Under normal circumstances, watching a direct rival scrape a 3-3 away draw is a cause for celebration. Instead, Juventus’ breath-taking comeback in Naples has sent shivers down Italy’s spine.
Marcelo Estigarribia and Simone Pepe’s goals have made one thing very clear: the Old Lady has reacquired the kind of character and determination not seen since the pre-Calciopoli days and has established herself as Milan’s main contender for the title.
Rossoneri fans have been given quite some food for thought, that’s for sure: as if Massimiliano Allegri’s claim that Juve were favourites wasn’t bad enough, his side also has a rather tricky away fixture against Genoa on Friday, knowing full well that any slip-ups would allow the Turinese outfit to extend their two-point lead at home against Cesena.
It is, consequently, a tough tie to predict, with all three outcomes being given enticing odds. A Milan win is odds-on at 77/100, a draw is quoted at 49/20, with Genoa’s chances rated at 73/20.
One thing is certain: on their day, Alberto Malesani’s side are a tough proposition for anyone. Milan themselves are no exception, having only won here once since the Rossoblu climbed their way back to Serie A.
Back in 2008, it took a beautifully coordinated move to send Milan packing, Diego Milito jumping sideways on to a long ball to chest down a perfect assist for Giuseppe Sculli’s finish. Carlo Ancelotti’s side barely got a look in that time and conceded a second through a Milito penalty.
Though both strikers are long gone, Genoa have been able to replace them with Andrea Caracciolo and Lucas Pratto, and are likely to cause the Rossoneri as many headaches as they gave both Juventus and Roma.
Oddly enough, the Genoese tend to crumble against lower-rung teams (Parma, Cesena), but have snatched a 2-2 draw against Antonio Conte’s side and a 2-1 win against Roma.
Friday’s match is likely to be a high-tempo, intense affair and there are, in my opinion, two very likely outcomes worth betting on.
With a three-man defence in front of him and assuming Ibra will be carefully marked, Robinho will be looking to cut the ball back to the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is on a hot streak of late and priced at 13/4 to score at any time.
The first is Genoa to grab the first goal of the game, an eventuality priced at 9/5 or a more tempting 5/2 were it to occur in the first half.
The home side will try to swamp the Milanese midfield and keep the ball in their opponents’ half, taking special care to win any long balls punted towards Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Chances are they might score off a set-piece (defending them is not exactly one of AC’s strengths), with one of their big defenders doing the damage. How about Kakhaber Kaladze coming back to haunt his former employers at 29/1?
Taking the lead won’t, however, be enough to trouble a Milan side known for its mental strength and “bouncebackability” (it’s a real word, Iain Dowie says so), and a 2-1 away win seems very likely at 29/4.
With a three-man defence in front of him, it won’t take long for Robinho to find his form (he is 13/2 to score first or last) and torment the Genoese down both flanks.
Assuming Ibra will be carefully marked, Robinho will be looking to cut the ball back to the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is on a hot streak of late and priced at 13/4 to score at any time.
New bwin.com subscribers are entitled to a free £25 bet and placing it on a Boateng goal could produce winnings of £106.25 if the former Tottenham man hits the back of the net.
The other scenario is Genoa repeating the fireworks we saw against Roma and Juve and clawing their way back in the game were Milan to score first.
A 1-1 draw is the best quoted outcome at 21/4, with 15/2 and 9/1 saying that Andrea Caracciolo or Lucas Pratto respectively will come up with the goods in the dying seconds, just as Allegri’s men think they’ve won it.
Pratto could turn out to be one the signings of the season and has just netted in a Coppa Italia thriller against Bari – and that came right at the end of extra-time.
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