Serie A Betting: Juve and Roma's summit meeting to end in a draw


Sunday

Chievo 2.3, the draw 3.1, Cagliari 3.2

For Serie A, the New Year kicks off at the Bentegodi.

Chievo will hope to get back to winning ways quickly after ending 2013 with consecutive defeats, but Cagliari’s supporters might be more concerned about developments off the pitch than on it. Team owner Massimo Cellino announced before the winter break that he was putting his team’s best players – including midfielder Radja Nainggolan and centre-back Davide Astori – up for sale with immediate effect.

But neither have departed just yet, and somehow this team has always seemed to respond well to adversity under Diego Lopez. I think they are good value for the draw against a Chievo side that has seemed to run out of momentum after a brief winning run that followed the return of manager Eugenio Corini.


Fiorentina 1.3, the draw 5.25, Livorno 9.0

Mario Gómez’s absence looks set to drag on a little longer for Fiorentina, with the German striker informing reporters that there was no chance of him playing in this Tuscan derby. Not for the first time, Vincenzo Montella’s side should be just fine without him.

Livorno sit 19th in the table, and will themselves be without the influential Emerson in defence. Consider backing Fiorentina to overcome a one-goal handicap at odds of 3.05.


Juventus 1.62, the draw 3.8, Roma 5.25

It has been variously described in Italy as a “final”, a “match-point” or a “title bout”.

We are not yet at the midway point of the Serie A season, and yet most observers seem to agree that Sunday’s head-to-head meeting between the league’s two front-runners has the potential to be a decisive one. Juventus, riding a nine-game winning streak, will move eight points clear at the top of the table if they can conquer Roma in Turin.

The Giallorossi, though, are still unbeaten this season, having defeated the likes of Napoli, Fiorentina and Inter. They are also free of significant injuries, with all six forwards available for the first time all season. Juventus will likewise be at full-strength, with Andrea Pirlo fully recovered from his recent knee injury and Carlos Tevez said to be in good condition despite arriving back late from Argentina after his pregnant wife had suffered a health scare.

Both teams will play to win, but may wind up cancelling each other out. At 3.8, I like the draw.


Monday

Napoli 1.38, the draw 4.75, Sampdoria 7.5

Napoli’s title challenge faded amid a stuttering end to 2013 but owner Aurelio De Laurentiis remains undeterred, comparing his club this week to Ferrari’s Formula One team – always entertaining and at least close to the pinnacle of their sport, even if they cannot win every time.

He might be a shameless braggart, but De Laurentiis also knows that Napoli are the envy of their Serie A rivals in at least one key regard. The Partenopei posted a profit for the seventh season running in 2012-13.

As a consequence, they will be able to invest yet again this January. Napoli are understood to be close to tying up a deal for Lyon’s Maxime Gonalons, but not so close that he would arrive in time for this fixture. With or without him, they could have their hands full against opponents who have not lost once since appointing Sinisa Mihajlovic as manager in late November. Samp are worth a look in the double chance market at 2.9.


Milan 1.45, the draw 4.25, Atalanta 6.75

Few people would have imagined before the season began that these two teams could be separated by just a single point after 17 games. While Atalanta are performing in line with expectations – sitting just outside the relegation places and fighting for another year of top-flight survival – Milan have almost given up altogether on their initial minimum goal of securing another top-three finish.

The capture of Keisuke Honda from CSKA Moscow may give the team a lift, but he will not arrive in Italy until Saturday and is not expected to play in this game. At least defender Adil Rami, who has been training with Milan since October but only formally completed his loan move from Valencia this week, is expected to make his debut.

The Rossoneri should have enough to overcome opponents who have won just once in their last nine games, but it may not be pretty. Try the unders at 1.85.


Catania 2.15, the draw 3.3, Bologna 3.3

Just six months after departing, Francesco Lodi has returned to Catania – stating that it was “time to come home.”

He had been marginalised at Genoa following the return of Gian Piero Gasperini as manager. There is little chance of such a thing happening at Catania, with the Sicilians glued to the foot of the table.

They have won just twice all season, but this might be as good a chance as they get to add a third. Fifteenth-placed Bologna arrive without a number of important players, but most crucially their captain and joint-leading scorer Alessandro Diamanti, who is suspended. Home win.


Genoa 2.1, the draw 3.15, Sassuolo 3.6

Lodi’s former club ended 2013 on a low note, failing to win any of their last five games. An injury to Daniele Portanova did not help the team’s cause. He could miss out again on Monday, along with fellow centre-back Alessandro Gamberini.

With Sassuolo contemplating an attacking line-up that could include all three of Domenico Berardi, Simone Zaza and Antonio Floro Flores up front, the overs start to look tempting at 2.02.


Parma 2.05, the draw 3.35, Torino 3.5

Antonio Cassano has denied rumours of an imminent return to Sampdoria, telling reporters that he intends to stay with Parma for the foreseeable, even if he did admit to retaining a special affection for his former club. “Samp is like Nutella,” he explained. “Once you have tried it, one spoonful is never enough.”

He might not feel such affection for his present employers, but they hope he can at least continue to show his worth on the pitch, where he is the team’s joint-leader in goals and assists. He will need to be at his best to help his team keep step with free-scoring Torino. Try the overs at 2.06.


Udinese 1.8, the draw 3.45, Verona 4.35

A disappointing first portion of the season ended on a brighter note for Udinese, who registered just their second away win of the campaign when they defeated Livorno 2-1. Better yet, they also got a first goal from 20-year-old Argentinian forward Nico López, signed on co-ownership from Roma in the summer. His emergence as a viable scoring threat would be a huge boost to a team that has struggled to connect ball with net now that age seems to be finally catching up to the 36-year-old Antonio Di Natale.

Verona are enjoying a tremendous season, but only five of their 29 points so far have come away from home. The odds on an Udinese win are slightly shorter than I would like, but that still looks like the right bet to me.


Lazio 2.45, the draw 3.3, Inter 2.75

Will Lazio even have a manager by the time this game kicks off?

Owner Claudio Lotito would like to cut ties with Vladimir Petkovic and bring back Edy Reja as his replacement, but is seeking to save himself the cost of a severance package by claiming legal ‘just cause’ for firing his incumbent. He is arguing that Petkovic unsettled the team by accepting a contract to take charge of the Swiss national team after this summer’s World Cup.

Unsurprisingly, Petkovic disagrees. And until the situation is resolved, Reja cannot formally take up his position. Suffice to say, it all adds up to an imperfect preparation for a challenging fixture against fifth-placed Inter.

The visitors have problems of their own, but at odds of 2.75, I will take the away win.