Fiorentina 2.10, the draw 3.20, Udinese 3.55
After finishing third and securing a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds, Udinese’s directors celebrated in the only way they know how: by selling their best players. Samir Handanovic went to Inter, Mauricio Isla and Kwadwoh Asamoah to Juventus. In their place, as ever, has arrived a fresh batch of raw prospects for the manager Francesco Guidolin to develop.
Fiorentina, by contrast, have done a remarkable job of flushing away memories of their miserable 2012-13 campaign, creating new-found optimism with the appointment of Vincenzo Montella as manager and the subsequent signings of players such as Alberto Aquliani, Mattia Cassani, Borja Valero and Matias Fernandes.
With this fixture sandwiched between the two legs of Udinese’s Champions League play-off against Braga, Guidolin may be tempted to field a weakened team. As much as his teams have a habit of defying expectations in spots such as these, the home win looks tempting at 2.10.
Juventus 1.30, the draw 5.20, Parma 10.00
Juventus go into this game without their coach Antonio Conte – whose 10-month touchline ban was upheld by an appeal hearing this week – and also Gigi Buffon, after the goalkeeper suffered a thigh injury in training. It is nevertheless hard to imagine them slipping up at home to a team whose best player they re-signed over the summer.
It will be fascinating to see if Sebastian Giovinco starts against his former club, but if he does then a punt on him to score at some stage in the game would be tempting. He did, after all, score four goals in as many games against Juventus after they let him join Parma in the first place.
Atalanta 2.35, the draw 3.25, Lazio 3.00
Vladimir Petkovic was only appointed as Lazio’s manager in June, yet at one stage might have been wondering if he would even make it this far. Pre-season results ought always to be taken with a pinch of salt, yet patience was in short supply among Lazio’s fans as they stumbled through friendly defeats to Siena, Torino, Galatasaray and Getafe. Tensions were ratcheted up further by fights during another friendly against Salernitana.
Although Lazio have since won their first competitive game under Petkovic, against Mura 05 in the Europa League, it is easy to imagine such an atmosphere affecting the players, too. There were red cards in each of Lazio’s games with Atalanta last season, and odds of 3.75 on another in this game are worth considering.
Chievo 2.10, the draw 3.00, Bologna 3.80
These two teams performed above expectations last season, though it will be interesting to see how Chievo fare without Michael Bradley and Francesco Acerbi – sold to Roma and Milan respectively. Bologna for now retain the services of their own break-out star of last season, Gaston Ramirez, and could be decent value for an upset at 3.80.
Genoa 2.05, the draw 3.25, Cagliari 3.75
Just the six new faces in Genoa’s likely first-choice XI this season represents modest turnover by that club’s standards. The departure of their most prolific forward, Rodrigo Palacio, to Inter has been offset at least in part by the arrival of the 22-year-old Ciro Immobile, who scored 28 goals in Serie B for Pescara, but the greater concern is a defence which conceded 69 times last year.
Manager Luigi De Canio will hope that new signings Michele Canini and Nenad Tomovic will help to improve his side’s fortunes, but of equal significance this week may be the fact Cagliari have failed to score in eight of their last 10 away games. A Genoa clean sheet on Sunday is available at 2.60.
Palermo 3.00, the draw 3.15, Napoli 2.40
With Milan making cutbacks, Udinese undergoing their annual asset-strip and Inter coming off a season in which they barely scraped a Europa League place, Napoli might actually be the best-positioned of any side to challenge Juventus in Serie A this season. That does not mean, however, that they can rely on picking up three points at Palermo this weekend.
For starters the Partenopei will be without the suspended Goran Pandev and Juan Zuniga, as well as their manager Walter Mazzarri after all three were sent off during the team’s pre-season SuperCup defeat to Juve. And though they won this fixture last year, Napoli had previously not done so in more than 40 years. Palermo are worth a punt at 3.00.
Pescara 5.00, the draw 3.50, Inter 1.70
It would have been fascinating to see how the Pescara team that stormed to first place in Serie B last season – scoring 27 goals more than any other team in the division – would have fared in the top-flight. Sadly we will never find out, that side having since lost their manager Zdenek Zeman, both their starting centre-forwards and one of the most touted Italian midfield prospects for some time in Marco Verratti.
Inter, after making a number of astute signings, look to be headed in the right direction once more, but there is little value in the win market for this game, so instead consider backing Rodrigo Palacio to get his name on the scoresheet, as he did in Inter’s Europa League win over Vaslui on Thursday.
Roma 1.40, the draw 4.50, Catania 8.00
Though Pescara have been deprived of Zeman, thankfully the rest of the top-flight has not, the manager returning to Roma after 13 years away. The team he takes over are well-equipped to be among this season’s front-runners, having added Michael Bradley and Mattia Destro (albeit the latter only after selling Fabio Borini) but most importantly retained the services of Daniele De Rossi.
Zeman’s preference for high-tempo and direct attacking football is undiminished, and with Catania posting one of the worst defensive records in the league away from home last year, the obvious move would be to stake on a high-scoring affair. More than 2.5 goals feels like a safe bet, even if not a particularly lucrative one, at 1.60.
Siena 2.25, the draw 3.15, Torino 3.25
Torino boasted the tightest defence in Serie B last year, conceding just 28 goals. With both their manager, Giampiero Ventura, and the key members of that back-line still in place, they will be optimistic about their chances of stifling a Siena team that lost its most prolific forward with the sale of Destro to Roma. The odds on a Torino clean sheet look appealing at 3.40, or if you’re feeling brave take the goalless draw at 8.25.