It has been a busy week in Italian soccer as a full program of midweek games threw up some interesting results that makes it no clearer who will be qualifying for European competition this season from Serie A.
Napoli’s defeat at Empoli was a surprise – but SPAL and Frosinone also got in on the act by beating Lazio and Parma respectively. Both games included further VAR controversy with Frosinone finally taking its game-winning penalty in the 103rd minute thanks to some extended video analyzing.
Juventus took another step towards its eighth successive scudetto with a 2-0 win at Cagliari which unfortunately ended with some ugly scenes when Moise Kean was racially abused by home fans after scoring Juve’s second.
We are now looking forward to match day 31 with games taking place over three days – starting on Saturday – and once again I’m going to take a look at the fixtures from a betting perspective. I’ve chosen Juventus vs Milan as my featured game of the week.
Featured Game – Juventus vs Milan
After Napoli’s surprise loss in midweek, Juventus could claim the title at the weekend if it gets three points against Milan and Napoli trip up again against Genoa on Sunday evening.
Here are the latest game odds courtesy of Betway.
Juventus to Win
Milan to Win
The pressure is off Juventus now as it cruises to the title. Napoli may keep the Bianconeri waiting for at least one more week but this game is all about Milan desperately trying to regain some form. But before I make my pick and predictions I’m going to take a closer look at both teams.
Max Allegri’s side showed its superiority against Cagliari in midweek, coming away from Sardinia with another three points when minds could well have been on its forthcoming Champions League quarter final tie with Ajax.
Moise Kean scored another in Tuesday’s victory – and with his call up for the national side he is enjoying an excellent end to the season. The absence of Cristiano Ronaldo has not been noticeable and Juve will expect another three points on Saturday.
Milan’s poor run of form continues as Gennaro Gattuso’s side was only able to take a point from its home game with Udinese. Krzysztof Piatek scored again against the Zebrette but Brazilian playmaker Lucas Paqueta was forced off through injury and could be a big miss for the Rossoneri in Turin.
Gattuso changed formation again midweek in an attempt to get back to winning ways – but to no avail. Milan has now only picked up one point in its last three games – after a five game winning streak – and is in danger of being caught by Atalanta and Lazio in the race for the fourth Champions League spot.
Betting Pick and Prediction
I don’t think Juventus will win the title this weekend but I do feel that it has the beating of a Milan side still struggling to regain its form from a few weeks ago. I expect Milan to improve but if Paqueta misses out then Gattuso’s side may not have enough creativity to match Juve’s star talent.
My Pick: Juventus to Win 1.75
Predictions for the Week’s Other Serie A Games
Here is how I think the rest of the weekend’s Serie A games will shape up.
Parma vs Torino
Parma to Win
Torino to Win
Parma lost to a last minute penalty at Frosinone on Wednesday to make it three successive defeats for Roberto D’Aversa’s side – and although relegation should not be a worry, a few more points would make things a little easier.
Torino, on the other hand, beat Europa League spot rivals Sampdoria in midweek and could even put some pressure on the top four if it keeps up the impressive form it has been showing over the past few months. Andrea Belotti scored another two goals in Wednesday’s victory and will be the main threat for Torino here.
Torino is definitely the club to watch at the moment and I expect Walter Mazzarri’s side to win and put itself in a great position by the time the back-to-back games against Juve and Milan come around at the end of the month.
Sampdoria vs Roma
Sampdoria to Win
Roma to Win
Samp boss Marco Giampaolo was understandably disappointed to lose to Torino but still has hopes of qualifying for European competition. It is vital therefore that his side does not drop points to a close rival here. Sampdoria beat Milan in its last home match so will want to repeat that feat with the help of star striker Fabio Quagliarella.
Roma is favorite for this one but has been so inconsistent again this season that is difficult to successfully predict how Claudio Ranieri’s side will do. The Giallorossi fought back twice against Fiorentina in midweek to grab a point but need to record some more wins if it is to have a chance of capturing a top four spot.
With both sides desperate for points this could be a game full of mistakes – and the draw seems to hold the most value.
Fiorentina vs Frosinone
Fiorentina to Win
Frosinone to Win
Fiorentina picked up its 15th draw of the season against Roma on Wednesday and even though it was a good result away from home, head coach Stefano Pioli knows that even turning just three of those 15 draws into victories would have given his side a much better chance of European qualification. A Coppa Italia semi final now seems far more important for the Viola.
Frosinone picked up its first home win of the season against Parma and will need to turn that confidence into another three points if it is to escape the drop to Serie B at the end of the season. Empoli’s win over Napoli means the Canarini is still eight points from safety with just eight games to go.
