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 three key Sunday fixtures.
Inter v Torino (Sun 11.30am)
Another week, and another chance for Inter to go top of Serie A – at least briefly – after the schedule-makers assigned their fixture against Torino as this week’s Lunch Match. Unbeaten in 11 games, and free from the additional stresses of European football, the Nerazzurri will certainly hope to keep up the pressure on their fellow frontrunners.
Torino are intriguing opposition. At their best, the Granata are capable of ruffling anyone’s feathers with a forward line that features Adem Ljajic and the fit-again Andrea Belotti. M’Baye Niang has not yet made the impact that the Granata envisaged when they signed him from Milan in the summer, but his pace makes him a menacing prospect to introduce from the bench.
In theory, you might say that Inter are weakest at full-back, as well. Danilo D’Ambrosio is a so-so journeyman, while Yuto Nagatomo’s winsome optimism is not enough to mask technical deficiencies. And yet neither player has been exposed often this season, with Luciano Spalletti’s hybrid ‘three-and-a-half’ man defence making sure that the entire backline slides across whenever either man ventures forward.
There is a solidity to this Inter team which has not been present for many years. And an in-form Mauro Icardi ought to enjoy himself against a Torino defence that has not kept a clean sheet since facing Benevento at the start of September.
- Correct score: Inter 2, Tornio 0 (7-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Icardi (37-13, Unibet)
- Inter to score 2+ (23-50, Unibet)
Chievo v Napoli (Sun 2pm)
Defeat to Manchester City has left Napoli’s Champions League ambitions hanging by a thread, but it is the cruciate ligament injury sustained by Faouzi Ghoulam in that same game which might hurt them more.
The left-back has been his team’s most important player outside the front three, his hard-running and pinpoint delivery forcing opposing wingers onto the back foot and allowing Napoli to dictate the shape and tempo of a match.
Napoli’s success in replacing him may define how their season goes from here. In the immediate term, Elseid Hysaj is expected to swap over from right-back, with Christian Maggio replacing him in turn. But the latter is a fading force at 35 years old, and never really suited a back four at his peak. Mário Rui may eventually step in, but has so far played a total of three minutes since joining from Roma.
Can the Partenopei maintain their domestic momentum as they work to resolve this personnel riddle? I wouldn’t take it for granted. Chievo have lost their last two games by a combined 8-2 margin, but they had previously beaten Fiorentina at the Bentegodi, as well as drawing with Atalanta. Lazio required an 89th minute strike to win here, and would have had no grounds for complaint if the points had been shared.
It is no accident that those two recent defeats came during a stretch of three games in eight days, either. Chievo are one of Serie A’s older teams, their starting back four – Massimo Gobbi, Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini and Fabrizio Cacciatore – boasting an average age of 35-and-a-half years old. They approach this game, unlike those ones, with a full week of rest in their legs.
- Correct score: Chievo 1, Napoli 1 (8-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Valter Birsa (22-1, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (37-50, Unibet)
Fiorentina v Roma (Sun 2pm)
It speaks to the competitiveness of Serie A this season that Roma have won eight out of 10 games but still find themselves as backmarkers in a developing five-horse race for the Scudetto. Their 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea, though, offered evidence that they might still be improving under Eusebio Di Francesco.
The new manager has a vision of football that is premised on speed and opportunism, both of which could be found in the match-winning performance of Stephan El Shaarawy on Tuesday. Roma’s previous manager, Luciano Spalletti had often contended that the Italy forward could not be fielded alongside Diego Perotti, since both favour the left wing. It appears that he might have been mistaken.
Those two will have a crucial role to play once again at the weekend. With starting right-back Vincent Laurini sidelined by a muscle strain, Fiorentina will be forced to defend that flank with either the inconsistent Bruno Gaspar or a centre-back such as Germán Pezzella.
Fiorentina’s 2-1 defeat to Crotone last weekend, ending a run of three consecutive victories, served as a reminder that they are still a young team under development. Roma are not the finished article themselves, but they do have a good head-start.
- Correct score: Fiorentina 1, Roma 2 (8-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Diego Perotti (13-2, Unibet)
- Roma draw no bet (71-100, Unibet)
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.