MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has analysed Serie A’s weekend action and brings us his best bets.
Lazio v Juventus | Saturday 17.00 | BT Sport/ESPN
Lazio haven’t beaten Juventus in Serie A since 2003 and I can’t see that 13-year wait for a win end on Saturday night.
The Biancocelesti did their best to blow a three-goal lead against Atalanta on the opening day and their fragility at the back must be a concern against the champions at the Stadio Olimpico.
Simone Inzaghi, in his second stint as caretaker, said he was pleased with the result and it’s true too his youthful XI were at their brilliant best when marching into a comfortable advantage. New signing Ciro Immobile and 21-year-old Cristiano Lombardi getting amongst the goals.
However, Lazio were at their calamitous worst when imploding and barely scraping over the line with an 89th-minute winner in Bergamo. There’s been a strange mood around the sky blue side of Rome this summer.
Marcelo Bielsa’s very brief reign made headlines and a spat between Inzaghi and striker Keita Balde Diao, whom he accused of feigning injury to skip Sunday’s game, suggests all isn’t well in the camp.
The Eagles are expected to parachute Felipe Anderson straight back into the side for this encounter following his return from Olympic duty and will need all the help they can get against opponents they traditionally struggle against.
Juventus have won each of their last seven matches against Lazio across all competitions, shipping a solitary goal in that spell. With the Biancocelesti underperforming (W2-D0-L9) when welcoming top-six sides to the Olimpico – failing to even score on six occasions – it’s hard to have confidence in the home side here.
Juve have been on the drift (it’s hard to work out why) but I’ll gladly accept the 9/10 (Sportingbet) that’s on offer for an away victory.
The Old Lady began with a routine 2-1 triumph against Fiorentina in Turin. Sure, Max Allegri’s men were far from the finished article but they showed their strength in depth by bringing out record signing Gonzalo Higuain to score the winner off the bench.
The Bianconeri have a wealth of attacking options with Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic leading the line from the off last weekend whilst Miralem Pjanic should make his Serie A debut in the capital here.
Including last season, Juventus have now won 27 of their last 29 league matches and six of their past nine visits to top-half teams. And for fans of the W-W double result, the Old Lady have W-W in eight of their past 12 games as guests in Serie A.
Napoli v AC Milan | Saturday 19.45 | BT Sport Europe
Neither Napoli nor Milan approached 2016/17 with particular verve or confidence after a rather disappointing summer transfer window.
Napoli pinched second-place in Serie A last term to record their seventh consecutive top-six finish but a first Scudetto since 1989/90 eluded the Partenopei despite a very promising first six months under Maurizio Sarri.
The former bank manager remains in charge at Stadio San Paolo but Gonzalo Higuain is no longer at the club, a devastating blow to Azzurri supporters after his record-breaking campaign. Napoli have brought in Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik and central midfielder Piotr Zielinski but it’ll ne hard to replace the Argentine’s 36 goals.
Elsewhere, centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly remains unsettled and agitating for a move to Chelsea whilst Lorenzo Insigne is caught up in a bitter contract dispute with the club. It’s hardly ideal for the Partenopei’s pursuit of Juventus.
Sarri’s side started their season with a 2-2 draw at newly-promoted Pescara where Napoli were caught cold by their hosts and found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. Manolo Gabbiadini cut an isolated figure in attack Insigne was also well below par.
Fortunately for the Azzurri, substitute Dries Mertens had a point to prove and duly did, scoring twice and rescuing a point. The Belgian will expect to start here as the hosts look to defend what was a very strong return on home soil last season (W16-D3-L0).
Twelve of those 16 triumphs saw Napoli ahead at half-time with nine victories bagged by a margin of two goals or more. However, despite their dominance only eight of those 19 encounters saw the Partenopei keep their sheets clean with 14 fixtures at the San Paolo rewarding Over 2.5 Goals backers.
Over the past two campaigns, the hosts have overcome 13 of their last 18 top-half guests on home soil, suffering just two defeats. So even though things aren’t completely carefree down in Naples, I do like their chances here.
Napoli have avoided defeat in nine of their past 10 (W4-D5-L1) encounters with Milan whilst 10 of the previous 15 meetings have featured at least three goals; given both were involved in high-scoring opening day encounters a home success alongside goals looks a decent angle to take.
The Rossoneri arrive bemoaning their own issues in the transfer market. The slow process of the club’s sale to Chinese investors has denied Vincenzo Montella the opportunity to strengthen his team.
Nevertheless, Milan managed to keep hold of Carlos Bacca and the Colombian rewarded AC with a first career hat-trick during a thrilling 3-2 win against Torino last weekend.
Milan had led 3-1 after 90 minutes but by the 95th they had conceded another goal and given away a penalty. Montella’s men were rescued by 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma who denied Torino and returning head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic a share of the spoils.
Centre-back Alessio Romagnoli displayed his undoubted ability against Torino but was caught out for both goals conceded. The youngster – who’s considered one of the faces of Milan’s future and has drawn comparisons to Alessandro Nesta – has been linked with a move to Chelsea and will need to regain composure whilst the Rossoneri’s midfield wasn’t commanding enough.
