Catania 2.0, the draw 3.3, Udinese 3.75
The election of the Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope of the Catholic Church went down well in Catania. Not only do the Sicilian side boast ten Argentinian players in their first-team squad (more, you won’t be surprised to hear, than any other team in the division) but three of them – Pablo Barrientos, Gonzalo Bergessio and Alejandro Gómez – used to play for San Lorenzo, the team that the Pope himself supports.
Will this turn of events prove to be a good omen for Catania as they seek to get their European challenge back on track after consecutive defeats to Inter and Juventus? Maybe, but they are good enough at home not to require divine intervention in any case. They should win here.
Bologna 5.5, the draw 3.55, Juventus 1.65
With victories over Inter, Fiorentina and Cagliari in their last three games, Bologna have every reason to feel good about themselves. Although there were some doubts over the fitness of the team’s leading goalscorer, Alberto Gilardino, early in the week, he now looks set to play, and this team is certainly capable of giving Juventus – less than convincing at home to Catania last week – a tricky evening. I’m going for over 2.5 goals, however, at 1.85. That figure has been reached in five of Bologna’s last six home games.
Siena 2.35, the draw 3.1, Cagliari 3.1
For the first time in a long time, Siena have a glimmer of hope, courtesy of their win over fellow strugglers Palermo. Just two points now separate them from Genoa in 17th place, though to make further progress this weekend they would have to overcome a Cagliari side which has only lost once in 2013. Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, my money would once more be on Siena’s Innocent Emeghara to get a goal. His strike against Palermo was his fifth in sixth starts for the club, and he is available at 2.65 to score again on Sunday.
Milan 1.25, the draw 5.75, Palermo 11.0
When Barcelona eliminated Milan from the Champions League a year ago, the Rossoneri followed up by losing their next league game, at home to Fiorentina, 2-1. Previously top of the league, Milan were leapfrogged by Juventus and never recovered, finishing four points behind the Bianconeri.
This season Milan are chasing a Champions League berth, not a championship, but there is similarly little room for error. Fortunately for the Rossoneri, their opposition this week should be rather more amenable than Fiorentina were. Palermo sit joint-bottom of the table and haven’t won away from home all season. Consider Milan with a one-goal handicap at 1.72.
Fiorentina 1.4, the draw 4.3, Genoa 8.0
Genoa have failed to score in any of their last four meetings with Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, and there is every reason to believe they will do so again this time around. Fiorentina boast the second-best home record in the league, while Genoa have found the net just nine times in 14 away games. The home clean sheet is priced reasonably enough at 1.95.
Napoli 1.5, the draw 4.0, Atalanta 7.0
All is not well in Naples. Edinson Cavani has not scored in eight games, but while everyone dwells on that statistic, rather less attention has been paid to the corresponding droughts of his attacking team-mates. Lorenzo Insigne hasn’t scored since 13 January, while there were still two months left to run on the Mayan calendar when Goran Pandev last found the net. So while Napoli ought to get back to winning ways against an Atalanta team which sits 14th in the table, it is hard to feel confident in the Partenopei. The draw, at 4.0, is probably worth a shot.
Pescara 2.85, the draw 3.25, Chievo 2.45
Christian Bucchi’s bright start to life as Pescara manager lasted all of 34 minutes. That was how long it took his team to take and then surrender the lead last week against Atalanta, en route to an eventual 2-1 defeat. Pescara will need to start showing greater resilience in the very near future if they are to avoid relegation. Presently they sit five points adrift of 17th-placed Genoa. Chievo themselves, though, were on a pretty miserable run of form prior to last week’s home win over Napoli, and have the third-worst away record in the division. I am tempted by the home win at 2.85.
Sampdoria 2.4, the draw 3.2, Inter 2.95
Inter came within inches of pulling off one of the all-time great comebacks on Thursday, Esteban Cambiasso pulling his shot just wide of the far post in the 92nd minute of their Europa League tie against Tottenham. Instead the game at San Siro went to extra-time, eventually finishing 4-1 to Inter on the night but 4-4 on aggregate – with the English side progressing on away goals. While the performance ought to lend Inter fresh confidence, the most immediate impact will be to leave them exhausted ahead of a difficult game in Genoa. I like the home win.
Roma 1.55, the draw 3.9, Parma 6.0
There will be no spot on the Roma board for Adnan Al Qaddumi, the sheikh whose funds turned out to be fake - or at least unproven. Al Qaddumi’s failure to provide the club with concrete evidence of his finances forced them to pull the plug on a mooted sale of shares, leaving Roma’s American owners back at square one in their search for fresh investment.
Still, the team has been faring rather better on the pitch in recent weeks, collecting ten points from the last four games. Parma were struggling badly prior to last week’s 4-1 rout of Torino, and have avoided defeat only once in their last 12 meetings with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. The Giallorossi have outscored opponents 17-6 in the first halves of their home games this season, so back them to lead at half-time and full-time at 2.45.
Torino 2.4, the draw 3.15, Lazio 3.0
Another triumphant week for Lazio in Europe, but their hopes of a top-three finish in Serie A are fading fast. The Biancocelesti have won just once in their last eight league games, and scored only three times in their last five. At one point this season that would have looked an especially troubling statistic against a Torino defence that was among the league’s best, but the Granata too have been erratic of late. This is a gut feeling, rather than a calculated judgement, but I think this could be the game where Lazio get back to winning ways. Away win.
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