Saturday, 24th March
AC Milan v AS Roma (5.00 pm)
Home win: 13/20 Draw: 53/20 Away win: 43/10
Key fact: Fabio Borini’s seven goals in nine games. And to the think he used to play in the Championship.
Betting tip: Luis Enrique still has tons of problems to solve before the end of the season before bartering with the club for the contract extension he has been talking about these past few weeks. His main problem seems to be the defence, where both Gabi Heinze and Simon Kjaer still have much to prove. In attack, however, the Giallorossi have been rather proficient of late, mainly thanks to a certain Fabio Borini: the former Swansea man has already netted more goals at this stage of his Roma career than either Roberto Pruzzo or Ruggiero Rizzitelli. He is an interesting price to score (2/1), though ambitious punters might like to focus on the possibility of Roma winning at half time and full time at 33/4.
It is far from being a ridiculous notion. Milan will certainly be focusing on their upcoming Champions League tie. With a four-point lead ahead of Juventus (who are away to Internazionale), Max Allegri’s side might favour the all-important home match against Barcelona, and could just take their foot off the gas were they to go behind, especially if the Daniele De Rossi/Fernando Gago/Miralem Pjanic trio win the midfield battle. After all, Luis Enrique needs to prove to the fans that he can be trusted with the keys over the long term, and he needs a major scalp to confirm his side’s improved form.
Palermo v Udinese (7.45 pm)
Home win: 7/5 Draw: 47/20 Away win: 37/20
Key fact: Maurizio Zamparini. I would challenge you to find a crazier club president out there but for Massimo Cellino’s existence.
Betting tip: Palermo are so unstable right now they are entirely unpredictable. They face a side whose away form does not befit a contender with Champions League ambitions. With only three wins on the road, Udinese have blown hot and cold when away from the Friuli, even losing to lowly Novara despite an intense second half siege.
Though the score might be too risky to predict in this case, bet on both teams to find the back of the net at 11/20. Palermo’s defence might be reassured by Giulio Migliaccio’s return, but Andrea Mantovani is hardly reliable when it comes to handling big-match situations. He is, moreover, accompanied by Carlos Alberto Labrin, as Ezequiel Munoz is absent. Hardly a solid defence.
Sunday, 25th March
Atalanta v Bologna (11.30 am)
Home win: 13/10 Draw: 17/10 Away win: 11/4
Key fact: Atalanta have lost German Denis and Guido Marilungo to injury, Bologna are without Gaston Ramirez.
Betting tip: With both sides lacking bite up front, this is likely to turn into a battle of the playmakers, with Ezequiel Schelotto and Moralez on the one hand and Alessandro Diamanti on the other. We’ve talked before of the Felsinei’s prolific goalscoring record on the road, so back them to net at least once at 9/20. Remember, they’ve been promised goal and win bonuses up to the end of season by president Albano Guaraldi, with Robert Acquafresca three goals shy of a 177,000 Euro reward. He netted the winner against Novara, so why not back him to score score last at 7/1?
Lazio v Cagliari (2.00 pm)
Home win: 77/100 Draw: 12/5 Away win: 15/4
Key fact: The aforementioned Massimo Cellino. Otherwise, consider Cagliari’s six winless away games in 2012.
Betting tip: Lazio might be capable of falling apart at home – as they did to Cagliari a few years ago, when they lost 4-1 at the Olimpico having blown two penalties – but this game should be a formality for them. Their greatest ally, Massimo Cellino, is now embroiled in a legal dispute with former manager Davide Ballardini, who is claiming unfair dismissal after Cellino got rid of him nearly two weeks ago. The Sardinians shipped in six at the San Paolo, so expect Lazio to win a game with more than three goals in it at 39/20.
Napoli v Catania (2.00 pm)
Home win: 11/20 Draw: 57/20 Away win: 5/1
Key fact: Napoli’s victory over Siena in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
Betting tip: Who wouldn’t jump on the Vincenzo Montella bandwagon? His levies are on an amazing six-game unbeaten run, and were it not for Roma’s new-found solidity the Sicilians could have snatched a Europa League place a few weeks ago when they failed to beat scrappers Cesena at the Manuzzi. But all this considered, I’m tipping Napoli to win to nil, as Catania’s wastefulness in front of goal could cause them problems at the San Paolo. Now that Napoli have been knocked out of the Champions League, they can concentrate on snatching third place in Serie A. At 29/20, they are likely to make short work of their opponents and not allow them to score.
