THERE’S two games to enjoy from Italy’s Serie A on Thursday night. So we got European football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) to find the best bets.
Cagliari v Juventus | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport 1
Zdenek Zeman’s been given enough column inches on this site to probably fill a small novel but his coaching career could be on the line. The charismatic Czech has been unable to stop Cagliari’s slide and the Sardinians are almost certain to be rooted in the relegation zone for the winter break.
It’s just two wins in 15 for the Islanders now but most alarming is the lack of victories on home soil. Cagliari are yet to record three points in front of their home fans in a league game under Zeman’s watch.
We’ve talked enough in previous previews about the approach to football matches under the veteran coach and that high-intensity, high-pressing and attacking philosophy lends itself to games on the road. When hosting, Cagliari are finding opposition teams a much tougher nut to crack.
And they don’t get much tougher than a visit from defending champions Juventus. The league leaders failed to overcome bogey team Sampdoria at the weekend but remain an almost immovable object in the Italian game.
Former Milan boss Max Allegri took the reigns from Antonio Conte in the summer but the Old Lady have recorded 11 wins from 15 Serie A games with nine of those victories coming without conceding a goal. When playing away, Juve have bagged five wins from eight and all five three-pointers have also come ‘to nil’.
A repeat on Thursday night is offered at 7/5 with Paddy Power and deserves attention. Cagliari have looked atrocious defensively in recent weeks and are also now without a goal in three games. Both Fiorentina and Chievo have come away from Stadio Sant’Elia in recent weeks with wins ‘to nil’ so there’s no reason why Juventus shouldn’t follow suit on Thursday night.
Napoli v Parma | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport 1
The change in fortunes at Parma has been quite dramatic. Roberto Donadoni led the Ducali to a tremendous sixth-placed finish in 2013/14 but financial wrongdoings led to the Italian FA not granting the team a UEFA license to compete in Europe.
That sense of injustice has proved almost impossible to shake off along with a series of off-field issues, which have resulted in a one-point deduction. Parma now find themselves propping up Serie A and were unable to beat fellow scrappers Cagliari in their last outing.
The future of Donadoni remains up in the air and although a trip to Napoli isn’t as daunting as it once was, the visitors are unlikely to relish the trip south. The Ducali have lost six of their seven away fixtures, failing to score in three and leaking 18, at an average rate of over 2.5 goals-per-game.
Napoli themselves have proved far from watertight. Their dodgy defence has kept just one clean sheet in Naples this season but Rafa Bentiez’s men can call upon a decent amount of firepower going forward – netting at least twice in six of their seven home outings.
But with the hosts proving a little unreliable in the win-markets, the best bet might be to chance a high-scoring game at the Stadio San Paulo.
Sportingbet make Over 3.5 Goals a 17/10 play and it’s proved a winner in four of Napoli’s home league games already this season as well as in three of Parma’s road fixtures.
Cagliari v Juventus – Juventus to win ‘to nil’ (7/5 Paddy Power)
Napoli v Parma – Over 3.5 goals (17/10 Sportingbet)