Sampdoria – Cagliari
Luis Muriel is practicing his moves in front of a mirror. The forward opened his Sampdoria account away to Atalanta last weekend, and said afterwards that he was looking forward to getting back to the Marassi so that he could score a goal in front of his new team’s supporters, “and then celebrate with another little dance.”
Cagliari will give him opportunities to do so. The Sardinians are yet to keep a clean sheet in nine games under Gianfranco Zola, and are averaging two goals against per outing.
Over 1.5 goals scored by home team – 1.98
Milan – Verona
Verona have never won at San Siro – not against Milan, and not against Inter either. It has been a while, though, since they faced a Rossoneri team as mediocre as this one. Milan drew away to Verona’s local rivals, Chievo, in their most recent fixture, and have since added both Nigel De Jong and Riccardo Montolivo to their already lengthy injury list.
The bald truth is that, after 25 games, there are just five points between these sides, and Milan have won only a single game more than Verona. Playing at home, it is right to consider them as favourites, but the odds on the upset are tempting.
Away win, draw no bet – 4.50
Cesena – Palermo
Victory over Udinese restored a whiff of hope for Cesena, who remain four points from safety but have now won three of their last six games. Another three points from Sunday’s early kickoff would certainly put pressure on the teams immediately ahead of them, and is certainly not unimaginable given the paucity of Palermo’s results away from home. The Sicilians have won only once all season outside the Renzo Barbera.
Of further concern to the visitors is the fact they have lost both centre-back Giancarlo Gonzalez and wing-back Michel Morganella to injury in the last few days. The latter player’s back-up, Andrea Rispoli, is suspended to boot.
Home win – 3.35
Chievo – Roma
The Scudetto appears to have slipped away from Roma, who must now turn their attention to making sure that they hold on to second place. Their advantage over third-place Napoli is down to four points and, more troublingly, both Lazio and Fiorentina are also closing in behind them.
Suspensions to Vasilis Torosidis and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will not make their task any easier at the Bentegodi, but I am backing them to win regardless. Finally conceding the title might prove liberating for Roma’s players, and there is still far too much quality here for this club to carry on drawing games against lesser teams indefinitely.
Away win – 1.85
Empoli – Genoa
The postponement of Genoa’s previous fixture against Parma means that Gian Piero Gasperini’s team will have gone almost a fortnight without a match by the time they kick off in Tuscany. The manager will be delighted to have got Giovanni Marchese back from injury in the meantime, although the defender is unlikely to slot straight back into the starting XI after what has been a two-and-a-half-month absence.
Either way, Genoa’s greatest challenge will be to break down their opponents at the other end of the pitch. Empoli have kept six clean sheets in their last seven home games.
Under 0.5 goals scored by away team – 2.55
Parma – Atalanta
As with recent weeks, I am advising bettors to steer clear of Parma’s game. Neither of their last two have gone ahead and, at time of writing, it is not clear whether this one will either.
Udinese – Torino
Three consecutive defeats were enough to create speculation that Udinese manager Andrea Stramaccioni’s position was under threat. The club’s owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, moved to silence such talk by asserting that the “journalistic reports do not correspond in any way to my thoughts” but a victory this weekend would be far more effective in quieting the rumours.
Unfortunately for Stramaccioni, that will not be easy to obtain against a Torino team that has collected more points than anyone bar Juventus in 2015. The visitors have overcome Athletic Bilbao and Napoli in their last two games, and are unbeaten in 12 in Serie A.
Away win – 2.80
Napoli – Inter
If Roma have cause to look nervously over their shoulders, then Napoli do even more so; two defeats in three matches have left them at risk of slipping out of the top three. Inter, though, would be more than happy to trade places. For all the strides they have made under Roberto Mancini, the Nerazzurri remain seven points shy of even the Europa League places following their loss to Fiorentina.
Restoring Shaqiri to the starting XI will at least give the visitors a lift; Inter’s performance improved dramatically after he was introduced against the Viola. With two goals in his last three starts, he is a tempting price in the goalscorers’ markets.
Shaqiri to score – 4.25