Genoa - Palermo
Palermo finally have a new manager, Maurizio Zamparini eventually firing Davide Ballardini after an initial attempt to do so was aborted due to the owner’s failure to reach agreement with intended replacement Beppe Iachini. The club has now hired former Boca Juniors forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto instead.
Will he fare any better? Frankly we have no idea. His only previous managerial post was with Lanús in Argentina. He did steer them to the Copa Sudamericana in 2013, but he will be adapting here to a new league and a new style of football. The team he inherits has scored only twice in its last five away games.
Total goals by away team: under 0.5 - 2.18
Bologna - Lazio
Is there a more confounding team in Serie A than Lazio, capable of winning 3-1 away to Fiorentina in a performance high on verve and aggression just three days after staggering to drab 0-0 draw at home to Carpi? It’s anybody’s guess as to which version of this team will show up at Bologna on Sunday, but what we do know is that the hosts have won more than half of their games since Roberto Donadoni took over.
Home win - 3.70
Carpi - Sampdoria
There were seven goals scored the last time these two met, on the opening weekend of the season, as Sampdoria gave Carpi a harsh introduction to life in the top-flight. Fabrizio Castori’s team have learnt a few things since then, showing themselves capable of parking the bus and grinding out draws against superior opposition when required.
But with half a season gone, and their team still five points from safety, they cannot afford to be so cautious at home. Carpi just added a new striker, Matteo Mancosu, who marked his debut with a goal against Milan in the Coppa Italia, and should find opportunities against a Samp team that has conceded 30 times in 19 games. The challenge will be preventing their opponents from doing the same at the other end.
Over 2.5 goals - 2.28
Chievo - Empoli
Two teams that keep on punching above their weight, Chievo and Empoli were supposed to be battling relegation but instead have both taken up residence in the top half of the table. The visitors, though, are the side in better form, having won five of their last six matches and kept clean sheets in four of those.
Away win - 3.00
Roma - Verona
Welcome back, Luciano Spalletti. The man who led Roma to two Coppa Italia triumphs, and was the first to deploy Francesco Totti as a false nine, has returned to the club after six years away. He was quick to assert his belief that the club’s recent problems were “above all, mental”, but only time will tell if he is the man to resolve them.
He inherits a team that has claimed only a single victory since 8 November, but Spalletti could not have asked for a more amenable opponent for his first match back in charge. Verona have not won a league game all season, and I doubt very much that they will do so this weekend.
Roma to win with a one-goal handicap - 2.02
Udinese - Juventus
Construction work on Udinese’s upgraded Stadio Friuli is complete at last. The final stand will open for the first time this weekend, allowing for a sell-out crowd of 25,000 fans as Juventus come to town. Will that be enough to inspire the home team to victory, ending Juve’s run of nine consecutive league wins?
Probably not, but having a healthy Duván Zapata up front certainly gives them a better chance. The Colombian was Udinese’s leading scorer before he went down with a thigh injury in September, and he wasted no time finding the net in a brief substitute’s appearance against Carpi last weekend.
Zapata to score - 6.00
Milan - Fiorentina
There is an air of increased optimism around Milan after last week’s draw away to Roma, whereas Fiorentina are still licking their wounds from that unexpected mauling by Lazio. Even so, I have a hard time seeing the Rossoneri as favourites. They are nine points behind the Viola in the league, and their only league win in the last month-and-half came against Frosinone. Plus Josip Ilicic should be back in the starting line-up for the visitors.
Away win - 3.00