Bologna 7.0, the draw 4.25, Juventus 1.45
There was a time when losing Andrea Pirlo to injury might have been disastrous for Juventus. In 2011-12, his first season with the club, he missed just a single league game and provided a staggering 13 assists. Not even Gigi Buffon was able to match Pirlo’s playing time.
These days, though, he might not be the most important figure in the Juve midfield. Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba could each lay claim to that title, and while the creativity of Pirlo – who is expected to miss the next six weeks with a knee injury – will certainly be missed, his replacement Claudio Marchisio is no slouch either. Back the visitors, who have kept six consecutive clean sheets in Serie A, to win without conceding at 2.25.
Livorno 5.25, the draw 3.65, Milan 1.65
Does the comeback start here? Milan finally got back to winning ways last Sunday, beating Catania in Sicily, and there are reasons to believe that they might be ready to turn a corner. Mario Balotelli has ended his almost two-month long scoring drought, and the team is also beginning to recover some key players from injury. Stephan El Shaarawy made his first appearance since September against Catania, while Christian Abbiati, Mattia De Sciglio and Philippe Mexes should all be available this weekend.
On top of all that, Livorno are simply not very good, slipping down to 18th after a run of three consecutive defeats in which they have scored no goals and conceded seven. The odds on the away win are not especially exciting, but that is probably still the safe bet.
Napoli 1.52, the draw 3.9, Udinese 6.25
A crucial Champions League meeting with Arsenal looms for Napoli, but their players have been adamant all week that they are not thinking beyond Udinese. The last time the Partenopei made the mistake of getting ahead of themselves before a big European game, they lost at home to Parma. They know they cannot afford another such slip-up if they are to stay in touch with Juventus at the top of the table.
Udinese are struggling this season, and especially away from home, where they have collected just three points from seven games. But they are still not an easy team to break down, with their greatest problems arising at the other end of the pitch. Take the unders at 1.96.
Roma 1.9, the draw 3.45, Fiorentina 3.9
Francesco Totti resumed training with his team-mates on Thursday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in late October. The Giallorossi need him back urgently. After scoring 22 goals in eight games with their captain in the line-up, Rudi Garcia’s team have managed just five in their last six without him.
This weekend’s game likely comes too soon for Totti, however, who is said to be targeting a return against Milan in the next round of fixtures. Even with him, a positive result could not be taken for granted against opponents who have already beaten Juventus and Milan this year. At odds of 3.9, I would take a chance on the away win.
Cagliari 1.85, the draw 3.45, Genoa 4.2
Despite the enduring absence of one of their own starting centre-forwards, Emanuele Calaiò, Genoa have been doing just fine. The Rossoblu have lost only once in eight games since Gian Piero Gasperini returned as manager – and that was away to Juventus. But Cagliari have also shown improvement, and especially at home, where they tend to play a more open game. Consider backing both teams to score at 2.0.
Inter 1.65, the draw 3.7, Parma 5.25
Antonio Cassano will be available to face his former club, just a week after breaking his nose during Parma’s 1-1 draw at home to Bologna. The forward also scored the 100th Serie A goal of his career in that game, and has been in fine form lately – finding the net five times in his last eight appearances.
It might not be enough to win over the Italy manager Cesare Prandelli – who played down Cassano’s chances of making it into the World Cup squad this week – but I would not be shocked to see Fantantonio among the scorers again on Sunday. He is available at 4.3 to strike at some point during the game.
Sampdoria 1.75, the draw 3.4, Catania 4.75
For the first time since taking over as manager of Catania, Gigi De Canio opened up a training session to the public on Thursday. It did not go so well. Close to 1,000 fans showed up, but among them were a group of Ultras who jeered the players and launched fireworks onto the practice pitch. Before the event had even begun, 30 or so had waited at the front of the team parking lot to heckle the squad as they arrived.
Playing away from home might seem like a blessing, in the context, but Catania are yet to collect a point a single point this season on their travels. Sampdoria have also struggled this season, but in two games under new manager Sinisa Mihajlovic they have drawn with Inter and Lazio. I like the home win.
Sassuolo 2.1, the draw 3.2, Chievo 3.5
The table makes it appear that these two teams are struggling, but recent results suggest otherwise. Both are unbeaten in their last four games, and Sassuolo’s run of positive results even includes a draw away to Roma.
The Flying Donkeys have not conceded a single goal during that spell, but might have a hard time extending their run against the increasingly prolific striker partnership of Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza. Back the former to score at generous odds of 3.75 – he has seven goals in nine starts this season, and five of those have come in Sassuolo’s last four games.
Torino 2.4, the draw 3.2, Lazio 2.95
Lazio have still not won away from home in Serie A this season. Manager Vladimir Petkovic’s job is said to be in jeopardy, and life is not about to get any easier against a Torino team who held both Inter and Roma to draws in Turin.
Ciro Immobile, who moved from Genoa to Torino in the summer (via Juventus) has found his stride over the last two months, scoring in five of the team’s last seven games. He too is well-priced at 3.33 to find the net at some stage.
Verona 1.95, the draw 3.3, Atalanta 3.9
Verona’s perfect home record was ended by defeat in the derby, but they will have the opportunity to get back on track quickly at the Bentegodi. Atalanta have lost all but one of their away games this season, and arrive in Verona without a number of important starters – including the injured Mario Yepes, Guglielmo Stendardo and Cristian Raimondi, as well as the suspended Luca Cigarini. Stick with the home win.
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