MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) delivers his verdict on Wednesday’s Serie A action.
Udinese v Atalanta | Wednesday 11.30 | BT Sport Europe
It’s an early start for Serie A fans on Wednesday as the annual Epiphany special gets underway with Udinese taking on Atalanta in the Stadio Friuli.
I’ll try and keep things as short and sweet as possible; I’m not expecting goals. In fact, looking at the two clubs’ respective home/away records, Both Teams To Score has banked in just 4/17 (25%) – only three of Udinese’s eight on home soil have rewarded BTTS backers and just one of Atalanta’s road trips have followed suit.
We can tick ‘No’ in the Both Teams To Score column at an attractive even-money with Paddy Power – if we took the above statistics literally, the 75% chance would equate to just a 1/3 shot. So it’s fair to say, evens is a big value price.
The duo met in the Coppa Italia last month but it’s worth overlooking the 3-1 win for Wednesday’s hosts as both sides heavily rotated. Much more interesting is the fact the home side have managed a league-low six goals when welcoming Serie A opposition with their visitors boasting the second-worst attack in the division with five.
Edy Reja, head coach of the guests, is keen to add another centre-forward during this transfer window and that’s understandable with La Dea firing blanks in five of their last six on the road. The Bergamo boys will be without the injured Mauricio Pinilla up front and the unexpected departure of Maxi Moralez will also hamper their offensive options.
Only Verona have scored fewer goals than Udinese and Stefano Colantunono will again be missing Duvan Zapata here. Veteran Antonio Di Natale and Cyril Thereau will be asked to lead the line for the Zebrette, who’ve notched more than one goal in a game on only three occasions.
Between them, Udinese and Atalanta have failed to find the back of the net in 13/34 (38%) league fixtures this term but can lay claim to a collective 11/34 (32%) clean sheets. Opposing BTTS looks our best option for an early winner.
Chievo v Roma | Wednesday 14.00
Rome tend to be dominant over Chievo. Since the Flying Donkeys arrived in the Italian top tier, the Giallorossi have W13-D10-L3 of their 26 league battles, keeping a staggering 17 clean sheets, including in 11 of the last 14 match-ups.
However, I’m not the biggest fan of head-to-head records and believe other trends and stats hold far more sway when eyeing up potential punts. For example, team news. Roma make the journey without half their first-choice midfield as well as their headline striker.
Yes, Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan and Edin Dzeko are all suspended and although Gervinho’s in tow – they’ve taken 25 points from the 10 games the Ivorian has played at least 45 minutes in – a trip to Chievo is never a walk in the park.
Since Nainggolan joined Roma two years ago, he’s partnered Pjanic in 46 of the club’s 75 games, with the Giallorossi winning 29 (63%) and scoring 1.78 goals-per-game. However, when one or both has been missing (this will be just the third time that both have been absent) their win rate drops to 45% (13 wins in 29) and their goals-per-game dropping to 1.41.
Rolando Maran’s worked wonders since taking over Chievo with the Flying Donkeys deep in the relegation mire. In his 24 home games, Chievo have returned W7-D10-L7 and with just a 29% loss rate at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi in mind, I’m keen on taking Bet365’s 7/10 on the hosts in the Double Chance market.
Roma signed off for Christmas with a fairly lousy 2-0 success at home to struggling Genoa. I watched on from the Stadio Olimpico and was struck by their lack of ideas and their severe lack of confidence. The players and coach were booed regularly and the final scoreline was slightly flattering.
The three points appears to have bought head coach Rudi Garcia at least a stay of execution, but further improvement will be required. The Giallorossi had previously gone seven matches without a win in all competitions and although they’ve now recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season, they’ve managed just W3-D4-L2 on their travels.
The shot ratio data also favours the home side. Chievo have enjoyed 57.4% of all shots-on-target at their Bentegodi base – Roma have managed 55.1% when they’ve been outside of the Olimpico.
Napoli and Inter escaped with 1-0 wins when visiting Chievo and only once in those aforementioned 24 outings have the Flying Donkeys been beaten by more than a solitary goal at home under Maran.
They held Roma here last season so with the visitors without three key components, I’ll happily take them on.
Palermo v Fiorentina | Wednesday 14.00
Fiorentina enjoy taking on Palermo. La Viola have won the last four encounters, netting 2.75 goals-per-game, and their last seven trips to Sicily have seen the Tuscans pocket the pockets on four occasions.
But as already mentioned, head-to-head trends mean little to me. Instead, there are a number of pointers that suggest Paolo Sousa’s troops are tasty 21/10 shots with 888 Sport to enjoy a Half-Time/Full-Time success.
Fiorentina are the league’s top scorers with 33, haven’t yet failed to notch away (averaging 1.6 goals-per-game), are enjoying the league’s best average possession figure (60%) and have faced the fewest shots-on-target.
Want more? La Viola have won 13 of their last 14 visits to bottom-six sides with seven of their most recent nine against the same standard of opposition resulting in W-W double results. The guests hold a W9-D0-L1 record against clubs outside 8th this term and make the journey with a fully fit squad.
Only Juventus accumulated more points than Fiorentina in 2015 so a Palermo side that’s lost three of their last four without scoring will know they’re in for a stiff test.
Head coach Davide Ballardini has both Giancarlo Gonzalez and Roberto Vitiello absent so Sinisa Andjelkovic is likely to start alongside Edoardo Goldaniga in a patched up defence. Gonzalez is considered the home side’s best centre-back and in the 10 matches he’s missed since the start of last season, they’ve won only once with their sole clean sheet coming against relegated Cesena.
The Rosanero don’t tend to fare too well against the league’s big guns – this season they’ve a solitary point from a possible 27 against top-half teams, conceding at least twice in six of those nine games. And since the start of last season, six visitors (21%) have already enjoyed successful W-W double results at the Stadio Renzo Barbera.
Only Verona, Sampdoria and Frosinone are facing more on-target attempts than Palermo whilst only Carpi hold a worse half-time home record.
Fiorentina have led at the interval in five of their eight road trips this term and I fancy Sousa’s charges to come flying out of the traps following the winter break.
Udinese v Atalanta – Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (1/1 Paddy Power)
Chievo v Roma – Chievo double chance (7/10 Bet365)
Palermo v Fiorentina – Fiorentina-Fiorentina (21/10 888 Sport)
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