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.
Napoli v Fiorentina (Sun 2pm)
It is not the fact of a defeat to Juventus, nor even that to Feyenoord in the Champions League five days later, that will worry Napoli supporters so much as the way that a once prolific attack has gone off the boil.
The Partenopei were averaging three goals per game earlier this season, but have managed just seven in their last six outings. Before being shut out by Juventus, they also got blanked by Chievo.
Maurizio Sarri finally allowed Lorenzo Insigne a rest in midweek, with the winger showing clear signs of fatigue after playing in 60 consecutive games. But what of Dries Mertens, who has appeared similarly jaded? The Belgian has scored only once in his last seven appearances.
Sarri did not sound like a man preparing to change tack when he told reporters this week that: “managing a squad does not mean giving the same minutes to every player. If somebody who is playing a lot of games feels tired, but he is better than the other guy, who is well rested, then the one who is better will still play.”
Fiorentina’s talented but brittle group of youngsters should not be capable of upsetting Napoli at this stage in their development, yet it is hard to feel totally confident of the hosts at this moment in time. Sarri suggested that his team had switched off against Feyenoord after they learned that Manchester City were losing to Shakhtar Donetsk – taking Champions League progress out of their hands. Are they mentally strong enough to immediately flick back on?
- Napoli 2, Fiorentina 1 (7-1, Unibet)
- Thereau to score first (10-1, Unibet)
- Fiorentina +1.5 Asian handicap (19-25, Unibet)
Milan v Bologna (Sun 7.45pm)
So much for the hope that Milan might experience a new manager bump with Rino Gattuso. After allowing Benevento their first point of the season, the Rossoneri followed up by losing 2-0 to Rijeka in the Europa League. The latter fixture was a dead rubber, but for a club of Milan’s resources to fail to register a single shot on target was hardly encouraging.
Gattuso continued to bang a familiar drum afterwards, talking about a need for his players to show more desire and respect for the shirt. But he has given scant evidence so far of knowing how to devise a tactical plan superior to those of his predecessor, Vincenzo Montella. Developments off the pitch are no more encouraging, as the club struggles to reach agreement with UEFA regarding its Financial Fair Play obligations.
It is one more distraction that players could do without before their game against Bologna. The two teams sit level on 21 points from 15 games. This despite a disparity of €185m in their respective summer spends.
Bologna have had the same manager, Roberto Donadoni, since October of 2015. Gattuso is the fourth man to lead Milan since then. If his first two games in charge are anything to go by, there may yet be a fifth before the season’s end.
- Milan 1, Bologna 1 (13-2, Unibet)
- Verdi to score first (15-1, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (17-20, 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.