TWO cracking clashes from Serie A to look forward to on Monday evening. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through his best bets.
Sassuolo v Fiorentina | Monday 18.00 | BT Sport Europe
Sassuolo have collected 14 points from their six home Serie A games this season, downing Juventus, Lazio and Napoli in the process at the Mapei Stadium. Yet the layers are refusing to give Eusebio Di Francesco’s side the respect they deserve.
The Neroverdi are now unbeaten in nine in front of their home fans (W6-D3-L0) and since the start of last season, recorded an excellent W11-D10-L4 in Italy’s top tier. The hosts come into Monday’s match with Fiorentina looking for a fourth consecutive victory on home soil (an achievement they’ve never managed in Serie A) but are rated 29/10 (BetVictor) pokes to pick up maximum points.
Victory would bring Sassuolo back into fifth but Di Francesco must do without his star player Domenico Berardi through suspension. The hosts will like opt for an attacking trio composed of Antonio Floro Flores, Gregoire Defrel and Nicola Sansone with Defrel's pace likely to cause the Fiorentina back line problems.
The visitors’ title challenge stumbled last weekend as they needed to fight back from two goals down at Tuscan rivals Empoli to earn a draw. Boss Paulo Sousa rotated his weary troops for that encounter and despite a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Basel in the Europa League on Thursday night, should field a full strength squad.
Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic started in Switzerland with Kalinic looking to improve on his impressive tally of nine goals in his last eight appearances. They’ll be joined by attack-minded Borja Valero, Federico Bernardeschi and Marcos Alonso as La Viola look to enhance their excellent goalscoring record of 19 goals in their last nine away from Florence.
The easiest and most obvious play at the Mapei is to back Both Teams To Score at 10/11 with William Hill. It’s a bet that’s landed in 16/25 (64%) of Sassuolo’s home fixtures and 15/25 (60%) of Fiorentina’s away days since the start of last season.
But I just can’t resist a wee poke on the huge 13/2 (Paddy Power) that Sassuolo win with both teams scoring – the visitors have only failed to notch in four road trips during that 25-game spell whilst eight of the Neroverdi’s 11 wins during the same timeframe saw them concede a goal.
Napoli v Inter | Monday 20.00 | BT Sport Europe
Napoli have W13-D4-L0 since their opening day defeat to Sassuolo and the Partenopei can climb to the Serie A summit on Monday night by beating current league leaders Inter.
Maurizio Sarri’s men have been almost unstoppable since mid-September (W13-D2-L0) with only Carpi and Genoa escaping without defeat and on both occasions they were clinging on for an undeserved 0-0 draw. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Roberto Mancini’s dull visitors look to produce a similarly dour game-plan at the San Paolo.
But Napoli are good enough to continue their superb streak and extend their unbeaten home record over Inter to W7-D3-L0 since 1997. That aforementioned recent 15-game run has included 12 clean sheets and the last time the Partenopei boasted a better defensive record at this stage of the season (1986/87), they won the Scudetto.
It’s seven successive home wins for the hosts to an aggregate 22-2 and they’ve scored in each of their last 24 Serie A starts at the San Paolo – averaging 2.5 goals-per-game. The side are supremely organised under the watch of former bank manager Sarri and lethal in forward areas.
Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne have been particularly impressive with the former notching eight goals in his last 10 appearances. I’m happy to get both he and Napoli onside by backing the Wincast at a bulbous 9/4 from Bwin. Napoli have already beaten Fiorentina, Juventus, and Lazio in Naples this term and if Inter are to be added to the list, the Argentine hitman will play a key role.
Inter have scored in their last 10 away league fixtures and arrive without a goal against in four – their best run since 2004. But I can’t help but feel Mancini’s men are a little overrated. Sure, they’ve the best backline record in the league but Torino are the only top-half team they’ve travelled to whilst Fiorentina shredded the Nerazzurri 4-1 in Milan.
The visitors have scored more than once on only two occasions this season and both came against promoted clubs who sit in the bottom-four. Since 2013/14, Inter have W3-D3-L5 at top-six finishers and they’ll play for a point on Monday night – I’m just far from convinced they’re as real a deal as the standings suggest.
Higuain's scored in seven of Napoli's eight Serie A victories in 2015/16 and I'll happily invest in a repeat.
Sassuolo v Fiorentina – Both Teams To Score (10/11 William Hill)
Sassuolo v Fiorentina – Sassuolo to win and Both Teams To Score (13/2 Paddy Power)
Napoli v Inter – Napoli to win and Gonzalo Higuain to score (9/4 Bwin)
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