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 four key midweek fixtures.
Fiorentina v Lazio (Wed 7.45pm)
An unwelcome sight to start the week for Lazio supporters as Ciro Immobile shared an Instagram picture of his right foot and thigh wrapped in bandages.
The Biancocelesti can hardly do without him as they enter into the home stretch, fourth in the table (Roma now hold the head-to-head tie-breaker) and still just one point ahead of Inter.
Immobile’s status is uncertain at time of writing, and clearly worth monitoring for anyone considering a bet. This would be an especially inopportune moment to lose Serie A’s leading scorer. Fiorentina have conceded just a single goal in their last seven games, winning six of those before drawing the most recent.
The Viola have pulled together following the death of Davide Astori, but there is more to their form than that. Every member of the back three most likely to start against Lazio – Germán Pezzella, Vitor Hugo and Nikola Milenkovic – joined in the summer, and all three from overseas. It takes time to find your feet in a new team and a new country. It is natural that they are improving as the season goes on.
Lazio do have players besides Immobile capable of sticking the ball in the net, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s creativity behind the attack arguably the more essential element.
He unpicked Roma more than once on Sunday, only for team-mates to let him down with their finishing. But how much of that slackness in front of goal was a by-product of fatigue? Between the derby and a demoralising defeat in Salzburg, Lazio have given a lot in the last six days.
- Fiorentina 1, Lazio 1 (11-2, Unibet)
- Milinkovic-Savic to score first (17-2, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (Evens, Unibet)
SPAL v Chievo (Wed 7.45pm)
There has been nothing easy about SPAL’s fight for top-flight survival. The Biancazzurri are unbeaten in seven games, yet the last five of those have all been draws.
They have scored only four times since the start of March, but manager Leonardo Semplici has formed them into such a compact and hard-grafting unit that they were able to grind even Juventus to a goalless stalemate.
This, however, feels like an occasion to aspire to something more. SPAL sit 17th in the table, one point above the relegation zone, but Chievo are just two points ahead of them. A victory would earn them a safety buffer – even if only a thin one – for the first time.
What players will Semplici have available, though? His team is beset by injuries, with the likes of Alberto Grassi, Pasquale Schiattarella and Marco Borriello all sidelined. There is some hope that Jasmin Kurtic – a key figure in midfield since joining from Atalanta in January – might make it back from a calf strain, but that is likely to be a last-minute decision.
Chievo will be close to full strength, missing only Mattia Bani – who had lately been starting games at centre-back – through suspension. But they have not taken a point in an away game since November, setting an undesirable club record with nine consecutive road defeats.
- SPAL 1, Chievo 0 (27-5, Unibet)
- Antenucci to score first (23-5, Unibet)
- Both teams to score – NO (39-50, Unibet)
Benevento v Atalanta (Wed 5pm)
Benevento are going down. Although their fate has not yet mathematically been confirmed, 14 points are too many to realistically make up with a mere six games left to play.
And yet the team we have seen in the last few weeks hardly look like they ought to be bottom of the league. The Witches thrashed Verona, drew with Sassuolo and even gave Juventus a scare.
Their attack, in particular, has come to life. After scoring 17 goals in their first 28 games, Benevento have now scored nine in their last four. It would be oversimplifying things to say that Cheick Diabaté has made all the difference but not by all that much.
The Mali striker, signed on loan from Osmanlispor, has struck six times since the start of April. He is averaging one goal for every 40.7 minutes that he has played in Serie A. “Share this message from me: it’s not finished here,” he told Italy’s Sky Sport this week. “The fans can come down and watch us and they will be happy, because I’m not done scoring.”
Perhaps Atalanta will find an answer. Gian Piero Gasperini is one of the best in Serie A at tailoring his tactics for each opponent. But it is also true that the Bergamo club have not been at their best lately, with only two goals scored and no wins in three games. A busy season, in which they competed in the Europa League and reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, might be taking its toll.
- Benevento 2, Atalanta 2 (12-1, Unibet)
- Diabate to score first (8-1, Unibet)
- Benevento draw no bet (3-1, Unibet)
Torino v Milan (Wed 7.45pm)
Milan’s players have not yet given up on their Champions League dream. Eight points off fourth place with six games left to play, it looks unlikely but Leonardo Bonucci insisted on Monday that “the objective is difficult, but not utopia. We need to win every game and hope.”
His team, though, have only won once in their last five. That is not to suggest they have disgraced themselves – Milan have faced Juventus, Inter and Napoli during that run, and drew with the latter two. Their success in holding the Partenopei without a goal was especially impressive when you consider that both Bonucci and his starting centre-back partner Alessio Romagnoli were absent.
Gennaro Gattuso has made great strides in tightening up the defence, but lately the attack has suffered. Not since beating Chievo in mid-March have Milan scored more than once in any game. He confessed after the weekend’s draw with Napoli that he had considered switching to two centre-forwards, and perhaps this will be the occasion to do so against a Torino side that is less well-equipped to hurt his team on the counter.
Andrea Belotti’s struggles up front has kept the Granata from maximising their potential this season, but they do appear to be finishing strongly – having taken 10 points from their last four games. They have not beaten Milan since 2001, but they have not yet given up on their own Europa League goal.
- Torino 1, Milan 2 (8-1, Unibet)
- Suso to score first (13-2, Unibet)
- Milan draw no bet (17-25, 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.