Parma 3.5, the draw 3.4, Inter 2.0
It remains to be seen whether Parma will unleash their latest recruit against Inter on Wednesday night. Acaya the dog was spotted by the manager Roberto Donadoni wandering stray near the team’s hotel in Lecce last week, and subsequently adopted as a mascot – the club reporting in an official statement that he had “barked with joy” at their victory over Lecce. He will henceforth be housed and cared for at their Collecchio training ground.
“He brought us luck,” said the sporting director Pietro Leonardi, but the truth is that Parma didn’t really need any. Over the previous month the Ducali had already been riding the crest of a wave, winning four of five games to go from relegation candidates to a place in the top-half of the table. The win over Lecce left one or two at the club harbouring unlikely dreams of a place in Europe. “It is never wrong to dream,” insisted the team president Tommaso Ghirardi to RadioRai.
In truth it is hard to imagine Parma achieving such a goal, sitting as they do eight points outside the Europa League places with three games to go (though it is possible that ongoing match-fixing investigations could result in deductions for several top-flight sides this summer). But what is clear is that a fixture which has been presented as the easiest one left on Inter’s schedule will not be straightforward.
Inter’s unbeaten run since the appointment of Andrea Stramaccioni has garnered much attention in the Italian press – the Nerazzurri eradicating a 10-point gap to third place in the space of six games to draw level with Napoli, Udinese and Lazio. Yet while rather less words have been expended on it,
Parma have in fact enjoyed an even more productive run over the same spell – the win over Lecce taking their tally to 15 points from six games; Inter have made 14.
The key has not been the presence of any prosperity-powering pooch but instead the excellent form of players such as Sebastian Giovinco – who has contributed three goals and an assist in the last four games – and Roberto Donadoni’s increasingly confident rotation of his squad. The team which faced Lecce included six changes from the one that had beaten Palermo, but still reaped the same result.
It is no secret that Giovinco is the player that all Parma’s opponents must look to contain – he leads the team with both 13 goals and eight assists – but even with Walter Samuel returning to the side there is no guarantee that Inter will manage it. Indeed, Stramaccioni’s side have conceded the opening goal in four of his six games in charge (and one of the others was a 0-0 draw). If you fancy a first scorer bet, Giovinco would be a solid choice. Alternatively, take Parma as a team to register before Inter do at 2.3.
However, it is also true that Parma will be without their goalkeeper Antonio Mirante – who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a hand injury – while Inter should be close to full strength. The only question will be whether Stramaccioni chooses to rotate his side. Each of Júlio César, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder are just one yellow card away from being suspended for the weekend’s Milan derby.
Given such considerations, the price on Inter to win does seem rather short at 2.0. If you were hoping for a greater return then perhaps consider backing Inter to win having been level at half-time at 6.0 – a bet which takes into account the aforementioned tendency to concede first.