Napoli 1.28, the draw 5.0, Chievo 11.0
These are confusing times for Napoli fans.
On the one hand, their team seems to have improved under Rafael Benítez. If the Partenopei maintain their present pace, they will end the season with 82 points – four more than they managed en route to a second-place finish last year. And yet, with Fiorentina nipping at their heels, that same figure might not even be enough to guarantee them third this time around.
Hence the concern over the team’s draw against Bologna last weekend, a result that allowed the Viola to close to within three points. Napoli ought to avoid a similar slip-up here, especially with new-signing Jorginho arriving to reinforce the midfield, but the enduring absence of Pepe Reina makes them that little bit more vulnerable at the back. Try the overs at 1.77.
Lazio 5.0, the draw 3.5, Juventus 1.72
It speaks to Juventus’s dominance in Serie A this season that Miroslav Klose did not even bother to suggest his team could win this game.
“We need to find our rhythm, win the one-on-one duels, get a little bit of luck and maybe we could even grab a draw,” the Lazio striker told reporters on Thursday. “We don’t want to concede four goals again.”
That is what happened the last time these two teams met, but things should go at least a little differently this time around. Lazio are playing better now under Edy Reja than they were back then under Vladimir Petkovic, and they are also back at their own home stadium, where they have only lost twice all season.
But it remains as difficult as ever to look past this Juve team that has dropped just four points so far. Away win.
Verona 5.0, the draw 3.4, Roma 1.75
As greatly as Verona exceeded expectations during the first half of this season, this was always likely to be prove a challenging spell.
After losing to Napoli and Milan in their last two games, they now face Roma and Juventus either side of an away trip to Sassuolo. Emerging from this run with anything more than a couple of points might be viewed as a triumph, especially after selling Jorginho.
Verona will at least have Luca Toni back in the side this weekend after he missed last week’s game against Milan with a virus, but I will take another away victory.
Cagliari 4.2, the draw 3.3, Milan 1.9
The enthusiasm generated by Clarence Seedorf’s appointment as Milan manager was quickly doused by a Coppa Italia defeat to Udinese on Wednesday night. If the Rossoneri are to qualify for Europe this season they will need to buck their ideas up in the league, and fast.
They do at least have a good chance to get back to winning ways here against opponents who have not beaten them in 21 attempts. Cagliari must also do without forwards Nenê, Victor Ibarbo and Mauricio Pinilla, leaving manager Diego López with little choice but to abandon his usual two-man attack. The odds are appealing enough for me to take the away win once again.
Inter 1.36, the draw 4.6, Catania 8.25
Fredy Guarín thought he might be playing for Juventus this weekend. The midfielder had already agreed terms on a contract when he learned that the exchange deal that was supposed to send him to Turin in return for Mirko Vucinic had been abandoned by Inter in the face of furious protests from their fans. He was subsequently granted two days off to get his head straight, but returned to training after just one.
He could go immediately back into the team against Catania, but either way this is a must-win game.
Inter, who have recorded just a single league victory in the last two months, cannot afford to slip up again at home to opponents who sit joint-last in Serie A. I do not think they will. Back Inter to be winning at half-time and full-time at even money.
Livorno 2.3, the draw 3.2, Sassuolo 3.1
Livorno won 4-1 when these two newly-promoted teams met back at the start of this season, but since then it has been Sassuolo who enjoyed the greater success. The emergence of Domenico Berardi as a consistent scoring threat helped propel them to wins over Bologna, Sampdoria, Atalanta and Milan, as well as surprising draws away to Roma and Napoli.
But the goals have dried up lately for Sassuolo, who have failed to find the net in five of their last six Serie A games. Livorno likewise have been held scoreless in seven of their last nine. Suddenly under 1.5 goals starts to look an attractive proposition at odds of 2.95.
Parma 1.95, the draw 3.2, Udinese 4.0
Could that cup win over Milan kick-start Udinese’s season? The Friuliani certainly needed something to lift the mood after losing five of their seven most recent Serie A games. A team that is more accustomed to fighting for Europe has now recognised that its first priority must simply be avoiding relegation.
My bet here would be on the overs at 2.06. Udinese have conceded three goals in each of their last three games, but they might soon be doing some damage at the other end of the field, too, as Luis Muriel returns to full fitness up front.
Sampdoria 1.8, the draw 3.4, Bologna 4.5
Alessandro Diamanti’s time at Bologna appears to be drawing to a close, as the Italian club work out the finer details of his €9m sale to Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
With or without him, the Rossoblu were always in for a tricky afternoon against a Sampdoria team that dropped just four points in its last five games at the Marassi. Home win.
Torino 1.78, the draw 3.4, Atalanta 4.6
The list of Italian strikers making a late case for inclusion in Cesare Prandelli’s World Cup squad seems to grow longer by the week, but Torino’s Ciro Immobile probably does deserve to get his first call-up to the senior national team after scoring five goals in his last four games and 10 so far this season.
He found the net once in front of the Italy manager at Sassuolo last weekend, and I would consider backing him to do so once more against opponents who are missing a large part of their first-choice defence through injury and suspension.
Fiorentina 1.38, the draw 4.5, Genoa 8.0
Fiorentina’s last five league games have yielded 13 points, eight goals scored and not a single one against.
The arrival of Alessandro Matri has helped to fill the void left by long-term injuries to Mario Gómez and Giuseppe Rossi up front, but it is the team’s defensive performance that is most striking when you consider the Viola’s consistently attacking approach. I might get behind the home team to win without conceding at 2.1.