Napoli 2.8, the draw 3.3, Juventus 2.5
Last call for the Serie A title race. For second-place Napoli to maintain any real hopes of claiming the Scudetto, they would almost certainly have to beat the league leaders on Friday at the Stadio San Paolo. The Partenopei sit six points behind Juve, having lost the previous meeting 2-0 in Turin. Head-to-head records are used as the first tie-breaker in Serie A, so even a draw this weekend would effectively increase the visitors’ advantage.
Unfortunately for Napoli, winning is not something they have done a lot of lately. The last five games in all competitions have yielded three draws and two defeats, and worryingly just a single goal. Edinson Cavani has not found the net since January, and his team have suffered accordingly. Juventus could be without Giorgio Chiellini – still recovering from a minor ankle injury – and have not won in Naples since 2000. But I think they are good value for the draw at 3.3.
Milan 1.67, the draw 3.65, Lazio 5.1
Stephan El Shaarawy extended his contract through to 2018 on Thursday, as Milan continued the process of locking down their emerging young stars to long-term deals. The long-term future of the club looks increasingly bright, but the team has high hopes for the short-term, too. Their one source of anxiety ahead of Saturday’s game against Lazio is that El Shaarawy has also been laid low this week with a fever.
Lazio’s form has been poor in 2013 and last week’s win over Pescara was their first in six league games, yet the odds on Milan seem too short. Vladimir Petkovic’s team are too good to be considered such large underdogs, and I would consider them in the double chance market at 2.14.
Torino 2.0, the draw 3.3, Palermo 3.8
Once more unto the breach for Gian Piero Gasperini, restored as Palermo manager a mere 19 days after being fired. He returns to find his team still rooted to the foot of the Serie A table. A trip to Torino does not quite equate to the siege of Harfleur, yet just like Henry V’s troops, his men are engaged in a desperate battle for survival.
This is precisely the sort of game which Palermo must take points from if they are to escape the relegation zone, yet their prospects do not look good. The Sicilians have not won any of their last 17 away games in Serie A. In the club’s history, they have recorded only one win away to Torino – losing 15 of the remaining 18 encounters. Take the home win at even money.
Bologna 2.15, the draw 3.2, Cagliari 3.4
Welcome to Serie A, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos – the Greek midfielder whose name is already giving Italian journalists fits after he marked his Bologna debut with a winning goal against Fiorentina last week. In this fixture, I would sooner put my money on a goal for Marco Sau – who has four in as many games for a Cagliari team that is undefeated in seven. He is available at 3.25 to score at some point in the game.
Catania 2.4, the draw 3.25, Inter 2.9
The John Carew to Inter story ended as swiftly as it had begun. The Norwegian forward, shockingly enough, turned out not to be in especially good shape after almost a year away from football, and in the end Inter sent the player home before he had even completed his one-week trial.
But as flawed as that move plainly was, Inter have still not resolved the problems that led them to contemplate it. With Diego Milito ruled out for at least the rest of this season, the only out-and-out striker on the team’s books is the 35-year-old Tommaso Rocchi. The manager Andrea Stramaccioni’s reluctance to start the player even in such circumstances speaks volumes. Inter are a flawed team, while Catania are on the rise. Back the home team to win, leapfrogging the Nerazzurri in the standings as they do so.
Fiorentina 1.4, the draw 4.2, Chievo 8.25
Chievo have collected nine points away from home all season, while Fiorentina have lost only once at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. I expect this game to go with the form book, but as there’s not much value to be had on the home win, try the Fiorentina clean sheet at even money.
Pescara 3.4, the draw 3.25, Udinese 2.15
Is Antonio Di Natale finally beginning to slow down? The forward is without a goal in is six games and at 35, Udinese’s supporters know their idol cannot go on forever. A more immediate question is how they can make up for such a shortfall; so far they have struggled – failing to score as a team in half of those six games. Given that the Friuliani were already poor travellers, the home win might be good value at 3.4.
Sampdoria 2.25, the draw 3.0, Parma 3.4
Two teams with identical points tallies, but moving in very different directions. Sampdoria have lost just once in eight games. Parma have not won in seven. Roberto Donadoni’s side may also have to do without their best centre-back, Gabriel Paletta, after he limped out of training on Thursday. The home win is the obvious choice at 2.25.
Siena 2.3, the draw 3.3, Atalanta 3.0
A heavily rotated Siena team put in a creditable performance in their 1-0 friendly defeat to Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. While the manager Beppe Iachini will take pride in his team’s efforts, that game matters little compared to this Sunday’s visit from Atalanta. With six points separating 18th-placed Siena from their 16th-placed opponents, this is a fixture with potentially huge significance in the battle to avoid relegation.
Iachini is expected to stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation used in Siena’s 3-0 defeat to Juventus, with Innocent Emeghara once again leading the line. The forward had scored in every one of his three games for the team before last weekend, and I would back him at 2.6 to get back on the scoresheet here.
Roma 1.5, the draw 4.25, Genoa 6.0
Reports that prospective investor Sheikh Adnan Al Qaddumi would like to make Walter Mazzarri the next manager of Roma cannot have thrilled the caretaker Aurelio Andreazzoli – who has steered the team to victories over Juventus and Atalanta over the last two weeks. While the club awaits firm evidence of the Sheikh’s funds, Andreazzoli will seek to persuade the existing directors that they have no need for an outside appointment.
Genoa’s form has improved of late and especially in defence – the club keeping three consecutive clean sheets. They will not get a fourth here, but a low-scoring game seems eminently possible. Try under 2.5 goals at 2.25.