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 Saturday's two matches.
Sampdoria v Torino (5pm)
No Fabio Quagliarella? No problem, apparently, for Sampdoria, who took four points off Roma in five days without their leading scorer. Now he is back, and perhaps his team is too.
Samp took just one point from a five-game stretch running from late November through most of December, yet they never slipped below sixth and remain on course for a Europa League berth. With Roma and Inter still in freefall, that might not be the limit of their ambitions.
As admirably as they coped without Quagliarella, his return is most certainly a boost – and all the more so against one of his former teams. He scored the final equaliser during a 2-2 draw between these sides in Turin. Duván Zapata scored that day, too, and will be looking to get a little momentum of his own going after ending a six-game drought last weekend.
But Torino have changed managers since that first meeting, and the early indications are that they might be a different proposition with Walter Mazzarri in charge. He is unbeaten since taking over early this month, with a pair of 3-0 wins already under his belt despite injuries to Andrea Belotti and Adem Ljajic.
Both men are in contention for this game, and Belotti did make a late cameo in last week’s rout of Benevento. Given the impressive performances of M’Baye Niang, a Mazzarri favourite, through the middle of the attack, however, it would be a surprise to see them deployed off the bench here.
Inter v Crotone (7.45pm)
Where does it end for Inter? I was convinced that they would break their winless run away to SPAL last weekend, and I was wrong. The Nerazzurri were no better than the scoreline indicates in that 1-1 draw, taking the lead through an own goal and rarely threatening to build on their advantage before finally being pegged back in the 90th minute.
Hopes that they might reinforce a listless attack during the January transfer window would prove to be in vain. Fans had been tantalised by talk of bids for Nico Gaitan or Daniel Sturridge, but in the end the Nerazzurri could not even find agreement on a loan deal to bring Javier Pastore over from Paris Saint-Germain.
An already thin attack may be stretched even thinner this Saturday, with Mauro Icardi’s availability uncertain due to a thigh injury. There have been reports of off-field distractions for the player, too, after he appeared to unfollow his wife and several team-mates on Instagram.
And so it might be Eder, a player who has scored once in 17 appearances, leading the line this time out. Crotone are struggling down in 17th, and the 25 goals they have conceded away from home are joint-most of any team in Serie A. Inter should still win, but I cannot honestly say that I trust them to do so.
- Inter 1, Crotone 1 (17-2, Unibet)
- Trotta to score first (15-1, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (9-10, 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.