Paolo Bandini’s Serie A Betting: Roma to overpower faltering Napoli but Juve can rely on in-form Higuaín


SATURDAY

Roma - Napoli

The stakes were high enough already for this clash between second and third, but have been raised further after both sides suffered two-goal defeats in their Coppa Italia semi-final first-legs. Napoli have now lost three of their last four matches across all competitions, with Dries Mertens’s fading form a significant concern, but Roma also looked jaded against Lazio, and Luciano Spalletti has been accused of overworking key players. 

Both teams are happiest playing on the front foot. They both also need all three points - Roma to maintain their pursuit of Juventus and Napoli to avoid being overhauled by Atalanta. But the Giallorossi have the advantage of playing at a stadium where they have won their last 15 games straight. 

Home team to win and both teams to score - 3.55

 

Sampdoria - Pescara

Zemanlandia always was famous for its rollercoasters. After the high of thrashing Genoa 5-0, Pescara came hurtling back down with a 2-0 defeat at Chievo, leaving the Delfini still rooted to the foot of the table. This will not be an easy place to recover, either, against opponents who have lost only twice at home all season.

Local reports suggest that Sampdoria manager Marco Giampaolo is contemplating an attack-minded full-back partnership of Jacopo Sala and Daniel Pavlovic in order to exploit that tendency of Zdenek Zeman sides to overcommit in possession. Meeting fire with fire could make for an entertaining affair.

Total goals by home team: over 1.5 - 1.60

 

Milan - Chievo

There will be no new owners in the Tribuna d’Onore at San Siro on Sunday, after the club’s proposed sale to Sino Europe Sport was delayed. But there will be a welcome return for Mattia De Sciglio at right-back, after more than a month out with an ankle injury. 

What Milan really need, though, are some new ideas up front. Only once in their last eight games have the Rossoneri scored more than a single goal. And there are just three teams in the league that have conceded less often on their travels than Chievo. 

Under 2.5 goals - 1.9

 

SUNDAY

Atalanta - Fiorentina

Dismiss Atalanta’s Champions League bid at your peril. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side delivered a statement win last weekend, beating Napoli 2-0 at the Stadio San Paolo despite being reduced to 10 men, and consequently closed to within three points of the Partenopei. Franck Kessié is suspended as a result of his red card, but Atalanta already demonstrated during the Africa Cup of Nations that they are capable of winning without him. 

Fiorentina, on the other hand, have looked significantly weaker when Federico Bernardeschi is absent. That is likely to be the case this weekend as he continues his recovery from an ankle complaint. With Josip Ilicic also injured, Paulo Sousa is running out of options to fill the No.10 role. 

Home win - 1.89

 

Cagliari - Inter

Unlike Atalanta, Inter failed to seize their opportunity last weekend - slumping to a home defeat against Roma. They have lost every match they have played against the top three under Stefano Pioli, but they have won against literally everyone else. 

Will they sustain that pattern against Cagliari? I have my doubts. Cagliari have only lost three times on their own patch, and the recent decision to switch Fabio Pisacane from full-back to centre-back seems to be paying off. Inter, meanwhile, have not always been as impressive as their results suggest. They have scored just five goals in their last six away games. 

Double chance: Home win or draw - 2.38

 

Crotone - Sassuolo

Sassuolo can’t catch a break in front of their own fans at the moment, but three consecutive away wins have pulled them clear of trouble at the foot of the table. Now would not be a good moment to ease a foot off the pedal against desperate Crotone, but the hosts have given us few reasons yet to believe they are capable of launching their own survival push.

Away win - 2.23

 

Empoli - Genoa

Occupying the last two positions above the relegation zone, each of these teams might view a draw as a positive result - edging one small step closer to safety. In any case, we can expect a cagy game. None of the last 12 meetings between these sides have yielded more than two goals, and the only player in either squad to have reached double figures in 2016-17 - Giovanni Simeone - has gone more than a month since he last stuck the ball in the net.

Correct score: 0-0 - 8.0

 

Torino - Palermo

Andrea Belotti moved joint-top of the scorers’ charts with a brace against Fiorentina last weekend, and he will be wearing the captain’s armband for Torino this time around in the absence of Marco Benassi. Will he mark the occasion by adding to his tally? Against a Palermo defence that has conceded more than two goals per game away from home, he can certainly expect opportunities.

Belotti to score - 1.94

 

Udinese - Juventus

Paulo Dybala took the headlines with a brace in Udinese’s Coppa Italia win over Napoli in midweek, but Gonzalo Higuaín also got his name on the scoresheet to extend his brilliant run of form. He had already scored in nine out of Juventus’s last 11 games in Serie A.

Udinese will not be pushovers. They beat Milan at the Stadio Friuli and only lost by a single goal to each of Roma, Inter and Napoli. But Higuaín’s consistency would make odds of close to even money look tempting against all but the stoutest of defences. 

Higuaín to score - 1.94

 

Bologna - Lazio

Will a midweek win over Roma translate to additional enthusiasm or simply tired legs for Lazio as they head to the Stadio Dall’Ara? They should not need to be brilliant to beat a lacklustre Bologna side that has been coasting towards a mid-table finish almost from the moment this season began. 

The Rossoblu have scored a mere 12 goals in 13 home matches, while Lazio’s have kept consecutive clean sheets. It probably will not be a high-scoring occasion. 

Under 2.5 goals - 1.85