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 huge Saturday fixtures.
Lazio v Juventus (Sat 5pm)
On a weekend when Serie A’s top eight sides are all pitted against one another, we begin with third against second. Lazio and Juve can boast the two most prolific attacks in the division. Their two meetings so far this season have yielded eight goals and, more unexpectedly, two victories for the Biancocelesti.
A third could have major repercussions for the title race. The postponement of Juve’s game against Atalanta last weekend allowed Napoli to move four points clear at the top of the table. Even with a game in hand, allowing that gap to widen further would be a significant psychological blow.
To avoid such an outcome, Juve will need to do a better job of marshalling Ciro Immobile. Serie A’s top scorer has grabbed a brace against them in both meetings to date. The champions have, admittedly, made significant defensive improvements since – keeping 11 clean sheets in their last 12 Serie A games.
Juve, though, might be without their own first-choice centre-forward. Gonzalo Higuain was still training apart from his team-mates on Thursday as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, and with a Champions League last-16 second leg against Tottenham coming up, Massimiliano Allegri will not want to rush him back too soon. Mario Mandzukic started up front in his absence against Atalanta, but has not scored in two months.
Napoli v Roma (Sat 7.45pm)
The form book tells us Napoli ought to be comfortable favourites. Besides being top of the table, they have won 10 consecutive games in Serie A – a club record – and just put five past Cagliari. Roma were beaten at home by Milan last weekend, having lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League days earlier.
Although Cengiz Under has been a revelation, the lack of goals elsewhere in the Giallorossi’s front-line has become a major concern. Edin Dzeko has scored just three times in his last 15 appearances. Patrick Schick, the man signed as his long-term replacement, is yet to hit the mark in a league game.
It is not just the forwards, though, who have been subpar. With Radja Nainggolan, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman in the side, Roma ought to be dictating the tempo of games in midfield. That has not happened lately, though they have at least an opportunity to do better against Napoli – with Marek Hamsik’s status uncertain due to an illness.
We might note, as well, that Roma are strong travellers. They have lost one away game all season in Serie A, against Juve in Turin. This team has the quality to spring an upset. But does it have the confidence to deliver on it?
- Napoli 2, Roma 2 (14-1, Unibet)
- Kolarov to score first (35-1, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (19-25, 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.