Milan 1.45, the draw 4.0, Parma 7.5
Adriano Galliani, the Milan vice-president, instructed the media to stop talking about Mario Balotelli on Wednesday. One can only presume he spent the rest of the afternoon in commanding the earth to cease its rotation. In the 15 days since signing for Milan, Balotelli has been snapped twice by the paparazzi partying into the small hours and rather more seriously, has also been caught driving without insurance – an omission noted only when he defied police instructions about parking illegally at an airport.
On the other side of the coin, he has also been playing rather well – his three goals in two games enough to make him, somewhat depressingly for Milan, already the club’s joint-third goalscorer. He’s available at 1.8 to score against Parma, and though those aren’t the most enticing of odds, they might be the best available in a game which Milan ought to win.
Chievo 2.15, the draw 3.2, Palermo 3.4
The last time Palermo won an away game, Balotelli was in nappies, footballs were made of pigs’ bladders and Augustus Caesar was emperor of Rome. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration (and a fairly significant warping of the time-space continuum) but the Sicilians really haven’t won on the road since last April. In fact, they haven’t won anywhere since November. Take the home win.
Roma 3.2, the draw 3.25, Juventus 2.2
So much for Celtic’s home-field advantage. Regardless of your feelings on their tactics at corners, Juventus’s victory over the Scottish champions in Glasgow on Tuesday night was an emphatic one. Now the only question is whether the enthusiasm generated by such a win can make up for any heavy legs as they prepare for second tricky away fixture in five days.
Roma’s interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli did not get off to the brightest of starts with a 3-1 defeat at Sampdoria last week. The manager’s criticism of Francesco Totti for failing to take a penalty the team were awarded in that defeat has caused a further stir. The talent in Roma’s starting XI is sufficient that they could always raise their game, but against such an unsettled backdrop I’m saying away win.
Catania 2.05, the draw 3.25, Bologna 3.65
Recent history between these two clubs does not favour Catania – who have lost four in a row in this series and were beaten 4-0 in the reverse fixture last September. They have also had players sent off in three of those four meetings, however, so the most important thing this weekend might just be to keep all 11 men on the pitch. Catania remain one of the strongest home teams in the division – with 12 points from 26 games at the Stadio Angelo Massimino, and I would back them again at 2.05.
Genoa 2.4, the draw 3.2, Udinese 2.9
This fixture – when played in Genoa – has not finished in a draw since 1989. It is also a match-up which has tended to produce goals – with 21 of them scored in the last five meetings at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Over 2.5 goals in the game is priced well at 2.05.
Napoli 1.4, the draw 4.5, Sampdoria 7.5
Fedele Limone will fill in for the suspended Sampdoria manager Delio Rossi at the Stadio San Paolo, though it is unclear who will take over responsibility for flipping the bird at passing opponents. Notwithstanding Rossi’s antics, Samp had been on a good run of late, losing just once since the turn of the year. Unfortunately a trip to Naples is likely to prove a rather taller order than anything they have faced so far.
Napoli might have taken a battering from Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League this week, but with a full-strength line-up for this fixture it’s hard to envisage a repeat. On the other hand, there isn’t much value in backing the home team and Samp’s Mauro Icardi is priced well at 5.25 to score at some point in the game. The 19-year-old, linked this week with a summer move to Inter, has seven goals in his last six games – and has shown he can do it on the big stage. Two of those strikes came in his team’s shock victory over Juventus in Turin.
Pescara 2.9, the draw 3.25, Cagliari 2.4
Pescara have been a defiantly difficult team to predict this season, beaten more often than not, but summoning impressive results in situations when they might be least expected – such as the 2-0 victory at Fiorentina at the beginning of last month. Cagliari arrive for this game fresh from an impressive performance against Milan – a 1-1 draw in which they were unfortunate not to get more – but with Daniele Conti, Daniele Dessena and Davide Astori all missing through suspension, they might struggle to repeat it. I’m tempted to go with the home team at 2.9.
Torino 2.1, the draw 3.2, Atalanta 3.55
Angelo Ogbonna returns to the Torino defence after two months out following his hernia operation, though it must be said they haven’t missed him too badly in the interim. Giampiero Ventura’s side boast the fourth-best defensive record in the division, having conceded just one more goal than Champions League-chasing Lazio and two fewer than Inter or Fiorentina. Against an Atalanta team who have failed to score in five of their 12 away fixtures already this season, I like the home clean sheet – priced at 2.4.
Fiorentina 2.05, the draw 3.35, Inter 3.55
A good win for Inter over Cluj in the Champions League was entirely overshadowed by the knee injury sustained by Diego Milito, whose entire career is thought to be at risk following a cruciate ligament tear. The team’s leading scorer despite having already missed several games with injury this season, Milito will be sorely missed by a team whose other main striking options – Rodrigo Palacio and Antonio Cassano – are both more comfortable in deeper-lying roles.
On the other hand, Fiorentina have not been playing well enough this calendar year to justify such short odds, and they have not beaten Inter in 15 attempts across all competitions. The draw, at 3.35, might be the way to go.
Siena 3.0, the draw 3.0, Lazio 2.5
Lazio have won just once in seven games between league, Coppa Italia and Europe, but for a study in resilience look no further than their performance against Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany on Thursday night. Vladimir Petkovic’s side had three penalties awarded against them and a man sent off but still rallied to snatch a point in injury time. Despite losing Miroslav Klose to injury, this team continues to battle and I expect them to start getting back on track this weekend with a win over a Siena team who would still only be 17th without their points deduction.