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 Saturday games.
Inter v Udinese (Sat 2pm)
The last week has served Inter with a reminder of their limitations. Away to Juventus, they were comprehensively outplayed. Three days later, they were held to a draw by third-tier Pordenone in the Coppa Italia.
And yet, no actual damage was done. The Nerazzurri held on for a point in Turin, which turned out to be enough to keep them top of the table. They squeaked past Pordenone on penalties. The hope for Luciano Spalletti will be that his team has learned its lessons without the need for more damaging setbacks.
Inter do need to be sharp this weekend, because Udinese are a team on the up. Manager Massimo Oddo was hired in mid-November to steer them away from a relegation scrap. He lost his first game, against Napoli, but since then has overseen three straight wins across all competitions, by a combined scoreline of 13-3.
Young midfielders Jakub Jankto and Antonin Barak have put in commanding performances under Oddo, who will seek to outnumber Inter in midfield with his 3-5-2. But the hosts will be back at full strength after rotating heavily for that Pordenone game. They have dropped only two points at San Siro all season, and ought to be free of complacency after the past week’s travails.
- Inter 2, Udinese 1 (15-2, Unibet)
- Icardi to score first (5-2, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (19-20, Unibet)
Torino v Napoli (Sat 5pm)
Where did all th goals go? After sticking the ball in the net 32 times during their first 11 games of this Serie A season, Napoli have done so just three times in their last five.
A team that once was able to rip any opponent apart now appears to be stuck in a rut, unable to find a rhythm or even just establish those little triangular passing movements that were the foundation stone of their attacking football.
Napoli will hope Lorenzo Insigne’s return can provide a lift, after he missed the matches against Feyenoord and Fiorentina. He had been carrying niggling injuries, but more than anything, just needed a rest after playing all of his club’s previous 60 matches without interruption. Although he has only been absent for two games, he was not close to his best in other recent fixtures.
There is another element to consider here, though, which is that his diminished form also coincided with the injury to Faouzi Ghoulam. Napoli do not appear to have another full-back in their squad right now who can provide anything like the same attacking thrust. It is not a situation I can foresee being resolved any time soon, and may require intervention in the January transfer window.
This is not a great time to be facing Torino, either. The Granata are unbeaten in six games, and have travelled away to Inter, Milan and Lazio in that stretch. Their 3-1 win over the latter side last weekend was especially impressive, even if aided by a red card to Ciro Immobile. Andrea Belotti has not scored a league goal since September, but his team-mates are finding ways to fill the gap.
- Torino 1, Napoli 0 (14-1, Unibet)
- Falque to score first (21-2, Unibet)
- Torino double chance (123-100, 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.