Hellas Verona 4.65, the draw 3.65, Milan 1.72
This week, like so many others, has been All About Him. On Tuesday, Mario Balotelli appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated – depicted walking on water and defined as “the most interesting man as the world”. Inside the magazine, Grant Wahl asked the Milan striker if he was worried about being racially abused by Verona’s notoriously vicious supporters. Balotelli replied that if it happened, he would “try to score with all [his] power”.
Milan’s supporters would like to hope that such efforts are not really conditional on how the crowd behaves. Balotelli hit 12 goals in 13 games for them last season, and his form will be critical to their hopes this term. He looked sharp in tandem with Stephan El Shaarawy during the 1-1 draw with PSV, and together they could do some damage against newly-promoted opponents. Take the away win.
Sampdoria 6.55, the draw 4.0, Juventus 1.5
In Genoa, Juventus take on a fearsome black beast. Sampdoria are without question the champions’ ‘bestia nera’ – their ‘bogey team’ if you wanted a less literal translation. Juve have won just once in their last ten games against the Blucerchiati, and lost both meetings last season. They even contrived to throw away a 1-0 lead at home, after Samp had already been reduced to ten men.
Samp have been weakened since then by the departures of Mauro Icardi and Andrea Poli, but those past results still weigh in their favour. They are worth a punt at 2.45 in the double chance market.
Inter 1.67, the draw 3.7, Genoa 5.0
Are Inter ready to put their disastrous 2012-13 campaign behind them? The honest answer is that nobody knows. Walter Mazzarri has completely redesigned this team since taking over as manager, seeking to replicate the three-man defence that worked so well for him at Napoli. Talented players have arrived in Icardi, Hugo Campagnaro and Ishak Belfodil, but pre-season results were discouraging: Inter lost to Chelsea, Valencia and Real Madrid on their American tour by a combined score of 9-0.
Genoa have lost their top scorer from last season in Marco Borriello, but it is not hard to imagine them snatching a goal against opponents who are still adjusting to their new tactical systems. Consider backing both teams to score at 1.95.
Cagliari 2.4, the draw 3.2, Atalanta 2.95
Cagliari have once again failed to resolve their stadium issues, and for the time being will continue to play their home games 500 miles away in Trieste. How much that will damage them remains to be seen. Last season they made light of their homelessness, cruising to 47 points and an 11th-place finish, but you have to wonder whether this situation might begin to hinder them more the longer it drags on.
Neither team has made drastic changes to its playing staff over the summer, but Atalanta looked a lot sharper in their 3-0 Coppa Italia victory over Bari than Cagliari did in losing at home to Serie B’s Frosinone. On that basis, the away win looks appealing at 2.95.
Lazio 1.85, the draw 3.4, Udinese 4.2
Still smarting from their 4-0 rout by Juventus in the Super Cup, Lazio must now host Udinese at a half-empty stadium, having been ordered to close the Curva Nord at the Stadio Olimpico as a punishment for racist chants heard during that defeat. The Friuliani themselves are coming off a dispiriting loss at home to Slovan Liberec in the Europa League, but were unfortunate in that game, hitting the woodwork three times. I have a hunch they could rebound here with an away win to start the season.
Livorno 3.65, the draw 3.4, Roma 2.0
Favourites for relegation, newly-promoted Livorno are still working to strengthen their team before the transfer window closes. They have been linked with the Siena striker Innocent Emeghara in the last few days, and he would certainly strengthen an attack that looks rather short of firepower. Roma have sold Pablo Osvaldo and at time of writing look set to lose Erik Lamela, too, but retain too much quality for these opponents. Mark this down for another away win.
Napoli 1.4, the draw 4.5, Bologna 7.5
Rafael Benítez’s first competitive game as Napoli manager ought to be straightforward. Bologna finished 13th last season, and lost their top scorer, Alberto Gilardino, over the summer. The one caveat here is that the Rossoblu were also the only team to record a victory away to Napoli in the league last season. Nevertheless, my bet would be on the home team to win without conceding a goal at 2.18.
Parma 1.85, the draw 3.3, Chievo 4.5
There is a little bit of a buzz around Parma just at the moment following the arrival of Antonio Cassano to play alongside Amauri up front. Both players scored in the 4-0 Coppa Italia win over Lecce last weekend, and I would expect another home win this Sunday.
Torino 2.05, the draw 3.4, Sassuolo 3.5
This will be Sassuolo’s first ever game in the Italian top flight. Eusebio Di Francesco’s team have made some interesting signings since achieving promotion, most notably that of 22-year-old striker Simone Zaza, who scored 18 goals for Ascoli in Serie B last season, on co-ownership from Juventus.
Are they ready to compete at this level? We shall soon find out. In the meantime, odds of 2.1 on the overs appeal. Sassuolo’s 78 goals scored led Serie B last year, but they also conceded 40 in 42 games.
Fiorentina 1.48, the draw 4.4, Catania 6.0
Stevan Jovetic is gone, but Fioretina look like they should be better for it. In his stead have arrived Mario Gómez, Josip Ilicic, Joaquin, Juan Cuadrado and Massimo Ambrosini. With Giuseppe Rossi also returning to full health, this team has the look of a top-three contender.
If that is indeed their ambition, then they will expect to win here against opponents who are consistently poor on their travels. It is not the most exciting price, but the home win looks like a sensible choice.
Bet on all the weekend's Serie A games.