WE'VE sealed another stellar signing for the season 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 crunch Sunday matches.
Verona v SPAL (2pm)
Is it already over for Verona? Six points adrift and with matches away to Milan and Juventus still to come the prospects are hardly encouraging.
This might be the last-chance saloon. SPAL have also slipped back into the relegation zone, sitting four points ahead in 18th place.
They are exactly the sort of opponent Verona should aspire to beat and yet the visitors enter this game as favourites. Not for superior talent – both sides are sorely lacking on that front – but simply because they are still fighting.
SPAL lost 3-0 to Roma last weekend but prior to that were eight games unbeaten. Their greatest problem lies up front, where Alberto Paloschi has failed to live up to billing, leaving too great of a scoring burden on the 33-year-old Mirco Antenucci.
The latter has put together a serviceable season but is on a dry run since mid-March and nobody else has picked up the slack.
Goals are also a problem for Verona, who have just two in their past seven games. The one thing Hellas do have going for them, however, is an improving record at home. They have won three of their last five at the Bentegodi and that fact does give me pause.
Fiorentina v Napoli (5pm)
Some Fiorentina fans might prefer to see their team lose this weekend. The Viola’s rivalry with Juventus has been a one-sided one down the years so the opportunity to help another team to end the Bianconeri’s sequence of six consecutive Serie A titles holds a certain appeal.
It is a situation that calls to mind Inter’s win away to Lazio in May 2010, a result which moved the Nerazzurri back above Roma at the top of Serie A. When the Nerazzurri took the lead, home fans at the Stadio Olimpico cheered enthusiastically.
That, though, was a very poor Lazio team with nothing left to play for. Fiorentina are still fighting for a Europa League place and one would hope their players do not share the fans’ mindset. They are coming off consecutive defeats but drew at the Stadio San Paolo in December and have taken points off Roma, Inter and Lazio as well.
They have, in Riccardo Saponara, one of Maurizio Sarri’s favourite players. The forward scored seven goals under the now Napoli manager back when they were working together at Empoli in 2014-15. He is yet to find the net this seaso but wouldn’t it just be the way things go, in football, for him to complicate his former boss’s life now?
- Fiorentina 2, Napoli 3 (22-1, Unibet)
- Saponara (15-1, Unibet)
- Fiorentina to score first (11-5, Unibet)
Torino v Lazio (7.45pm)
An injury to Marco Parolo has left Simone Inzaghi scrambling to adapt his midfield ahead of this weekend’s visit to Turin. The 33-year-old might not be the most eye-catching player in Lazio’s prolific ensemble, yet his hard graft underpins so much the team does well. Not by accident has he played more minutes this season than any outfield player besides Stefan de Vrij.
His absence is further complicated by a minor injury to Jordan Lukaku. Typically, one solution for Inzaghi would be to bring the Belgian in at left-back and slide Senad Lulic into Parolo’s spot in the middle.
If Lukaku is unable to recover in time for Sunday, then there will be at least some temptation to alter the formation into something much more attack-minded by drafting in Felipe Anderson.
In any case, Lazio need all three points, as the sprint for a top-four place goes down to the wire. Torino have realistically slipped out of contention for the Europa League but that does not mean they will be pushovers. Last week’s defeat at Atalanta was their first since March 18.
That said, they are missing a key component from their own midfield – Joel Obi still recovering from the muscle strain he sustained against Milan. The Nigerian’s ball-winning prowess in the middle of the park is important to this team – much as Parolo’s is to Lazio. Without either present, might we see a more open game?
- Torino 2, Lazio 4 (30-1, Unibet)
- Immobile to score first (17-5, Unibet)
- Immobile to score (Evens, 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.