Sassuolo – Verona
Sassuolo will have to do without the suspended Simone Zaza this weekend, but given his recent form that might not be a bad thing. The Italy striker has found the net just twice in eight league games, and it was perhaps no accident that the Neroverdi should grab their winning goal against Torino after he had been taken off the pitch.
But Eusebio Di Francesco’s team had been succeeding more by virtue of their impressive defensive performances in any case, with clean sheets in three straight matches. Given that Verona average just one goal per game on their travels, a low-scoring match seems probable.
Under 2.5 goals – 1.94
Chievo – Lazio
Lazio have been brought back to earth with a crash, losing to Empoli before being thrashed at home by Juventus. If they had won either fixture, they would be level with Napoli in third place. Instead, fans are once again questioning whether Stefano Pioli’s team has really been built to last the course.
Chievo are unbeaten in three games and have improved since hiring Rolando Maran as their new manager in October. They are decent value for a point at home.
Draw – 3.35
Milan – Udinese
At San Siro, two clubs with opposite concerns. Six months into his tenure at Milan, Filippo Inzaghi still has not been able to decide which player should lead the line for his team. Conversely, centre-forward is the one position where Andrea Stramaccioni can feel totally confident as he approaches the end of his first half-year at Udinese. Having Antonio Di Natale in your squad makes certain decisions a whole lot easier.
The 37-year-old has scored seven times in 11 games so far, and has his sights set on overtaking Roberto Baggio in fifth place on Serie A’s all-time scoring charts. He has every chance to do some damage against a defence that has leaked 17 goals in 12 games.
Di Natale to score – 3.70
Cagliari – Fiorentina
Fiorentina maintained their impressive Europa League form with a 2-1 win away to Guingamp, securing first place in Group K with a game to spare. But maintaining any momentum that they generated will not be easy against a Cagliari team that twice came from behind to draw 3-3 with Napoli last week.
The Sardinians conformed to all expectations of a Zdenek Zeman team in that game, with attacking play that was as brilliant as their defending was poor. Diego Farias was a revelation, scoring twice and blowing a fine chance to complete a hat-trick late on. Expected to start at the centre of the attack on Sunday, he should have chances to find the net again.
Farias to score – 3.70
Cesena – Genoa
If there is one reason to have hope for Cesena’s prospects of survival this season, it is their home form. Seven of the club’s eight points have been earned at the Manuzzi, with Inter the only team to beat them there so far. They were unfortunate to draw at home to Genoa’s city rivals, Sampdoria, last week, going ahead in the 60th minute only to be pegged back by a Constantin Nica own goal.
But Genoa boast the second-best away record in the league. Unbeaten in seven games, they might just have the confidence to do what their neighbours could not.
Away win – 2.30
Empoli – Atalanta
Consecutive victories over Lazio and Parma reflect the growing confidence at Empoli, where the 35-year-old Massimo Maccarone has been leading the line with impressive authority. Erratic defensive performances remain a concern, but the Tuscans ought not to be unduly troubled by an Atalanta attack that has mustered just five goals in 12 games.
Home win – 2.15
Palermo – Parma
Only once in their history have Parma started a season worse than this one. That was in 1931-32, when they collected one win and one draw from their first 12 games in Serie B, eventually finishing bottom of the table with a grand total of nine points.
Their manager, Roberto Donadoni insisted this week that he had not given up on his team, but no managerial rhetoric could fix the problems of a squad that has not been paid in months. Palermo are a modest side, but no more than that is required to beat the Ducali at present.
Home win – 1.90
Juventus – Torino
Not since 1995 have Torino won the Derby della Mole. Not since 2002 have they even scored against their city rivals. Given that they have failed to find the net in any of their last four league games, the chances of them ending either of those runs this weekend would appear to be pretty remote.
At least Torino’s attack should not want for motivation. Both Fabio Quagliarella and Amauri used to play for Juventus, and the club’s president, Urbano Cairo, predicted this week that they could be the ones to put the champions to the sword. But a low-scoring Juventus win feels like the more probable outcome.
Under 2.5 goals – 1.94
Roma – Inter
Roberto Mancini got his first win in his second spell as Inter manager on Thursday, guiding his team to a 2-1 Europa League win over Dnipro. He had stressed the competition’s importance beforehand, reminding reporters that it now offers a route into the Champions League. For an Inter team that finds itself ninth in the Serie A table, it might be the most realistic path.
That said, an away game against Roma would be a pretty good place to make a statement of intent. The Giallorossi displayed some defensive vulnerabilities as they let victory slip through their fingers against CSKA Moscow during the week. But that result might also grant Roma even greater motivation this weekend.
Home win – 1.78
Sampdoria – Napoli
Napoli sealed their progress to the last-32 of the Europa League on Thursday, although a goalless draw away to Sparta Prague – in which their opponents hit the woodwork twice – was not the most impressive way fashion in which to achieve that goal. Four days removed from a 3-3 draw at home to Cagliari, fans were hoping for a little bit more.
Rafael Benítez’s team return to Serie A with another tricky fixture. Sampdoria, despite winning just one of their last six games, are only a single point behind Napoli in the standings. With no significant absentees, they are capable of making the visitors’ lives very uncomfortable indeed.
Draw – 3.40