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 three key Sunday games.
SPAL v Inter (Sun 11.30am)
If the rot is going to stop anywhere for Inter, then surely it must happen here. The Nerazzurri are without a win in six league games, their Scudetto ambitions buried underneath an avalanche of draws, but theirs has not been the easiest run of games. They have faced Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma during this winless stretch.
SPAL have taken one point all season off teams currently in Serie A’s top seven (and that on the opening weekend). Nor has their Stadio Paolo Mazza been any kind of fortress. The Biancazzurri have conceded 11 goals in their last four games at home, including two to Serie B side Cittadella in the cup.
The goals have not come easy for Inter lately, but there is too much talent here for that state of affairs to go on indefinitely. Antonio Candreva has taken 41 shots without scoring this season – the most of any player in Serie A. But we know he is capable of better; this is a player who hit double figures for three seasons running at Lazio.
So perhaps this is the day when the floodgates will open. Inter continue to pursue a number of targets in the transfer market, but they are overdue a win with the players that they have.
Milan v Lazio (Sun 5pm)
Things are starting to look up for Milan. Since beating Inter in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia, the Rossoneri have taken seven points from three games, edging back towards the European places.
More encouraging than the league table was the way that they responded to falling behind away to Cagliari, calmly battling back to take the lead before half-time and never relinquish it.
Are they ready, though, to stand toe to toe with Lazio? Very few in Serie A are. The Biancocelesti are playing some of the best football in Italy right now, and have scored 13 times in their last three matches alone. They have piled up more points, and more goals, than any Lazio team in history at this stage of a Serie A campaign.
Under normal circumstances, Milan might have been encouraged to know that their opponents will be without the division’s top scorer. But Ciro Immobile’s injury has opened up an opportunity for Felipe Anderson to return to the starting line-up. The Brazilian produced a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Udinese, and his pace adds another dimension to a team that was already brilliant at exposing overstretched defences on the counter.
Milan have not lost at home to Lazio in the league since 1989. They might also glean some inside information from Lucas Biglia, whom they signed away from these rivals in the summer. On the evidence that we have seen so far, however, one of these teams is simply better than the other.
- Milan 1, Lazio 2 (9-1, Unibet)
- Felipe Anderson to score first (8-1, Unibet)
- Lazio win (19-10, Unibet)
Roma v Sampdoria (Sun 7.45pm)
A second meeting in four days for these teams, who finally caught up on their postponed game from September in Genoa this Wednesday. That ended in a 1-1 draw, Edin Dzeko’s injury time goal rescuing a point for the Giallorossi. The Bosnian is expected to lead the line again here, although this may be his final game before moving to Chelsea.
It is still not entirely clear how Roma intend to fill the void that will be left by the sale of their leading scorer. Patrik Schick gave a strong account of himself off the bench in midweek, and is thought to have done enough to earn a starting place here, but is yet to find the net in 10 league appearances since joining from Samp in the summer.
Even with Dzeko in the side, this team is struggling to find its attacking edge. Roma have not scored more than once in any of their last nine games. It does not help that they are missing Stephan El Shaarawy, their second-most prolific player, through injury as well.
Sampdoria have been profiting from Fabio Quagliarella’s Indian Summer, and it was he who gave them the lead against Roma on Wednesday. But he is expected to miss this game with a muscle injury, as is Dennis Praet – who played a starring role in midfield. The absence of two such influential players is a lot for the visitors to overcome.
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.