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 he previews the two Saturday games at AC Milan and Roma.
AC Milan v Juventus (5pm)
Massimiliano Allegri said he was disappointed Leonardo Bonucci would not be available to play this weekend and a cynic might suggest that is because the Juventus manager knows Milan will be harder to beat without their new captain.
The Rossoneri ended a four-game winless streak with a 4-1 rout of Chievo on Wednesday as Bonucci watched from the stands. It is wildly premature to start writing his time at Milan off as a failure – longer memories will recall the centre-back struggled when he first came to Juventus, too – but it is valid to observe the team produced one of its best performances of this season in his absence.
That is no accident. Bonucci is a world-class player but a young and hastily-assembled team has perhaps been too deferential – always looking to funnel the ball in his direction as they build out from the back and losing their shape as a consequence of his freestyling approach defensively as well. Without him on Wednesday the many other talents in this side began to express themselves a little more freely.
Whether they are capable of beating Juventus without him is another question entirely. The Bianconeri won by an identical 4-1 scoreline against Spal in midweek and suddenly are finding goals throughout the side – from Gonzalo Higuaín through to Daniele Rugani and Sami Khedira.
- Milan 2, Juventus 4 (55-1, Unibet)
- Dybala to score first (43-10, Unibet)
- Juventus to win (evens, Unibet)
Roma v Bologna (7.45pm)
In a normal season we would celebrate a Roma team that has won seven of its first nine games. But this is not a normal season. Despite such form the Giallorossi sit fifth and even three points from their game in hand would not pull them level with any team ahead of them.
To sustain a title challenge this season will require absolute consistency against mid-table sides, and Bologna fit into that category. Roberto Donadoni has built a conscientious and frugal team, but the Rossoblu were outplayed far more comfortably on their own patch by Lazio in midweek than the one-goal margin of defeat would suggest.
The scoreline may be close again here. Roma have not blown many teams away this season, their focus always on keeping things tight under Eusebio Di Francesco. He may feel some temptation to rotate players ahead of a Champions League clash with Chelsea, though options on that front were reduced after summer signing Rick Karsdorp suffered a cruciate ligament tear in his first Serie A start.
At least the latter player knows the medical staff are well-accustomed with handling such injuries. Roma players have suffered 13 separate cruciate injuries in the last three-and-a-half years, including three for Kevin Strootman and two for Alessandro Florenzi. Both will return to the starting XI on Saturday, after being rested in midweek – providing more reasons to believe that this understated Roma should keep on rolling.
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.