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. He runs the rule over Sunday's Serie A action.
SPAL v Crotone (Sunday 2pm)
After an encouraging start, SPAL have now lost four games in a row. After a dismal start, Crotone have finally picked up their first victory. But both know that games like this will define their season as they battle to avoid relegation.
It will be intriguing to see which side – if either – seeks to take the initiative. Both have taken a reactive approach to games so far, preferring to sit deep and try to hit their opponents on the counter rather than adopt a high press. Despite this cautious approach, they have already conceded 11 goals apiece.
SPAL did show some moxie with their breakaways against Napoli last weekend, scoring twice even in defeat, and will hope to carry that over into this game. Although Crotone rarely overcommit as a team, left-back Bruno Martella is prone to getting caught up the pitch and may leave gaps for Manuel Lazzari to exploit. The 23-year-old winger is one of four players to have scored for SPAL so far.
One way or another, fresh ground will be broken on Sunday, since these teams had never met before in an official match. They will do so at least once more this season, but the chances of this fixture being repeated in Serie A next season look slim.
- Correct Score: SPAL 2, Crotone 2 (16-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Manuel Lazzari (24-1, Unibet)
- Best bet: Both teams to score (19-20, Unibet)
Milan v Roma (Sunday 5pm)
Alarm bells are ringing at San Siro. Officially, the Milan board continues to offer wholehearted support to manager Vincenzo Montella, but such backing can never be unconditional. This team needs to get back into the Champions League at the first opportunity, and recent performances have not suggested that they are on the right track.
To lose to Sampdoria was no disaster, but to do so without registering a shot on target was alarming. Then, on Thursday, Milan blew a two-goal lead at home to Rijeka in the Europa League. Only a 93rd-minute winner from Patrick Cutrone saved their blushes.
The dismissal of Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern Munich has only raised the pressure on Montella further. Milan’s sporting director, Massimo Mirabelli, publicly denied suggestions that the club might seek to rekindle its relationship with the three-times Champions League-winning coach, but it is hard to believe that the idea has not at least been mooted behind closed doors.
Were Roma to beat Milan this weekend – and certainly if they were to do so as emphatically as Lazio did earlier this month – then a managerial change might soon follow. The good news for Montella is that the Giallorossi also looked poor as they scraped to a 2-1 win away to Qarabag on Wednesday.
There was a sense, however, that Roma were playing with one eye on this fixture. It is safe to assume that Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi will start on Sunday. There have been suggestions that Alessandro Florenzi, another player who came off the bench in midweek, might be brought forward to play on the right of a three-man attack as well.
Milan will rotate, too, and perhaps Montella will finally give André Silva his second league start after the Portuguese forward notched his sixth Europa League goal of the campaign. It will not suffice just to reshuffle the attack, though, if this team keeps on giving goals away cheaply at the other end.
- Correct Score: Milan 1, Roma 2 (17-2, Unibet)
- First scorer: Edin Dzeko (5-1, Unibet)
- Best bet: Roma to score over 1.5 goals (evens, Unibet)
Atalanta v Juventus (Sunday 7.45pm)
A “little miracle” was how Gazzetta dello Sport defined Atalanta’s draw away to Lyon on Thursday. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side continue to punch above their weight at home and in Europe, though to face the Serie A champions on such a short turnaround represents the sternest of tests.
Juventus are hardly likely to underestimate them. After all, two members of Atalanta’s likely starting XI belong to the Old Lady. Mattia Caldara and Leonardo Spinazzola are both on loan in Bergamo until the end of the season. If Juve had got their way this summer, then the latter player would already be back with them.
Instead, Atalanta dug their heels in and insisted that his two-year deal be respected. Spinazzola was disappointed by that decision and wound up missing the start of this season, but in two games since returning to the line-up has already reminded us of why they were so reluctant to let him go.
The thrust and energy that he provides down the left is essential to Atalanta’s counter-attacking game. He just happens to play on what is Juve’s weaker side of the pitch, defensively, too, with Juan Cuadrado less diligent in tracking back than Mario Mandzukic on the opposite side.
That said, Spinazzola scored an own goal as this game finished in a 2-2 draw last season. Juventus arrive at this fixture on the back of six straight league wins, and looking even more threatening after Gonzalo Higuain rediscovered his shooting boots in midweek. Atalanta might be the best team they have faced yet in this league campaign. But then, we said something similar about Torino last week.
- Correct Score: Atalanta 1, Juventus 3 (14-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Gonzalo Higuain (29-10, Unibet)
- Best bet: Juve win and both teams to score (3-1, 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.