Riccardo Montolivo back in the starting line-up for Milan? Gazzetta dello Sport believe so, predicting on Friday morning that the midfielder will make his first appearance since injuring his knee in October. It would be an unforgiving spot in which to do so, against an Atalanta midfield known for its vim and vigour. 

Similarly intriguing will be the Rossoneri’s choices in defence, where injury and suspension have left Cristian Zapata and Gustavo Gomez as the only two recognised centre-backs available. There has been talk of Paolo De Sciglio getting called in to play on the left of a back three. It hardly sounds like a recipe for solidity against opponents who put two goals past Juventus’s vaunted rearguard.

Home team: over 1.5 goals - 1.85

SUNDAY

Inter - Sassuolo, 11:30

Stefano Pioli is gone, fired after taking just two points from his final seven games in charge at Inter. He will be replaced until the end of this season by youth team coach Stefano Vecchi. The latter has already filled in as caretaker for a brief stint earlier this season - beating Crotone but losing away to Southampton in the Europa League. 

Perhaps the change will provide a jolt, but this is another occasion where I find it hard to justify backing a team that is playing so poorly at such short odds. Sassuolo are unbeaten in five games - a run that includes matches against Atalanta, Napoli and Fiorentina. 

Double chance: Sassuolo or draw - 2.8

 

Bologna - Pescara, 14:00

Zdenek Zeman celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday, but there has not been much to cheer in his team’s performances. Relegated Pescara have not even succeeded in showing the devil-may-care attacking energy that we associate with his teams - failing to score in three of their last four matches. 

Under 2.5 goals - 2.6

 

Cagliari - Empoli, 14:00

Four points clear of 18th with three games left to go, Empoli should be feeling optimistic about their chances of staying up, right? Right. Except, the team behind them - Crotone - have taken 14 points from their last six matches. 

But here’s the thing: Empoli themselves have won three of their last four. The end-of-season apathy of midtable clubs such as Cagliari has turned the relegation battle from a lazy brawl between two punched-out protagonists into the sort of shoot-out you might see at the end of an old spaghetti western. At this point, I think I’m done backing against a team who barely even seemed to know where the goal was up until the end of March.

Away win - 2.2

 

Crotone - Udinese, 14:00

Yup, similar feelings on this one - only reinforced by Udinese’s woeful recent performances away from home. Crotone’s top scorer, Diego Falcinelli, has struck four times in his last five games. He should find further opportunities against opponents who lost 4-0 Bologna last month. 

Falcinelli to score - 2.6

 

Palermo - Genoa, 14:00

The sudden improvements of both Empoli and Crotone have also put Genoa at risk, though they stayed ahead of the Tuscans with a win over Inter last weekend. Their form previous to that had been abysmal, but a further triumph over relegated Palermo could seal their place in the top-flight for another year. 

On paper, it might appear that they have been damaged by an injury to top scorer Giovanni Simeone, but in practice he had scored once since January. His likely replacement, Goran Pandev, had not struck a league goal all season until he came off the bench to help earn a draw against Lazio last month, but now has three in as many games. 

Pandev to score - 2.65

 

Sampdoria - Chievo, 14:00

A match between two teams who are certainly guilty of taking their feet off the pedal during this final stretch. Sampdoria are winless in five, and just got splattered 7-3 by Lazio. Chievo have taken four points from their last six games. If nothing else, they have each been involved in their share of high-scoring games now that the pressure is off.

Over 2.5 goals - 1.64

 

 

Torino - Napoli, 14:00

Second place remains the target for Napoli, and they will move ahead of Roma for at least a few hours if they can take all three points against Torino. That won’t be easy. The Granata are unbeaten in seven games, and their only home loss this season came against Juventus.

They have scored at least once in every match since mid-January, and I feel confident that they will pierce Napoli’s not-so-reliable back-line. But Torino conceded five times when they visited the Stadio San Paolo in December, and a suspension to starting centre-back Emiliano Moretti does nothing to improve their prospects of subduing Dries Mertens and company.

Away team to win and both teams to score - 2.38

 

Roma - Juventus, 19:45

If Roma had won the derby two weeks ago, then they might have had the chance now to draw to within a point of Juventus - applying serious pressure at the end of the campaign. As it is, even a victory would still leave them four points behind with two games to play. Their sights are set firmly on defending second place.

In any case, though, three points are essential - a fact which leaves manager Luciano Spalletti with a serious conundrum as he weighs up whether to give Francesco Totti one final run out against the Old Lady. Juventus, with the Coppa Italia final coming up, are expected to field a rotated side, drafting in players such as Juan Cuadrado and Mehdi Benatia who did not start against Monaco. But they are not a team who ever seem to lose focus on these big occasions. 

Draw - 3.45