Inter – Torino
Xherdan Shaqiri made his first start for Inter in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, delighting fans with a goal and a man-of-the-match performance in a 2-0 win over Sampdoria. It is possible that he will return to the bench against Torino, but if not then he is still certain to play some part before the end. For all the frustrations experienced in their draw with an underrated Empoli team last weekend, Inter are unbeaten so far in 2015 and ought to prevail against opponents who will be missing the dynamism of Bruno Peres down the right flank.
Home win – 1.75
Juventus – Chievo
How dominant have Juventus been through the first half of this season? Gazzetta dello Sport noted on Friday that the Bianconeri had trailed opponents for a grand total of 10 minutes across their 19 games so far (and that includes injury time). Chances are that they won’t be adding to that number this weekend, at home to 17th-placed Chievo, who arrive without suspended centre-back Bostjan Cesar.
Total goals by home team: over 2.5 – 1.91
Parma – Cesena
A hugely significant game for both teams, who find themselves joint-bottom of the table, nine points adrift from safety at the midway stage. Parma’s new owners have been proactive in upgrading their playing squad this January, with loan arrivals Silvestre Varela and Antonio Nocerino both expected to start on Sunday. Cesena have instead been losing players, Hugo Almeida departing after failing to score even once in 10 appearances since he joined in the summer.
There is no question that Parma boast the superior personnel, but equally it is hard to feel enthusiastic about odds of 1.62 on the home win for a team that has cobbled together just nine points all season. I might sooner take a punt on tempers flaring up in a game with so much on the line.
Red card given – 3.00
Sampdoria – Palermo
Luis Muriel has joined Sampdoria, and Samuel Eto’o finally looks set to do the same. At time of writing, the Cameroon striker was undergoing a medical with the Italian club, but all being well he could play a part this weekend. That is more than can be said for Muriel, who is out with a long-standing thigh problem and not expected to make it onto the field for at least another month.
Samp are unbeaten at home this season, whereas Palermo have won just a single game outside of Sicily. Despite that poor away form, the continued brilliance of Paulo Dybala and Franco Vázquez makes me believe the visitors will at least get on the scoresheet.
Both teams to score – 1.85
Verona – Atalanta
How great was the psychological damage inflicted by Verona’s trip to Turin? Andrea Mandorlini’s team sit a point clear of Atalanta in the table, but are coming off a week in which they conceded 10 goals in two games (one in the league, one in the cup) against Juventus. The visitors, on the other hand, arrive in confident mood after winning away to Milan. After scoring just eight goals in their first 15 league matches this season, they have added seven in the last four.
Away win – 3.00
Fiorentina – Roma
All is not well with Roma. After slipping to five points behind Juventus last weekend, the Giallorossi needed extra-time to defeat Empoli at home in the Coppa Italia three days later. Manager Rudi Garcia was whistled at the Stadio Olimpico for the first time since August 2013. Now he faces the daunting task of trying to turn things around against opponents who have piled up nine goals in their last three games.
Roma have been struggling up front, their attack losing dynamism and unpredictability since Gervinho departed to play in the Africa Cup of Nations. But Garcia has a perfect record against Fiorentina so far, winning on all three occasions that he has faced them. The odds on his team are worth considering.
Away win – 2.90