WE'VE sealed another stellar signing for the new campaign 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 Sunday matches.
Milan v Torino (Sun 2pm)
Now that Milan have taken care of their Europa League business, it is time to focus all energies on upgrading their domestic form. The Rossoneri are seventh in Serie A, but already seven points behind sixth-placed Sampdoria – who have a game in hand.
Can Milan carry over some momentum from their midweek success? To do so, one imagines, Vincenzo Montella might need to stop tinkering with his personnel. André Silva and Patrick Cutrone each grabbed a brace on Thursday, but neither has started a league game in more than a month.
The manager has preferred to use Nikola Kalinic in Serie A – despite the fact that the Croatian has scored just once in his last eight games. Goals are not the sum of his contribution, and his ability to hold the ball up has helped Suso to thrive running on from deeper positions, but Napoli’s success with the 5ft 6ins Mertens leading the line is a reminder that the most conventional approach is not always the most effective one.
Nor is Kalinic the only one struggling up front. Milan’s players have not scored a goal between them in their last three league games at San Siro. The one encouraging note here is that Torino have also found it a little harder to connect ball with net as Andrea Belotti struggles with niggling injuries. It is also true that Milan have not lost to these opponents in 20 games across all competitions.
- Milan 2, Torino 0 (8-1, Unibet)
- Suso to score first (27-5, Unibet)
- Under 2.5 goals (123-100, Unibet)
Genoa v Roma (Sun 2pm)
Davide Ballardini got his Genoa tenure off to an encouraging start, guiding them to victory away to relegation rivals Crotone. This, though, will be a different order of challenge. Roma have won nine of their last 10 games in Serie A, a sequence interrupted only by defeat to the league leaders, Napoli.
The Giallorossi, furthermore, look ever more comfortable under the leadership of Eusebio Di Francesco. After some cagey performances early on this season, Roma have found their swagger, putting four goals past Fiorentina and grabbing six in two meetings with Chelsea.
Some rotation can be expected after the midweek loss to Atlético Madrid, but a deep squad easily permits it. Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman should replace Maxime Gonalons and Lorenzo Pellegrini in midfield, while Stephan El Shaarawy returns to the attack in place of Gerson.
Genoa cannot match such quality, and will be reliant on an added lift from their fans at Marassi. They have not won a home game yet this season, but that speaks more to how far performances had dipped under Ivan Juric than the atmosphere at a ground where they beat Juve, Milan and Inter last season.
They will hope for a big performance this weekend from Andrea Bertolacci, who grew up in the Roma youth system.
Udinese v Napoli (Sun 2pm)
Massimo Oddo did himself a disservice when he brought Pescara up to the top flight in 2016, exceeding all expectations to secure promotion but then quickly discovering his team lacked the resources to compete at this higher level.
He was fired after going 24 top-flight games without a win (Pescara were awarded three points for their game away to Sassuolo, who fielded an ineligible player, but they had been beaten 2-1 on the pitch.)
The Udinese side he inherits from Luigi Delneri is better equipped to compete in this division but that is not the same as to say they stand a chance against a team like Napoli. The league leaders arrive fresh from a 3-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, and with no fresh injury concerns to a team that has scored 34 times in 13 Serie A games to date.
Oddo is keeping his cards close to his chest: moving training sessions behind closed doors on Thursday. Previously, he had tested his team out in a 4-3-1-2 which might allow him to deploy Kevin Lasagna and Maxi López together, with Rodrigo De Paul in support. Udinese have struggled for goals since allowing Théréau to join Fiorentina at the end of the transfer window.
He will have to do without veteran goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri, who is suspended. Replacement Simone Scuffet was once viewed as the Next Big Thing in Italian goalkeeping, but has underwhelmed in five appearances this season. This will be a daunting matchup for him, too, against Napoli’s dazzling attack.
- Udinese 0, Napoli 2 (13-2, Unibet)
- Mertens to score first (3-1, Unibet)
- Napoli -1 handicap (43-50, Unibet)
Lazio v Fiorentina (Sun 5pm)
With first place in their group already sewn up, it was no surprise to see Lazio field a heavily rotated side against Vitesse. Luis Alberto might be the only starter from that game who makes it into the XI to face Fiorentina. Lazio will be delighted if he marks the weekend fixture with a goal as good as the one he scored on Thursday.
Simone Inzaghi’s side fell to a derby defeat against Roma last weekend, but there were encouraging signs to be found even on that occasion. Lazio could have folded at 2-0 down but instead produced a strong finish, threatening a late equaliser after Ciro Immobile’s penalty halved the deficit.
Fiorentina are the team against whom Lazio have recorded the most wins (50) and goals (185) in their top-flight history, although that statistic is mostly just indicative of the consistency with which both teams have competed in Serie A. It is the Viola who have won three of the most recent four meetings.
They arrive for this game in good shape, with Milan Badelj and Cyril Théréau expected back from injury. Lazio have kept just one clean sheet in their last six league games, and might struggle to add another against opponents who are scoring freely. But Fiorentina’s defensive efforts have been patchy all season, and Immobile remains Serie A’s leading scorer.
- Lazio 4, Fiorentina 2 (30-1, Unibet)
- Immobile to score first (67-20, Unibet)
- Both teams to score (29-50, 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.