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 two key Sunday games.
Torino v Inter (Sun 11.30am)
Inter have kept five consecutive clean sheets, their best such run in more than a decade. Now, if they could only remind Mauro Icardi how to stick the ball into an open net from three yards out then they’d be all set.
Yeah, OK, that might be a tiny bit harsh on a player who has scored 24 league goals this season. But the Argentinian’s profligacy did cost Inter a win in Wednesday’s Derby della Madonnina. Although a draw sufficed to put a nail in the coffin of Milan’s Champions League ambitions, it also stopped Inter from pulling clear of fifth-placed Lazio.
Better finishing might prove essential this weekend. Torino have burst to life in the past week, sticking four goals past both Cagliari and Crotone. Those are weaker opponents, for certain, but the fact Andrea Belotti scored three – and set up another two – along the way is significant. His has been a disappointing season but the talent remains, and a little dose of confidence might go a long way.
Still, Inter will back themselves. This team has been transformed by the introduction of Rafinha at No.10 and, perhaps as importantly, the switching of Marcelo Brozovic into a deeper-lying creative role. From his new spot, he is dictating games, much to his team-mates’ benefit.
- Torino 1, Inter 3 (14-1, Unibet)
- Icardi to score first (18-5, Unibet)
- Icardi to score any time (123-100, Unibet)
Verona v Cagliari (Sun 2pm)
On paper, Verona’s position does not yet look desperate. Yes, they sit 19th in Serie A with eight games left to play, but the gap to SPAL in 17th is only five points. There is time yet to pull off an escape.
And yet, it is hard to feel optimistic after three straight defeats by a combined 11-0 margin. The most recent was a 3-0 thrashing by last-placed Benevento. Verona’s president, Maurizio Setti, issued an ultimatum for manager Fabio Pecchia this week, stating that he expected his team to stay up “with this coach or another”.
How does a message like that affect a team’s preparations? Perhaps Setti was testing to see whether the players cared enough for Pecchia to deliver a reaction. In practice, though, the fear must be that his words will only add to the weight that they feel on their shoulders. This game against 16th-placed Cagliari already felt like a must-win.
The visitors are hardly in ideal shape. Their best centre-back, Luca Ceppitelli, is suspended, and so is another regular of their three-man defence, Marco Andreolli. But do Verona, whose anticipated starting attack of Alessio Cerci and Bruno Petkovic have two goals between them, have the weapons to take advantage?
- Verona 0, Cagliari 2 (19-2, Unibet)
- Pavoletti to score first (19-4, Unibet)
- Cagliari to win at least one half (27-50, 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.