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 crucial Sunday games.
Bologna v Juventus (Sun 2pm)
Frustrated though they were not to make their domination count against Inter, Juventus can nevertheless feel good about emerging from a daunting week in strong shape.
They began this weekend just two points off first place, albeit with one more major hurdle to clear before Christmas in the form of a visit from Roma.
First, though, they need to take care of business against Bologna. And they need to do so without either Giorgio Chiellini or Gigi Buffon. Both players have missed games lately, yet Juventus have only once played without either of them during their current run of five consecutive clean sheets.
Buffon will be replaced by Wojciech Szczesny, whilst Daniele Rugani steps in at centre-back. These are capable players, but are they leaders in the same way as the men they replace? Juventus will rely on Mehdi Benatia to step up in the other centre-back spot, and on that front, they do have grounds for confidence. The Moroccan’s recent performances have been extremely impressive.
Bologna are a modest side, but they beat Sampdoria 3-0 at the Dall’Ara last month, and they have only once failed to score in a home game this season. Simone Verdi has quietly been enjoying an excellent season on the right of their attack, and his duel with Alex Sandro – expected to return to Juve’s starting XI after being dropped in recent matches – will be worth keeping an eye on.
- Bologna 1, Juventus 3 (11-1, Unibet)
- Verdi to score first (16-1, Unibet)
- Verdi to score any time (6-1, Unibet)
Atalanta v Lazio (Sun 7.45pm)
Ciro Immobile ended his mini-drought by scoring twice against Cittadella in the Coppa Italia on Thursday. Regrettably for Lazio, he won’t have a chance to build on that progress, since he is serving a league suspension for the red card he picked up against Torino.
This would be a tricky game even with their leading scorer. Atalanta might be flying a little lower than they did last season, but that is mostly just a reflection of their thin squad being stretched by continental competition. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have embraced the Europa League wholeheartedly, making that their priority and accepting a few dropped points domestically as a result.
With the group stages now complete, however, they are able to prepare for games such as this one on a full week’s rest. They have not lost at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia since a season-opening defeat to Roma in any case.
Lazio themselves arrive with the second-best away record in the division, having won seven out of eight games on their travels. But between the Immobile suspension and Atalanta’s more relaxed schedule, this feels like a sub-optimal moment to be arriving in Bergamo.
- Atalanta 2, Lazio 1 (8-1, Unibet)
- Cristante to score first (18-1, Unibet)
- Atalanta to score 2+ (11-10, 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.