Atalanta 2.4, the draw 2.25, Chievo 4.75
In a 20 team, three-points-for-a-win league, 40 points is the figure required to ensure safety. We know this to be true because that figure is cited endlessly as the target by managers, owners and pundits throughout the season – right up to the point where they realise that it might not be sufficient after all.
Atalanta find themselves in just such a position, having reached 40 points on Wednesday with a brilliant victory at Napoli, only for the achievement to be tempered by an awareness that Lecce’s suddenly improved form has generated fresh competition for places at the bottom of Serie A. Even Chievo, two points better off, might be experiencing a small wave of anxiety. Both teams would feel better with an extra point under their belts, so the goalless draw looks a decent bet.
Cagliari 2.25, the draw 2.75, Catania 3.8
For the second week running, Cagliari are obliged to play a home game 500 miles away from their home town – the club’s owner Massimo Cellino having their fixtures switched to Trieste in protest over the state of their communally-owned stadium, as well as the failure to reach agreement with local authorities on the construction of a new ground.
Neither side has travelled well this season, winning just five away games between them, and for both it will be a long trip to play in front of a mostly empty stadium. A draw may be the most likely outcome, but 3.8 is a good price for Catania, who despite losing their last two games have still been one of the league’s most in-form teams through the second half of this season.
Cesena 10.0, the draw 4.5, Juventus 1.33
Giorgio Chiellini felt compelled to remind his Juventus team-mates not to underestimate Cesena this week, but after going 32 games unbeaten it is hard to imagine them taking their eyes off the ball sufficiently to slip up against the worst side in the division. Although Chiellini’s fellow centre-back Leonardo Bonucci looks set to miss the fixture after breaking his nose against Lazio, a Juventus clean sheet might offer the best value against a team who have failed to score in seven of their last nine games.
Lecce 3.2, the draw 3.3, Napoli 2.2
You would think that a team which is sixth in the league after 32 games should be pretty confident of beating one that is 18th. Then again, you would also have thought that the latter team – Lecce – should probably not win away to a Catania side which had lost at home only twice all season, especially when they were trailing after 89 minutes.
Lecce’s own manager, Serse Cosmi, described his team’s late recovery in Wednesday’s game as “unthinkable for any rational person”. Rather less inconceivable is the notion that they could turn over a Napoli side who have collapsed since their Champions League elimination, failing to win any of their five Serie A fixtures since. At 1.64 in the double chance market, Lecce could be worth a punt.
Milan 1.28, the draw 5.0, Genoa 12.0
It would be easy to say that there’s no way Milan can lose this game, were it not for the fact that they did lose at home to a Fiorentina team who were below Genoa in the standings just last week. Seriously, though, there’s no way Milan can lose this game. With such short odds on a home win, however, you may be better off sticking your money on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score. Quite aside from the fact that he has done so 23 times in 26 games, statistics confirm the impression he is something of a flat-track bully, with a notably better scoring rate against mid-table and struggling sides than against the top ones.
Novara 4.15, the draw 3.3, Lazio 1.9
Lazio remain the favourites to claim Serie A’s third Champions League spot behind Juventus and Milan, though recently they have given the impression not so much of a team staggering across the finish line as one that has collapsed 10 metres short and is now relying on the hope that all its rivals retire hurt before they get the chance to overtake. Nineteenth-placed Novara have actually taken more points (8) than Lazio (6) from the last six games and the visitors must do without key players including the suspended Stefano Mauri and injured Miroslav Klose.
An upset is certainly not unthinkable, but a better bet might be over 2.5 goals for the match. That figure has been reached in nine of Lazio’s last 10 away games.
Palermo 2.25, the draw 2.85, Parma 3.65
Fabrizio Miccoli should return to the starting line-up for Palermo after being left on the bench for Wednesday’s goalless draw at Fiorentina on account of a knock sustained in the previous game, against Juventus. That being the case, this might be another game in which to take the over 2.5 goals – both because Miccoli is Palermo’s most consistent scorer, and for the fact that only two teams – Genoa and Novara – have worse defensive records away from home than Parma.
Roma 1.58, the draw 3.85, Fiorentina 5.5
Flakier than the pastry on the millefoglie sold inside the city’s ubiquitous pasticcerie, Roma have shown themselves in the last week to be just as capable of imploding against relegation-threatened opponents as they are of grinding out a victory against fellow Champions League aspirants.
This is a game they must win if they are to maintain hopes of catching city rivals Lazio in third place but while their home form is sufficiently strong to believe that they should do so, the scorers market may offer better value. Like Ibrahimovic, Roma’s top scorer Pablo Daniel Osvaldo has been most prolific against weaker teams, and will have his chances again on Sunday night.
Siena 2.15, the draw 2.65, Bologna 4.65
Siena have been one of the great revelations of 2012, with only four teams – Milan, Juventus, Lazio and, curiously, Lecce – having collected more points since the season’s midway point, while the manager Giuseppe Sannino also steered his team to the Coppa Italia semi-finals.
Neither they, nor Bologna, are yet assured of their top-flight survival, and it is easy to see both teams settling early for a draw, but a bet on under 2.5 goals might also make sense – given that more than 60% of both teams’ Serie A fixtures this season have featured two goals or less.