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 Bologna's visit to Juventus.
Udinese v Inter (Sun 11.30am)
Was that a positive first game in charge of Udinese for Igor Tudor, or was it a critical missed opportunity? The Zebrette ended a run of 11 consecutive defeats when they drew 3-3 away to Benevento. But they had led up until the 90th minute against opponents who were playing with 10 men and sit bottom of Serie A.
If nothing else, such a flurry of goals suggested that he is getting his message across. Despite having played as a centre-back, Tudor is an attack-minded coach who believes that the best way to engage with players is to make the game fun. “Footballer players are like kids,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “You have to give them love and discipline.”
Three points clear of the relegation zone with three games left to go, Udinese’s position remains dicey. They do have some buffer – with Crotone, Cagliari and SPAL all squeezed between them and 18th-placed Chievo – but their form is by far the worst in the whole division.
The Inter team they face this weekend will be desperate, having slipped four points behind Roma and Lazio in the race for Champions League places. Both team and manager know they are playing for their future, which ought to keep them from taking their eye off the ball.
- Udinese 1, Inter 3 (21-2, Unibet)
- Icardi to score first (57-20, Unibet)
- Over 2.5 goals (19-25, Unibet)
Lazio v Atalanta (Sun 2pm)
Of the three teams fighting to occupy Serie A’s last two Champions League berths, Lazio face the hardest run-in. First comes this appointment with opponents who sit sixth in the table and have won three in a row. Next comes a visit to a Crotone side who already took points off Juventus in their push to avoid relegation. Last is a potential head-to-head decider against Inter.
All this without their leading scorer, Ciro Immobile, who damaged his thigh in the win over Torino and is a long shot to play again this season. Two out of Lazio’s remaining three games are at home, but their record at the Stadio Olimpico this season is only so-so. They have won a modest nine out of 17 games in front of their own fans, taking more points on their travels.
But Atalanta themselves are also below full-strength. The absence of Andrea Petagna up front is not such a big deal, with the 19-year-old Musa Barrow stepping in to provide two goals and an assist over the past three games, and this team has likewise shown it can cope without Leonardo Spinazzola at left wing-back.
A suspension to centre-back Mattia Caldara, though, is damaging. The question is whether Lazio can take full advantage with Immobile absent. To my mind, a team still able to call on Felipe Anderson, Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic can hardly call itself short of resources.
- Lazio 2, Atalanta 1 (7-1, Unibet)
- Milinkovic-Savic to score first (15-2, Unibet)
- Lazio win (Evens, Unibet)
Chievo v Crotone (Sun 2pm)
Dumped into the relegation zone last weekend, Chievo have an opportunity to leap straight back out as they face one of the teams that moved ahead of them. The form book, however, is not in their favour. Crotone have taken 10 points from their last five games. The Flying Donkeys, in the same stretch, claimed two.
A 4-1 defeat to Roma last time out persuaded the Chievo owner, Luca Campedelli, that change was required. He fired Rolando Maran as manager and promoted youth team coach Lorenzo D’Anna to take charge through to the end of the season.
It is at once a bold call and a comprehensible one. D’Anna has only ever managed one senior team – Sudtirol, in the third tier, for all of eight games in 2013 – but he has been working at Chievo both before and since, giving him familiarity with the squad and the environment that might be hard for a new man to acquire so close to the end of the season.
D’Anna has called on his players to be “ugly, dirty and nasty. But winning.” Chievo are expected to line up this weekend in the same 4-3-3 that he favoured with the youth team, lending a bit more width to a side that was often exploited down the flanks under Maran – who favoured a diamond midfield. The real question, though, is whether D’Anna can restore a little positivity. Crotone arrive with plenty of their own after a 4-1 rout of Sassuolo.
- Chievo 2, Crotone 2 (14-1, Unibet)
- Simy to score first (13-2, Unibet)
- Crotone draw no bet (59-50, 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.