Chievo 2.40, the draw 3.20, Verona 3.20
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, the conversation is less about star-cross’d lovers than the cost of attending a football game. Tickets for Saturday’s Derby della Scala have been priced from €28 upwards, a figure which might seem modest to many English supporters, but which far exceeds the usual going rate for a match between two mid-table teams in the Veneto.
Hellas have sweetened the pill for their own fans by offering anyone who attends this game free tickets to their home fixture against Udinese next month. Chievo, meanwhile, have imposed a press silence. They are the ones whose top-flight status remains in jeopardy, and yet their recent form is not much different to that of their rivals. I might try the draw at 3.20.
Inter 1.38, the draw 4.65, Bologna 10.00
If Hector Cuper is to be believed, then Walter Mazzarri will not be manager of Inter for much longer. The Argentinian coach told reporters in Turkey on Thursday that the Nerazzurri were interested in bringing back Roberto Mancini.
If that is indeed the case, then it is hard not to feel sorry for Mazzarri – whose Inter side have played well lately but always find ways to let themselves down, whether it be hitting the woodwork more than any other team in the division or throwing away a two-goal lead against strugglers Livorno. They ought to win at a canter here but given their self-destructive tendencies, the draw does start to look a little tempting at 4.65.
Lazio 1.77, the draw 3.50, Sampdoria 5.25
Sinisa Mihajlovic will have to watch from the stands as Sampdoria take on his former club at the Stadio Olimpico. The manager received a two-game ban as punishment for his altercation with the fourth official during last week’s 0-0 draw with Fiorentina.
Despite that fact, I would consider Sampdoria in the double-chance market at odds of 2.02. Lazio’s performances have been highly inconsistent under Edy Reja and with leading Ultra groups once again planning to stay away from the stadium in protest against Claudio Lotito’s ownership, the Biancocelesti may not derive much benefit from playing at home.
Atalanta 1.82, the draw 3.4, Sassuolo 4.5
Not content with six wins in a row, Atalanta will seek to extend their club-record run by dispatching Sassuolo at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. You have to like their chances. Besides sitting 19th in the table, the visitors also arrive at this game on the back of three consecutive defeats. The only good news for Sassuolo is that their opponents will be missing several starters, including centre-back Guglielmo Stendardo, left-back Davide Brivio and perhaps also the forward Maxi Moralez. Even so, go for a home win at 1.82.
Cagliari 6.25, the draw 3.60, Roma 1.65
For the first time in a while, Roma have an opportunity to exert some real pressure on Juventus at the top of Serie A. Beat Cagliari on Sunday and they will – temporarily, at least – move to within five points of the league leaders, who do not play until Monday evening.
On paper that looks straightforward enough for Rudi Garcia’s side, but in practice they cannot afford to be complacent. Cagliari have won three of their last five home games, and unlike the Giallorossi did not have the additional strain of a midweek fixture. I like the overs here at 2.12.
Catania 2.60, the draw 3.20, Torino 2.85
Time runs ever shorter for Catania, who find themselves bottom of the table and six points adrift from safety with seven games left to play. Nothing about their recent form suggests a miracle escape. The Sicilians have collected just one point from their previous seven outings.
Torino themselves have slowed down over the last month and a half, slipping away from the Europa League places, but they are a markedly superior side, and will have Ciro Immobile back from suspension. I am not at all convinced that they should be the underdogs here, so try the away win at 2.85.
Fiorentina 1.72, the draw 3.50, Udinese 5.75
It is hard to talk about Udinese these days without mentioning Simone Scuffet, the 17-year-old goalkeeper who has kept six clean sheets in his first 10 professional games. Likewise, it is difficult to discuss Fiorentina’s prospects without honing in on their shortcomings up front, where injuries to Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez have blunted a once potent attack. The Viola have found the net just once in their last four outings.
The most logical thing to expect on Sunday, then, would seem to be a low-scoring fixture. At 1.85, the unders are worth considering.
Parma 3.10, the draw 3.30, Napoli 2.40
Parma’s run of 17 games without defeat has now given way to three losses inside a fortnight. Suffice to say that there are probably other teams they would rather be facing right now than third-placed Napoli.
That said, Parma have already beaten the Partenopei once this season – snatching a surprise 1-0 victory at the Stadio San Paolo in November. But with both Gabriel Paletta and Alessandro Lucarelli absent at the back, it is hard to imagine another clean sheet here. The away win is 2.40.
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