MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) bagged nine European NAP winners from his last 11 selections. His latest arrives from Italy on Sunday.
Lazio v Sampdoria | Sunday 14:00 | BT Sport Extra
Lazio’s 3-0 home loss to Napoli in early April all but extinguished their ambitions to finish in the top-three and the subsequent 2-2 draw at struggling Genoa slowed momentum further.
A wonderful two-legged Coppa Italia semi-final success over bitter city rivals Roma delighted supporters but slipping back into Serie A duty, the Biancocelesti suffered another wobble despite demolishing Palermo 6-2 in the capital.
Simone Inzaghi’s side scored with their first five shots as they recorded only a second triumph in six ahead of last Sunday’s crunch derby clash with Roma. Few were anticipating Lazio pocketing the points.
The Eagles suffered a further blow in the build-up to kick-off, when top scorer Ciro Immobile was ruled out with a fever. But the underdogs refused to kneel down in the Eternal City with Inzaghi outwitting his opposite number Luciano Spalletti once more in a thrilling 3-1 victory.
Pacey Keita Balde started alone up front and made a masterful contribution to the Biancocelesti’s unexpected win in a 3-5-1-1 system that was perfectly structured to counteract the Giallorossi. Jordan Lukaku and Dusan Basta were tireless on the flanks, Lucas Biglia a menace through the middle with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dictating play between the lines.
Inzaghi proved there’s still life left in Lazio in league matters despite a Europa League spot all but ensured and attention turning towards a Coppa Italia final against all-conquering Juventus. The novice boss has shaped the Eagles into something more than the sum of their parts, a team that is dynamic, exciting, and flexible – having switched formations regularly to fit their opposition.
After the Lord Mayor’s Show?
However, Sunday’s tussle with Sampdoria could easily see the Biancocelesti suffer from a bout of After The Lord Mayor’s Show-itus.
The hosts have been chalked up as heavy home favourites to clinch maximum points but the handicap set looks far too steep and it’s an angle I’m keen to oppose Lazio with at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Eagles have recorded the double over top-six rivals Atalanta but managed just W1-D2-L6 when taking on the rest of the top-seven and although Samp are sitting 10th in the Serie A standings, the visitors boast the tools to make life tough for the hosts whom are still flying high after their derby triumph.
The Blucerchiati recorded a well-earned draw at Torino at the weekend to dispel suggestions Marco Giampaolo’s men are already on the beach and although they’ve now won just once in six, there’s a competitive edge to their play.
The betting angle
Sampdoria can be supported with a +2.25 Asian Handicap at 3/4 (BetVictor) – a selection that would see us profit should the visitors avoid defeat by three goals in the capital. A win, draw or loss by exactly one goal would see a half-stakes pay-out with a two-goal reverse handing us a half-stakes return.
Giampaolo’s group have suffered a sole defeat by three goals or more this season and that came at champions-elect Juventus. And viewing away games since the beginning of last term, Sampdoria have been beaten by at least three goals in only 3/36 (8%) road trips – twice by Juventus.
Lazio have surpassed the handicap on five occasions (15%) this term and in only 6/36 (17%) home fixtures dating back to the start of 2015/16. It’s also worth noting that the hosts have triumphed by three or more goals only once in their past 33 encounters with top-half teams.
Lazio v Sampdoria – Sampdoria +2.25 Asian Handicap (3/4 BetVictor)