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 big Sunday games.
Juventus v Udinese (Sun 2pm)
This was the week when Spurs learned the lesson that all of Italy already knew: even when Juve are playing badly, they usually still find a way to win. “When we need to take a result home, we take it,” said Andrea Barzagli on Wednesday night. “That’s our strength, our DNA.”
We had been reminded already last Saturday, when the Serie A champions sunk Lazio despite not registering a shot on target until the 93rd minute. The Wembley win over Spurs was all the more rewarding for the fact that Gonzalo Higuaín and Paulo Dybala got their names on the scoresheet.
Both players are recently returned from injury, though Juve did not drop a point while they were away. Massimiliano Allegri still has some significant absences to contend with, and none of Juan Cuadrado, Alex Sandro, Stephan Lichtsteiner or Federico Bernardeschi are expected to feature this weekend. Mehdi Benatia’s status is also in question after he limped out of the game against Tottenham.
Udinese, yet to play a game this month, will have fresher legs, but they have struggled for goals since losing Kevin Lasagna to injury. And this Juve side still has not conceded a goal domestically in 2018.
- Juve 2, Udinese 0 (43-10, Unibet)
- Dybala to score first (11-4, Unibet)
- Juve win to nil (16-25, Unibet)
Genoa v Milan (Sun 5pm)
After 13 games unbeaten, Milan had their bubble burst by Arsenal on Thursday night. The Rossoneri were never even in the game against opponents who were supposed to be easy pickings following their own sequence of four consecutive defeats.
Gennaro Gattuso’s tactics were naïve, with insufficient cover on the flanks, but this was also a rude reminder of Milan’s modest quality in several areas, and lack of pace throughout the side.
This will not be a straightforward place to put things right. Genoa have defeated Milan in all of their last three meetings at Marassi, and most recently beat Inter there as well. They will have an improved set of options up front, too, as Adel Taarabt and Giuseppe Rossi return from injury, although neither is expected to go straight into the starting XI.
As for Milan, much will be determined by Gattuso’s response to that Thursday night defeat. Early indications are that he may opt for Nikola Kalinic up front, after seeing Patrick Cutrone struggle to get into the game against Arsenal. As brilliant as the Italian has been in front of goal, he is not as adept at holding the ball up as his Croatian team-mate.
There were times against Arsenal when Milan desperately needed an outlet to get the ball out of their half and take the pressure off a struggling defence. The same may be true on Sunday, though Milan would also do well not to overthink this latest setback, and forget all the things that made them successful over these past three months.
- Genoa 2, Milan 1 (10-1, Unibet)
- Pandev to score first (7-1, Unibet)
- Genoa draw no bet (57-50, Unibet)
Inter v Napoli (Sun 7.45pm)
Time to find out what Napoli are made of. Although they begin the weekend in first place, their defeat to Roma last Saturday means that Juve – who have a game in hand – may overtake before this match kicks off.
Winning at San Siro is never easy, but the cruel reality of this tightest of title races is that they simply cannot afford to drop points on consecutive weekends.
Napoli have been excellent travellers this season, dropping just two points in 13 away games. Beyond the long-term absence of Faouzi Ghoulam, they have no injuries or suspensions to speak of.
If they generate the same attacking vim that they did against Roma, they ought to prevail. Napoli had 13 shots on target against the Giallorossi, but were restricted to two goals by the excellent Alisson. Roma, meanwhile, had just five, but somehow found the net four times.
Such raw numbers do not indicate the quality of the chances, and the reality is that Napoli were leaving themselves wide open by the end as they chased the game. But would we expect Inter to be so ruthless even under identical circumstances? Despite recent improvements, the Nerazzurri have scored a mere nine goals in their last 13 games.
- Inter 1, Napoli 3 (15-1, Unibet)
- Insigne to score first (13-2, Unibet)
- Napoli to score 2+ (49-50, 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.