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 three fixtures from Sunday's Serie A card.
Sampdoria v Milan (Sunday 11.30am)
Early in the season it may be, but already managers are rotating their line-ups to keep legs fresh for the season ahead. In most areas of the pitch, Milan’s Vincenzo Montella is spoilt for choice after the club’s busy summer of transfer investment.
Will it be Nikola Kalinic or Patrick Cutrone leading the line? Ignazio Abate or Davide Calabria at right-back? Hakan Calhanoglu or Giacomo Bonaventura on the left of a three-man midfield?
Sampdoria’s changes are more predictable. Marco Giampaolo fielded what looked like his strongest side away to Torino last weekend, before switching things up against Verona on Wednesday. We should expect something closer to the former to face Millan, with Ivan Strinic, Edgar Barreto, Gastón Ramirez and Duván Zapata likely to return to the starting XI.
And, at their best this season, Samp have been pretty good. They have only played four times – their game against Roma was postponed – but nobody has beaten them yet. It is also worth noting that they have not yet conceded from a set-piece. Six out of Milan’s 10 goals so far have come from such situations.
At the other end, the Rossoneri will need to keep close tabs on Fabio Quagliarella. He might be 34 years old, but four strikes already this season suggest that he still has plenty left in the tank. Focus too heavily on him, though, and Zapata has the pace to get in behind.
- Correct Score: Sampdoria 1, Milan 1 (6-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Duvan Zapata (7-1, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Half-time draw (6-5, Unibet)
Crotone v Benevento (Sunday 12pm)
The situation is already looking perilous for Serie A’s bottom two teams, each of which has scored just a single goal this season whilst conceding more than 10 apiece.
It has been reported already that Benevento manager Marco Baroni will be fired if he fails to obtain a positive performance on Sunday. His players have spent the past few days together in a training camp to prepare.
Crotone are not yet at that stage. For one thing, the club’s directors still remember how Davide Nicola turned things around to secure a miracle escape after a slow start last time around. And for another, the team was at least playing OK prior to a 5-1 midweek mauling by Atalanta.
That defeat is now being blamed on Nicola’s impromptu switch to a 3-4-3. He will likely swap back to a more familiar 4-4-2 here, and adopt a conservative approach more broadly.
The problem of where Crotone will get their goals from remains, however. Last season’s top scorer, Diego Falcinelli, was playing on loan from Sassuolo and has since returned to his parent club. He struck 13 times for Crotone last season. Their next most prolific player managed just three.
We probably ought not to expect a shootout at the Ezio Scida, then. But I suspect Crotone’s additional experience at this level might tell.
- Correct Score: Crotone 1, Benevento 0 (6-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Adrian Stoian (9-2, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Under 2.5 goals (8-11, Unibet)
Fiorentina v Atalanta (Sunday 7.45pm)
Weren’t Atalanta supposed to be taking a step backward this season? No Franck Kessié, no Andrea Conti, no Andrea Conti and (so far) no Leonardo Spinazzola? No problem, apparently, for manager Gian Piero Gasperini, who has quickly got his team back on track after losing their first two fixtures against Roma and Napoli.
Papu Gomez remains the key man, but Josip Ilicic opened his account for the club with a wonderful weave and finish against Crotone in midweek, whilst Andrea Petagna has two goals and three assists in his last four games.
As with many others involved in continental competition, it will be fascinating to see how Gasperini shuffles his pack. Thursday brings a trip to Lyon – perhaps the most daunting fixture that Atalanta face in Europa League Group E. But Gomez and Petagna, at least, are expected to start on Sunday night, and there is talk that Spinazzola might make his first appearance of the season.
Either way, this is too important a game to take lightly. Fiorentina are likely rivals for a spot in Europe next season, and despite a mixed start have shown plenty of promise in their own young side. They also have not lost at home to Atalanta in 15 meetings. Every such run, though, has to come to an end eventually.
- Correct Score: Fiorentina 1, Atalanta 2 (11-1, Unibet)
- First scorer: Alejandro (Papu) Gomez (7-1, Unibet)
- Safe bet: Both teams to score (8-13, 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.