Genoa v Fiorentina (2.00 pm)
Home win: 27/20 Draw: 19/10 Away win: 47/20
Key fact: Had Genoa not beaten Napoli, Lazio and Udinese at home in 2012, they’d probably be languishing in the relegation zone.
Betting tip: Haven been given some time to mend a badly damaged Genoa side, Pasquale Marino takes on Delio Rossi’s Fiorentina, a side who are recovering from a 5-0 mauling at home to Juventus. With the fans in open revolt and Pantaleo Corvino being told that he won’t be kept into next season, the Viola will be happy to snatch a point here.
With Stevan Jovetic back, Rossi will likely play his older, more experienced players in order to guarantee the points he needs to keep Fiorentina afloat. This means Cesare Natali and Alessandro Gamberini are favourites to start in the centre of the defence, not an ideal scenario against Alberto Gilardino, who will be hoping to ensure that the legge dell’ex is still as valid as ever. He is 6/5 to net at any time, though this tight match will likely see Genoa prevail by a one-goal margin at 31/10.
Novara v Lecce (2.00 pm)
Home win: 27/20 Draw: 11/5 Away win: 2/1
Key fact: Two consecutive wins? Why not three for Attilio Tesser’s men?
Betting tip: Is it such an impossible notion? Attilio Tesser’s clever approach since his return has seen him copy Emiliano Mondonico’s 5-3-2, a formation which has finally allowed Novara to get out of their shells and try their hand at dominating in midfield, where Filippo Porcari and Marco Rigoni have been brilliant over the past couple of months. 27/20 is a good price for a side which can be counted on to exploit Lecce’s defensive weaknesses. Novara dominated Siena, exploiting careless wingers (could Juan Guillermo Cuadrado do the same on Sunday?) who often left their defence exposed. With only three at the back, Lecce will have a tough time keeping out Jeda and Andrea Caracciolo, who came up with two identical assists at the Franchi.
Cesena v Parma (2.00 pm)
Home win: 57/20 Draw: 47/20 Away win: 19/20
Key fact: Parma are winless in seven games, Cesena in ten! Parma have, however, lost only one away game in five, having scored in four in the same period of time.
Betting tip: Desperation will likely drive Cesena to try their best in this derby (well, they’re close enough to be rivals anyway), whilst Parma have a star-studded side capable of scoring against any one of their relegation rivals. With Sebastian Giovinco, Sergio Floccari and Jonathan Biabiany in the side, one cannot underestimate Parma’s chances of winning this one in a game containing more than 2.5 goals, an eventuality priced at 12/5.
Chievo v Siena (2.00 pm)
Home win: 29/20 Draw: 29/20 Away win: 29/10
Key fact: With four goals since February, Cyril Thereau cannot be ignored.
Betting tip: Giuseppe Sannino’s men were very disappointing at home to Novara last Sunday, hardly ever managing to threaten Samir Ujkani’s goal. Against Chievo, Sannino might be reassured by Alberto Paloschi’s poor form, but will worry as he is forced to field sub Alberto Acerbi to replace Claudio Terzi. Cyril Thereau is fantastic when it comes to weaving his way past defenders, and is a good price to score a goal at 3/2.
Juventus v Internazionale (7.45 pm)
Home win: 3/5 Draw: 11/4 Away win: 47/10
Key stat: 28, the average age of Inter’s midfield.
Betting tip: Juventus seek to pick up where they left off against Milan at the Juventus Stadium, and are looking good to win with a two-goal margin or more at 8/5. The Old Lady have already won at the San Siro against Inter this season and will likely dominate midfield with Andrea Pirlo’s technique and two talents who have really picked up the pace over the last few games: in Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, Juventus have the strength and drive to overcome Andrea Poli and an ageing Dejan Stankovic, of whom a journalist recently tweeted about, inquiring as to whether “he was still a football player”.
He is, as much as Inter are a completely unrecognizable side from the team which won the treble. It was one thing to beat Milan on the back of a very positive climb back up the table, another to beat Juventus having gained a mere six points in the second half of the season. Only Cesena have done worse.
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