Gabriel Paletta is suspended for the visitors here, so Gustavo Gomez should get his Serie A debut in central defence alongside Romagnoli.
In 2015/16 Milan returned W6-D6-L7 on their travels and performed poorly against top-six teams (W0-D3-L9). The guests have now lost 11 of their last 19 at top-six clubs and having finished outside the top-six in each of the last three seasons.
Under Mihajlovic Milan were a defensively-minded outfit on their travels and were only beaten by more than a solitary goal twice on their travels. However, Montella’s more expansive style should lead to a more open contest, which may not suit the Rossoneri here.
Despite the disturbances in morale and obvious weaknesses in defence, it’s hard to overlook the two teams’ previous trends in these situations. Therefore, siding with Napoli to win and Both Teams To Score makes sense at 12/5 (Bet365).
Inter Milan v Palermo | Sunday 17.00 | BT Sport 2
New Inter Milan boss Frank de Boer has said all along that he will need time to impose his ideas on the Nerazzurri but an opening day defeat at Chievo did little to dispel the negativity from the Italian press.
De Boer’s men were criticised for a flat and aimless outing that saw the side lose 2-0 on their travels. The Dutchman can rightly point to the shambles he’s inherited from Roberto Mancini but a positive result on Sunday is essential in his San Siro debut.
The ex-Ajax boss experimented with a back-three in Chievo but should revert to a four-man defensive line for the visit of Palermo, negating the likelihood of Andrea Ranocchia sabotaging his own side on Sunday, ala last weekend.
New arrival Antonio Candreva could be given a full debut and de Boer has plenty of offensive talent to call upon for the clash.
Ever Banega, Eder, Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi are all match-winners in there own right and with Palermo having shipping at least three goals in six of their last seven trips to face Inter at San Siro, the hosts should be capable of hacking up.
Instead of finding an Asian Handicap angle, I’m punting the Nerazzurri to win ‘to nil’ at 23/20 with BetVictor. The hosts have claimed maximum points in 10 of their last 14 home outings and can nullify their toothless guests.
Palermo are widely expected to struggle again this season and opened their campaign with deserved 1-0 reverse at home to Sassuolo.
The visitors have never won at San Siro, have lost 10 of their previous 18 away days and make the journey from Sicily without defenders Michel Morganella and Achraf Lazaar.
The Rosanero shipped 65 goals last term – the second most in Serie A – and spent the summer trying to plug those leaks with defenders and defensive midfielders the order of their transfer dealings.
But the guests are also likely to struggle in the offensive third. Palermo’s two top goalscorers from last season – Alberto Gilardino and Franco Vazquez – have moved on and not been adequately replaced.
Davide Ballardini’s boys only managed 38 goals in 2015/16, notching just once in trips to the top-five whilst conceding 14 goals.
Torino v Bologna | Sunday 19.45
Torino head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic couldn’t help but laugh at the way in which his new side failed to pick up a point at Milan last weekend.
As mentioned above, the Granata fought back from 3-1 down in stoppage-time at the San Siro, only for Andrea Belotti to have his penalty saved with the last kick of the game. Had Belotti converted, Torino would have picked up a marvellous point.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of positivity stemming from the Bulls’ performance and in Mihajlovic the club have a top-notch boss well capable of guiding teams into the upper echelons of the Italian top-tier from firm foundations.
Torino recruited well this summer and even though Adem Ljajic looks likely to miss out on Sunday, Josef Martinez and Iago Falque are more than capable of hurting opposition defences from the flanks. Daniele Baselli made a major impact from the bench last weekend and with Marco Benassi also hoping for a start, Mihajlovic has more than enough options in attacking areas.
Torino are rated a 10/11 (William Hill) play here and I like the Granata’s chances of picking up a winning result. The hosts have W9-D6-L4 at home to bottom-half teams since the start of 2014/15, keeping nine clean sheets.
That defensive resolve should give the home side a solid base to work from against Bologna outfit that were rather powder-puff on their travels last term.
Roberto Donadoni’s men W5-D4-L5 in away games under the former Italian head coach’s charge but signed off for the season having failed to score in five of their final seven matches on the road.
Last weekend’s late 1-0 win courtesy of Mattia Destro against Crotone failed to disguise their lack of offensive threat and the visitors, who managed just 33 goals in 2015/16, could struggle to pick up a positive result here.
Simone Verdi was signed to replace Emanuele Giaccherini’s magic but with so many changes in key areas, I’m happiest opposing Bologna in the early stages of this season.
If you’re after a bit more bang for your buck, Sportingbet are offering 5/2 on a Torino win and Under 2.5 Goals – 12 of Bologna’s past 14 away games have delivered fewer than three goals whilst 17 matches overall last term featured Under 1.5 Goals.
Lazio v Juventus – Juventus to win (10/11 Sportingbet)
Napoli v AC Milan – Napoli to win and Both Teams To Score (12/5 Bet365)
Inter Milan v Palermo – Inter Milan to win ‘to nil’ (23/20 BetVictor)
Torino v Bologna – Torino to win (10/11 William Hill)
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