WE'VE sealed another stellar signing for the new campaign with Serie A don Paolo Bandini bringing his expertise to the site thanks to our partner Unibet.
Paolo is an Anglo-Italian sportswriter who pens a superb weekly Serie A column for the Guardian and his other credits include ESPN, the BBC and TalkSport as well as making regular appearances on the Football Weekly podcast.
He's a Trevi Fountain of knowledge and we're delighted to have him on board. Here he previews Saturday's big derby between Roma and Lazio as well as Napoli v Milan.
Roma v Lazio (5pm)
After the trauma of a World Cup play-off defeat, Italian football resumes with one of the biggest fixtures on its club calendar. The first Rome derby of this season pits fourth against fifth, with just one point separating the two sides and both very much in the hunt for Champions League places.
Will Radja Nainggolan be ready to feature for Roma? The midfielder was recalled to the Belgium squad last week for the first time since his summer spat with Roberto Martínez but sustained a groin injury and returned home without playing in either of his nation’s friendlies.
He told fans outside Roma’s training ground on Thursday he would try to play “even on one leg” but to that point had been working apart from his team-mates at Trigoria. The Giallorossi would certainly be weaker without him.
Nainggolan wins more tackles per game than any other starting midfielder for Roma and plays more key passes as well. His likely replacement, Lorenzo Pellegrini, is a promising young talent but less robust in the challenge – a factor that should not be underestimated on what will doubtless be another heated occasion.
Lazio are without Felipe Anderson but he has been absent all season. Their greater concern, voiced by captain Stefan Radu, regards the physical and mental condition of Ciro Immobile and Marco Parolo who each played the full 180 minutes of Italy’s play-off defeat.
Perhaps this will be an occasion to release pent-up frustrations but my hunch is they might return somewhat jaded.
- Roma 1, Lazio 0 (10-1, Unibet)
- El Shaarawy to score first (6-1, Unibet)
- Roma draw no bet (8-15, Unibet)
Napoli v AC Milan (7.45pm)
The most common criticisms of deposed Italy manager Giampiero Ventura related to his underuse of two Napoli players.
Lorenzo Insigne played just 15 minutes of Italy’s play-off against Sweden – and none of those in the second leg. Jorginho has been the key man in Napoli’s midfield for two years yet only made his competitive debut for Italy on Monday.
Both players will be to the fore this weekend as the Partenopei seek to maintain their hold on first place.
They stumbled just before the international break, drawing away to Chievo, and have a make-or-break Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk coming up in midweek but I expect a positive reaction.
Insigne’s fresh legs and pent-up frustration might both be a boon to his club side.
Milan have only beaten Napoli once in the last six seasons and that in the comfort of their own home.
Seventh in the table, with five defeats in their opening 12 games, this is hardly a moment when you would expect them to turn around such dismal head-to-head form.
That said the return of Giacomo Bonaventura from injury is well timed. His versatility is always an asset to manager Vincenzo Montella but the player is also one of few with happy memories of this ground.
Bonaventura scored his first Serie A goal at the San Paolo, back in 2012, and has added a further two strikes against the Partenopei since.
Anglo-Italian Paolo Bandini writes about Italian football for the Guardian and his tips appear here thanks to our football partner at MrFixitsTips, Unibet. They're making a big splash in the UK betting scene and if you join them today you can claim up to £30 in Welcome Bonuses when you deposit and place your first bet.