Roma 1.18, the draw 7.0, Livorno 13.0
Livorno’s new manager nearly walked out on day one.
Attilio Perotti, a long-time servant of the club who had been operating as its technical director prior to the sacking of Davide Nicola this week, saw his introductory press conference interrupted by a group of 13 supporters, who forced their way in and accused him of bungling the team’s transfer strategy in his former role.
Perotti, who had a brief stint as caretaker in 2012, said he would need to sleep on his decision to take the job, but ultimately decided to stay on. He might wish he had been able to snooze through the whole week in order to skip this first game away to second-placed Roma. The Giallorossi should win comfortably, but it is hard to find value in such an imbalanced market. Perhaps consider 1/1 in the half-time/full-time market at 1.60.
Juventus 1.17, the draw 7.5, Sampdoria 14.0
Juventus remain eight points clear, but Carlos Tevez insists the Scudetto is not yet in the bag. “We still have some extremely difficult games left in the second half of the season,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We have to play away to Napoli, Roma, Lazio, Milan and Udinese. There is still stuff to sweat over.”
A home game against Sampdoria did not make his shortlist of tricky fixtures, and yet the Blucerchiati have been something of a bogey team for Juventus in recent years. The champions’ victory over these opponents in August was their first in six attempts, and Samp have still lost just one league game since Sinisa Mihajlovic was appointed as manager.
Whilst the most likely outcome here is clearly a Juventus win, odds of 4.9 make the visitors worth a punt in the double-chance market.
Udinese 2.3, the draw 3.2, Lazio 3.1
To mark the midway point of the season, Gazzetta dello Sport devised a graphic which divided all of Serie A’s teams into three separate categories. Those who had exceeded their expectations were placed in Heaven, those who had barely met them were in Purgatory, and the rest went straight to Hell.
Both Udinese and Lazio fell into this latter group. Sat 15th and ninth in the table respectively, both are falling a long way short of their goals to finish amongst the European places.
But at least the Biancocelesti have hope, the return of Edy Reja as manager giving the whole team a lift. Udinese, by contrast, just seem to be drifting. Lazio have not won away from home yet this season, yet I am tempted to back them here.
Atalanta 2.25, the draw 3.1, Cagliari 3.3
Can there be such a thing as an encouraging 4-1 defeat? Probably not, but if there were it might look something like the performance that Cagliari put in at home to Juventus last Sunday.
The Sardinians more than held their own for 70 minutes, before finally being undone by a combination of their opponents’ quality and their goalkeeper’s ineptitude. Antonio Adán, formerly the back-up to Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, only became eligible for selection this month after signing on a free transfer in November, and has not made the brightest of starts.
He will not face such an onslaught against a modest Atalanta team, but the hosts have won five out of nine games so far at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. I say they make it six out of 10.
Bologna 4.75, the draw 3.8, Napoli 1.7
Marek Hamsik is expected to make his first league appearance in more than two months for Napoli, returning at last from the foot injury that has kept him out since November. Lately his team has been getting on just fine without him. Three goals in as many games from Dries Mertens have helped to fuel the Partenopei’s perfect start to 2014.
Manager Rafael Benítez has mooted pulling Hamsik back into a deeper role in midfield at some point in the near future, but however the player is used on Sunday, Napoli should do just fine. Away win.
Catania 3.65, the draw 3.3, Fiorentina 2.05
It has been a busy transfer window already for Fiorentina, snapping up Anderson from Manchester United and Alessandro Matri from Milan. At time of writing, the former had not yet completed his medical, and was not expected to feature this weekend, but the latter could go straight into the starting line-up, filling the void left up front by injuries to Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gómez.
Catania, meanwhile, have a new manager at the helm. Or more accurately, an old one, Rolando Maran returning to a post that he held as recently as three months ago. He will be without the suspended Francesco Lodi this weekend however, against markedly superior opposition. Away win.
Chievo 2.9, the draw 3.1, Parma 2.5
Parma were knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Lazio on Tuesday, but in Serie A they have quietly put together an eight-game unbeaten run. Admittedly, five of those were draws, but they have won both of their last two after Amauri finally opened his account for the season.
Can they make it three out of three away to Chievo? Quite possibly. Eugenio Corini’s side, after all, have the worst home record in the league, and have not won since early December. But I am inclined to be a little more cautious and stick with the draw.
Genoa 3.85, the draw 3.3, Inter 2.0
Not once since returning to the top-flight in 2007 have Genoa beaten Inter. They face the Nerazzurri at a vulnerable moment on Sunday, Walter Mazzarri’s team collecting just one win from their last six games across all competitions.
But the Grifone are struggling too, the initial boost provided by Gian Piero Gasperini’s return as manager fizzling out before the end of November. The recovery of Alberto Gilardino from injury improves their prospects here, but the draw seems more likely to me than a home win.
Sassuolo 2.8, the draw 3.2, Torino 2.5
Beating Milan is all good and well, but more than anything Sassuolo need to show some consistency if they are to drag themselves away from the relegation zone. Prior to their Domenico Berardi-inspired success last weekend, the Neroverdi had lost five in a row between league and cup. Their greatest problems are at the back, where they have shipped a bewildering 41 goals in 19 Serie A games.
Torino, with Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile leading the way, are very capable of adding to that tally, but, despite a clean sheet against Fiorentina last weekend, their own defence is also porous. Go with the overs at 1.96.
Milan 1.45, the draw 4.45, Verona 7.25
Upon returning to Milan this week, Clarence Seedorf said he felt as though he had never truly been away. And on Thursday he behaved like it, too, hosting his first training session as manager but joining in with the drills himself as though he were still one of the players. It is too soon to say what impact he will have on this team – we do not even know for sure what formation he will use on Sunday – but it will certainly be interesting to watch.
He ought not to take this first game lightly, however, against a Verona side who sit 10 points clear of Milan in the table, and who have already beaten the Rossoneri once this season. In the context of both of those facts, odds of 2.65 on Verona in the double-chance market look appealing.
Read Paolo Bandini's Serie A tips every week