Genoa 2.2, the draw 3.2, Verona 3.3
One or two players on these teams were not even born when they last met in the top-flight, back in April 1992. If you find that thought a little distressing, then please know that you are not alone.
And yet this match might be defined by a pair of old-timers. Luca Toni leads Verona with five goals, while Genoa’s Alberto Gilardino has exact the same number. It is the latter forward who I would back to find the net on Sunday, at odds of 2.6. Gilardino has been rejuvenated by the return of Gian Piero Gasperini as manager, with four of his goals coming in his last four appearances.
Atalanta 2.05, the draw 3.25, Bologna 3.6
Neither side arrives at this fixture in ideal shape. Atalanta are missing more than half a starting team, with Mario Yepes, Stefano Lucchini and Gianpaolo Bellini all absent in defence, Carlos Carmona and Giacomo Bonaventura unavailable in midfield, and Germán Denis suspended up front. Bologna, meanwhile, have only two fit centre-halves – something of a problem for a team whose preferred formation is 3-5-1-1.
Atalanta are favoured because of a strong home record – they have lost just once this season in Bergamo – but Bologna have been much more solid of late, keeping clean sheets in each of their last three games. The draw offers the best value for me.
Cagliari 2.1, the draw 3.25, Torino 3.5
The corresponding fixture last season was a wild one. Cagliari scored first, before Torino responded with two goals from Alessio Cerci. The hosts then equalised, before taking the lead on an 87th-minute penalty. Torino pulled level again at 3-3 with a spot-kick in the second minute of injury time. Somehow, Daniele Conti still found time to hit a winner for Cagliari.
If that pattern sounds vaguely familiar, it is because some of Torino’s games this season have not looked all that different, the Granata drawing 3-3 with each of Livorno and Inter in similarly hectic circumstances. The combination of Cerci’s goalscoring and an all-round inability to defend makes them entertaining to watch. The overs are well-priced at 2.16.
Chievo 3.75, the draw 3.3, Milan 2.0
Political intrigue, board-room backstabbing and claims of a former player signing a pre-contract to take over as manager before the existing one has even been sacked? All in a week’s work for Milan, who also found time to lose to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. That is no great embarrassment, but a league table which shows the Rossoneri with just 12 points from 11 games most certainly is.
Matters should at least improve against last-placed Chievo, a team that Milan have beaten in each of their last 13 meetings. Away win.
Parma 2.35, the draw 3.2, Lazio 3.0
Lazio took a big step towards the knock-out stage of the Europa League on Thursday night, beating Apollon Limasol 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico, but it was still not the most convincing of displays from the Biancocelesti. They are without an away win in seven attempts across all competitions so far this season. Parma, despite a defeat to Juventus last time out, remain solid at home, and are good enough value for the win at 2.35.
Roma 1.18, the draw 6.5, Sassuolo 13.5
On paper, this looks like a non-contest. Then again, the last time we said that about Sassuolo, they snatched a draw away to Napoli. I would not expect Rudi Garcia’s Roma to make the same mistake, but there is not much to be gained financially from backing them here in any case. Instead try the unders (2.2). Roma have conceded just two goals all season, and are scoring a little less freely themselves with both Francesco Totti and Gervinho out injured.
Fiorentina 1.38, the draw 4.45, Sampdoria 8.0
With Europa League progress safely achieved, Fiorentina can get back to focusing on domestic matters. A slow start to this season saw Vincenzo Montella’s team fall behind the front-runners, but performances have been steadily improving, and the Viola were deeply unfortunate to lose to Napoli at the end of last month. They should not slip up here, but with the odds on a victory so short, I might instead consider a bet on both teams to score (2.1) instead. Fiorentina have, after all, conceded two in each of their last three home league games.
Juventus 1.73, the draw 3.65, Napoli 4.85
Rafael Benítez is a firm believer in pacing oneself. “First of all, we’re going to take a rest,” said the Napoli manager following his team’s win over Marseille on Wednesday night, explaining that he had given his players the next day off. Never mind the fact that they were just four days removed from arguably the most important game of their domestic season so far. He would sooner have them fresh than perfectly prepared.
He had already taken steps towards that end, leaving two key figures – Marek Hamsik and Valon Behrami – out of his starting line-up against Marseille. Juventus committed a little more in their 2-2 draw with Madrid, but they played a day earlier, and can also look forward to getting Giorgio Chiellini back after he was suspended in midweek. Both teams have set a phenomenal pace so far, with 28 points each from 11 games, but the fear of losing touch with Roma at the top is palpable. These two will each play to win, not draw, and for that reason I might suggest backing both teams to score at 1.78.
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