Fiorentina’s defense has not been the strongest this season but Bryan Dabo was positioned in front of the back line against Roma and he should be able to keep out a limited Frosinone side. I expect this to be an all too rare win for the home side.
Udinese vs Empoli
Udinese to Win
Empoli to Win
Udinese’s form since just before the international break has been impressive and given the fans a reason to believe that another season in Serie A will be enjoyed next year. A draw in Milan was a great result for Davide Nicola’s side and three points at home to relegation threatened Empoli will be expected here.
Empoli was deserved victors over Napoli in midweek and will be desperate to keep the momentum going with another three points in Udine. But the Azzurri has only picked up four points away from home all season and I cannot see Empoli leapfrogging its opponents by getting anything out of this game.
Udinese will pull away from the relegation battle with three points from this one.
Cagliari vs SPAL
Cagliari to Win
SPAL to Win
Cagliari looks likely to avoid a stadium ban after the racist chanting seen in midweek and manager Rolando Maran will hope that the media will be concentrating on his side’s victory instead after this mid table tussle against SPAL. Cagliari has only lost three at home all season and I’m not sure SPAL will succeed where both Inter and Fiorentina have failed recently.
SPAL scored a last minute penalty of its own to beat Lazio in midweek and give itself more of a chance of staying in the Serie A for next season. Leonardo Semplici’s side has now won three games in a row for the first time this campaign and will be confident of coming away from Sardinia with at least a point.
With other results probably more important to the relegation battle these two would both be happy with a draw but I feel Cagliari might snatch a narrow victory.
Lazio vs Sassuolo
Lazio to Win
Sassuolo to Win
Simone Inzaghi had no complaints about his side’s defeat to SPAL in midweek but it was a disappointing end to the night for a side that had started to put the pressure on those around it in the last few weeks. Fortunately for Lazio, other results on the night went its way and three points here would put the Bianocelesti’s European qualification dreams right back on track.
A predicted win over Chievo will have eased worries of being drawn into a relegation battle for Sassuolo and his side should be able to pick up a few more points over the next few weeks to ensure that this small club will still be playing in the top flight of Italian soccer next season.
I fully expect Lazio to go for it at home this weekend and get back to winning ways with a comprehensive victory over Sassuolo.
Inter vs Atalanta
Inter to Win
Atalanta to Win
Aside from Juventus v Milan this is probably the game of the week – and arguably has more riding on the outcome. Inter welcomed back Mauro Icardi back to the side for its 4-0 thrashing of Genoa on Wednesday and although not everything seems rosy in Milan, Luciano Spalletti seems to think that his problems are behind him as they look to consolidate third place.
Atalanta has continued its great run of form and look back in the race for Europa League – and even Champions League – qualification after a dip in results in February. Duvan Zapata has been back scoring again and coach Gian Piero Gasperini will believe his side can get something from this game.
This should be a really good encounter between two sides pushing for European qualification. A draw looks like good value and would probably be taken by both clubs.
Napoli vs Genoa
Napoli to Win
Genoa to Win
Carlo Ancelotti was magnanimous in defeat in midweek as his side lost to an Empoli team who looked like they wanted the win more. The forthcoming Europa League quarter final tie with Arsenal will now take most of the attention for the Partenopei but it should still be too strong for this Genoa team.
Genoa felt the full force of Mauro Icardi’s Inter return in the 4-0 defeat on Wednesday but know that a few more points over the next few weeks will secure Serie A soccer for next season. This game is unlikely to help that cause but head coach Cesare Prandelli will look to other fixtures for that.
Napoli will want to put on a good show for its home fans after the loss to Empoli and could win by quite a margin here.
Bologna vs Chievo
Bologna to Win
Chievo to Win
Sinisa Mihajlovic can take the credit for turning Bologna’s season around and although safety is not assured quite yet, the Rossoblu has picked up points over the last two months that now sees the club out of the bottom three. Another win against hapless Chievo here should stretch the gap and make life a little easier for Bologna.
It will depend on other results but Chievo could be relegated with a defeat to Bologna – but realistically the fans and players already know that they will be enjoying Serie B soccer next season. It has been a season to forget for the Verona club and thoughts should already be concentrated on planning on next season’s promotion push.
Bologna are almost certain to get another valuable three points against the bottom of the table side.
The midweek results really ramped up the excitement in Serie A with unexpected defeats for Napoli and Lazio – along with the win for Torino – making the race for European qualification the main show in Italian soccer right now.
This weekend’s games should give us a slightly clearer picture of what is happening at the other end of the table but there are still a few more rounds of fixtures to go before anything is settled.
As ever, let me know what you think of my predictions and picks – and enjoy the games.