Genoa 4.4, the draw 3.6, Napoli 1.75
Just when you think you have a handle on the new world order, Wednesday night happens. After winning their first five games under Rafael Benítez, beating Borussia Dortmund and Milan along the way, Napoli were supposed to demolish last-placed Sassuolo in Naples. Instead they drew 1-1, and might even have lost were it not for a handful of smart saves from Pepe Reina.
Benítez was criticised for rotating his team – making six changes to the starting XI that had won in Milan – but those players who did remain from the weekend’s game were among the biggest underperformers. The manager will stick to his guns on Saturday, continuing to change up his side, but the outcome should be different. Genoa have failed to score in three of their five games so far, and Napoli will not be so complacent a second time. Away win.
Milan 1.47, the draw 4.4, Sampdoria 6.2
Even when he is not on the pitch, Mario Balotelli still dominates the headlines. Four days after talking his way into a post-game red card at the end of Milan’s defeat to Napoli, the striker made a public apology to his team-mates on Thursday, as well as to the club’s fans and the match referee Luca Banti. “I made a mistake, I lost control after being provoked, and Mario asks forgiveness,” he said. “But let’s not exaggerate … I didn’t kill anyone.”
Banned for three games, Balotelli missed Milan’s trip to Bologna on Wednesday. Although his absence was certainly felt, the team’s defensive frailty was a far greater concern for the manager Massimiliano Allegri during a shambolic 3-3 draw. Saturday’s visitors Sampdoria have made a slow start, yet still scored four goals in their first two away games. Try the overs at 1.8.
Torino 5.75, the draw 3.85, Juventus 1.57
Like Benítez, Antonio Conte was also criticised for trying to freshen up his team this week, as Juventus scraped a 2-1 win over Chievo – who had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside. The Bianconeri have conceded first in each of their last four games, including the Champions League draw with Copenhagen, and look far less composed at the back than we have come to expect over the past two seasons.
With Alessio Cerci in scintillating form, Torino are certainly equipped to make their city rivals’ lives difficult. The home side are worth considering in the double chance market at 2.25.
Atalanta 2.45, the draw 3.3, Udinese 2.75
Neither team is quite in top shape for this game – the hosts having to do without a starting centre-back, Mario Yepes, and midfielder, Giulio Migliaccio, while the visitors will be missing Luis Muriel up front. Atalanta have lost four of their first five games, but Udinese are yet to win away from home. At 3.3, I would go with the draw.
Cagliari 3.6, the draw 3.3, Inter 2.05
Five games, 13 points, 15 goals scored and only two conceded; Walter Mazzarri’s start to life with Inter looks impressive enough before you even consider the fact that his team has already faced both Juventus and Fiorentina. When even Jonathan, one of the most consistent culprits in last year’s calamities, is popping up with game-winning goals, you know that something fundamental has changed.
Cagliari should not be taken for granted – they have lost just once so far this season – but there is something irresistible about Inter at present. Away win.
Catania 2.15, the draw 3.35, Chievo 3.2
A tally of two goals scored and 10 conceded tells you everything you need to know about Catania’s start to the campaign. The manager Rolando Maran appears to be suffering a crisis of confidence, changing his formations constantly in the hopes of stumbling into a magic solution, though the sale of Francesco Lodi to Genoa has also left a void. The Stadio Angelo Massimino has been a fortress in recent years, but not so much anymore. Try the draw.
Sassuolo 4.0, the draw 3.75, Lazio 1.8
Like an bolt-necked fiend in a Mary Shelley novel, Sassuolo shuddered awake in the dark of the night. [Eusebio di] Francesco’s monster is finally alive, having claimed its first point, but this shambling beast still has a lot to prove before it will be considered a real threat to anybody.
Lazio themselves lack menace up front without the injured Miroslav Klose, however, and their wins so far have all come at home. The draw merits consideration at 3.75.
Verona 1.9, the draw 3.4, Livorno 4.0
The remaining two newly-promoted sides face off in Verona. While Sassuolo continue to languish at the foot of the table, both Verona and Livorno presently occupy positions within the top-half.
Luca Toni might be the key figure of this game, having returned from a minor injury to set up one goal and win the penalty that led to another in Verona’s 2-2 draw against Torino in midweek. Having previously scored twice in his team’s opening weekend win over Milan, his presence is probably enough to justify odds of 1.9 on the home win.
Roma 1.35, the draw 5.0, Bologna 7.5
Rudi Garcia is not ready to start patting himself on the back. "I want to go down in history at the end of the season, not now,” said the Roma manager this week, after being informed that his was the first side in club history to begin a top-flight campaign with five consecutive wins.
So far his team have played out every game in near identical fashion, with all 12 of their goals coming after the interval. Go with draw/home win in the half-time/full-time market at 4.1.
Fiorentina 1.57, the draw 4.0, Parma 5.4
After scoring just twice in their first four games, Parma sprung to life with four in a single evening against Atalanta. They will have their hands full trying to repeat that task against a Fiorentina team venting the frustration of a blown second-half lead away to Inter.
Despite losing Mario Gómez and Juan Cuadrado to injury, Vincenzo Montella’s side has been built to attack, and will continue to do exactly that. And with Antonio Cassano in inspired form on Wednesday, it seems that Parma, too, are finally discovering some of the potency that was expected of them this year. Take the overs at 1.8.
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