THERE’S a trio of fixtures from Serie A to enjoy on Monday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies.
Roma v Napoli | Monday 14.00 | BT Sport Europe
Roma have required interventions of veteran captain Francesco Totti in each of their last three fixtures to keep their unbeaten 13-match (W10-D3-L0) league run intact.
Rumours of in-fighting and fallouts with head coach Luciano Spalletti refuse to go away but the 39-year-old’s assist and late goals to salvage a 1-1 draw with Bologna, a 3-3 with Atalanta and a last-gasp win over Torino over the past fortnight have continued to elevate Il Bimbo d'Oro – ‘The Golden Boy’s’ standing in the capital city.
Serie A’s second highest scorer of all-time is likely to be back on the bench for Monday’s mouthwatering showdown with Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico, with Roma knowing a win is essential to have any chance of overhauling the Partenopei in second.
A victory would draw the Giallorossi to within two points of second-placed Napoli and automatic qualification to the Champions League. That’s incentive enough to keep the Wolves pack focussed and motivated here.
But amongst the Totti headlines, Roma’s lack of defensive strength has threatened to derail their outstanding upturn in results since Spalletti returned to the Eternal City. The home side have failed to keep their sheets clean since February – a nine-match streak – despite their excellent league results.
The Giallorossi have W11-D5-L1 on home soil but bang out-of-form Bologna escaped with a point from the Stadio Olimpico recently, one of 10 successful Both Teams To Score bets in Roma’s last 11 league encounters.
Since Spalletti returned, Roma have turned into the most free-scoring side in Serie A with the home side notching at least twice in 11 of their unbeaten 13-game run. But I’m unprepared to invest any faith in the in-form outfit whilst they’re conceding goals left, right and centre.
So instead, I’m chasing goals on Monday with Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score standing out at 10/11 (William Hill). Nine of the Wolves’ last 11 fixtures have featured at least three goals with three of their most recent four producing at least five.
Napoli thrashed Bologna 6-0 on Tuesday and can welcome back 30-goal top scorer Gonzalo Higuain from suspension here. The Partenopei have fired in 17 goals across their last five fixtures but have returned just one clean sheet in five visits to top-seven sides this season.
Nevertheless, Maurizio Sarri’s side have fired blanks on only five occasions during league duty this season and the Neapolitans poor run of recent results on the road (W1-D1-L4) suggest they could easily play their part in an appetising from the capital.
Hellas Verona v AC Milan | Monday 16.00 | BT Sport Europe
Lose and Verona will have relegation confirmed on Monday night and Hellas are unlikely to have star veteran striker Luca Toni available – Giampaolo Pazzini is expected to lead the hosts’ line in his absence.
It’s been a season to forget the Gialloblu, who’ve failed to record a clean sheet in any of their 17 outings at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi and bagged just three league wins all term.
Hellas have played in fits and starts since Christmas but have now lost three on the spin – two coming against bang out-of-form Empoli and Frosinone – and look destined to play in Serie B in 2016/17.
Visitors Milan travel without suspended Alex and Mario Balotelli but Philippe Mexes and Jeremy Menez are more than capable replacements as the Rossoneri look to boost their Europa League qualification hopes with victory.
The enthusiasm brought about by Cristian Brocchi’s appointment and debut win over Sampdoria dissipated rapidly on Thursday night as Milan plodded to a dreadful 0-0 draw with Carpi. The Rossoneri were slow and cumbersome in possession and failed to eke out enough clear-cut opportunities.
Travelling to Verona could actually be more dangerous than useful for Milan, but should Brocchi’s boys approach the fixture in the correct mind-set, they should be good enough to extend a decent run of results at the bottom-seven this season (W4-D1-L0).
I can’t say I’m too seduced by the 3/4 quotes on an away success but chuck in Over 1.5 Goals and we can back a Milan win at 6/5 (Paddy Power). Just two of Milan’s wins this season have been by the 1-0 scoreline with only two of Verona’s home defeats arriving by the same result.
In fact, Hellas’ last six as hosts have all featured Over 2.5 Goals, as have eight of their most recent 14 when welcoming top-six clubs. Milan have followed suit in 13 of their previous 18 at the bottom-six, with nine of their last 14 against the same standard of opposition producing four or more goals.
Carpi v Empoli | Monday 18.00 | BT Sport Europe
Carpi have lowered their cheapest ticket prices to just €3 to ensure a big crowd at their Stadio Alberto Braglia base for this crucial clash in their fight for survival.
Fabrizio Castori’s men upset the odds to pick up a well-earned 0-0 draw at the San Siro against Milan on Thursday night despite resting and rotating their squad, with this contest in mind. The Biancorossi boss is expected to return to his standard 4-4-1-1 formation here with a full squad to select from.
It’s now just two losses in nine for Carpi (W3-D4-L2) – the most in-form side amongst the relegation battlers – but with Palermo picking up maximum points at Frosinone on Sunday, the hosts know they must get something here with a trip to Juventus to follow next week.
Empoli have seen off both Fiorentina and Verona in Tuscany but on their travels the Azzurri have taken just two points from a possible 21 (W0-D2-L5) now, including four successive losses. Admittedly, those four defeats were against tough opposition and Marco Giampaolo’s men have flourished against the league’s lesser lights.
The visitors have W7-D5-L3 when taking on bottom-half teams, including W5-D2-L1 on the road, and are accustomed to controlling the pace of the game so Carpi may have to feed off counter-attacks to hurt the Tuscans here.
Like Empoli, Carpi have excelled against Serie A’s lesser lights, especially at home (W5-D3-L1) but can I justifiably say they deserve to be odds-on here? No.
Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 39/40 (888) and has proven profitable in 13/17 (76%) of Carpi’s home encounters, as well as 9/17 (53%) of Empoli’s road trips – giving us a very healthy 64.5% average success-rate that implies betting odds not far off 4/7.
So I’ll happily snap up the big value on BTTS price but if you’re after something a bit bigger – all seven of Carpi’s wins since promotion have included both sides scoring whilst eight of Empoli’s 14 defeats have also involved goals for both teams; Carpi to win and Both Teams To Score is a 33/10 option (888).
Roma v Napoli – Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Hellas Verona v AC Milan – AC Milan to win and Over 1.5 Goals (6/5 Paddy Power)
Carpi v Empoli – Both Teams To Score (39/40 888)
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