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 are his unmissable previews and tips for this weekend's Serie A action:
Genoa v Juventus, Saturday 5pm
Juventus supporters could be forgiven for letting their minds stray ahead to the return of Champions League football, after they were pitched together with Barcelona in the group stage draw.
club’s players, however, will need to stay focused on the task at hand as they travel to the Marassi – where they have lost two of their past three encounters with Genoa.
They were not so much beaten as overrun there last November, outfought and outgunned in a 3-1 defeat. The good news for Juve is that Genoa have since sold Giovanni Simeone – the man who scored the first two goals back then. The bad news is that the Grifone retain the services of Goran Pandev. He might be a fading presence at 34 years old, but the Macedonian has struck seven times against the Bianconeri in his career.
Still, if Juventus stay switched on then they ought to win. This has been a difficult summer for Genoa, who were already short on goals before they sold Simeone – their only player to reach double figures last season. They looked like a team still struggling for an identity during a goalless stalemate with Sassuolo on the opening weekend.
The reigning champs, by contrast, slipped comfortably through the gears as they routed Cagliari. Blaise Matuidi made a confident debut off the bench, and it has been reported that both he and Douglas Costa could make their first starts here. But it was a familiar trio – Gonzalo Higuaín, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic – who got the goals, and the former has punctured opponents such as these all too regularly since arriving in Serie A back in 2013.
- Score prediction: Geona 0, Juventus 2 (6.50, Unibet)
- First goal prediction: Higuain (3.45, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Wincast: Higuain to score and Juve win (2.14, Unibet)
Roma v Inter, Saturday 7.45pm
Not since October 2008 have Inter won away to Roma in Serie A. If that date alone does not provide adequate context, then how about the fact their goals were scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Dejan Stankovic and Victor Obinna?
The tides have turned for both teams since. Inter conquered Europe in 2010 but subsequently fell away so dramatically that they have failed to even qualify for continental competition in three of the last five years. Over the same stretch, Roma rose to establish themselves as Juventus’s most consistent rivals for the Scudetto.
But are we about to witness another shift? There is an air of frustration at Roma after a summer in which they have struggled to land big-name transfer targets. Inter, by contrast, can feel a fresh wind of optimism blowing through following the arrival of Luciano Spalletti. Early days it may be, but his team were scintillating at times in their 3-0 rout of Fiorentina.
This will be a far greater test. Can the newly formed centre-back partnership of Miranda and Milan Skriniar marshal last season’s capocannoniere, Edin Dzeko? They certainly excelled in preseason – giving up just two goals in six games against Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Schalke, Lyon, Villarreal and Betis. But how much stock should we really put in friendlies?
For all the questions surrounding this Roma team, the midfield trio of Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi remains one of the most formidable in Europe. Their performance against Atalanta, though, was unconvincing even in victory.
- Score prediction: Roma 1, Inter 2 (10.50, Unibet)
- First goal prediction: Icardi (5.80, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Both teams to score (1.48, Unibet)
SPAL v Udinese, Sunday 7.45pm
Newly-promoted SPAL are making a splash. Since claiming an impressive point away to Lazio, they have followed up by signing Marco Borriello away from Cagliari and nabbing Federico Bonazzoli on loan from Sampdoria. The latter was highly touted when he made his senior debut for Inter at 16 but has yet to nail down a starting role anywhere in the four years since.
Throw in Alberto Paloschi – signed on loan from Atalanta earlier in the summer – plus Sergio Floccari who joined in January and scored seven times to help the club secure its promotion and this team can boast more firepower than many more established sides. Borriello is expected to go straight into the starting XI on Sunday.
Udinese were beaten by Chievo last weekend and, dating back to last season, have lost four consecutive games away from home. An injury to Switzerland wing-back Sylvan Widmer deprives them of dynamism and drive down the right flank, while starting centre-forward Kevin Lasagna is yet to demonstrate that he is capable of leading the line for a top-flight side.
The Stadio Paolo Mazza is one of Serie A’s smallest, with a capacity of just over 13,000, but you can be sure that the crowd there will also play their part. SPAL lost just twice on their own patch last season, outscoring opponents there by 40 goals to 18.
- Score prediction: SPAL 1, Udinese 0 (7.50, Unibet)
- First goal prediction: Borriello (5.0, Unibet)
- Safe bet: SPAL draw no bet (1.74 Unibet)
Napoli v Atalanta, Sunday 7.45pm
Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and only one conceded. Napoli have started this season much as they finished the last one – sweeping opponents away with their dazzling brand of attacking football.
Better yet, they demonstrated in their victory over Verona that they can maintain such momentum even when Arkadiusz Milik steps in to replace Dries Mertens at the top of the attack.
The Belgian is expected to get the nod this Sunday, against an Atalanta side who beat Napoli twice in 2016-17. The Bergamo club have bid farewell to several important players over the summer but were unfortunate to lose to Roma last weekend – undone only by a crafty Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick in a match they otherwise dominated.
Still, the challenge here will be far greater. Roma are still finding their feet under a new manager, where Napoli are a finely-tuned machine. They are still prone to lapses at the back, and it would not be a shock to see Papu Gomez or Andrea Petagna get off the mark for the visitors. But I expect the hosts to prevail.
- Score prediction: Napoli 3, Atalanta 1 (10.50, Unibet)
- First goal prediction: Mertens (4.60, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Napoli win and both teams to score (2.75 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.