Dave Farrar is back with this week's Serie A preview. This time out he fancies Juve to pick up an away win and Sampdoria to perhaps provide a shock...
If there's one thing for absolute certain at the Olimpico this weekend, it's that Roma's Pablo Osvaldo won't be taking a penalty. Roma's tempestuous week finished last Sunday with Osvaldo insisting that he took a spot kick against Sampdoria, and then rolling it inoffensively at the goalkeeper. Osvaldo says that he will move on, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he puts in a fantastic performance against Juventus, but I'm equally sure that it won't be enough. British viewers saw this week just what a well organised side Juve are, and I fully expect them to steamroller Roma, as they did so convincingly in the reverse fixture in Turin. Juve were 3 up within 20 minutes, and made Zeman's Roma look foolish. Aurelio Andreazzoli's Roma aren't going to look any better. Zeman's temporary replacement made a bold statement last week, switching to a 3-5-2 system and returning both Maarten Stekelenburg and Daniele De Rossi to the starting line up, and drawing a line under the Zeman days. I was particularly interested to watch the Dutch goalkeeper's performance: this is an average player whose reputation has grown during his time out of the side. He has talked of his disgust at the way that he has been treated and nearly got himself a six million pound move to Fulham off the back of this non playing reputation. At the weekend, we saw what he is. A keeper as flawed as any in Serie A, and not someone worthy of being number one at a top club. Zeman was right about him at least.
To describe Roma in transition is an understatement: Zeman's system needs learning, and it needs unlearning too. Juve, with a Champions League hurdle out of the way and their relatively poor League run seemingly behind them, are in the perfect frame of mind to take advantage. They're overpriced at 2.166/5, and I have no hesitation in backing them.
Back Juventus to beat Roma @ 2.166/5
I was in Florence this week, and was expecting to meet a downbeat group of fans. After their fantastic start to the season had them challenging Lazio and Napoli for second place in Serie A, they have dropped down the table, and won only one of their last six, losing four times. There's still great optimism though, that Vincenzo Montella can take them to some great places, and their resurgence could start this weekend. La Viola are very strong at home: they have lost only one of their last 16 matches at the Artemio Franchi, and while they have drawn too many of those, they still take great inspiration from a terrific set of supporters. Having been the best away team in Europe, Inter have started to look strong at home but particularly weak away from San Siro, and they've scored only two goals in their last five away matches, taking just one point from a possible 18. Inter were starting to look like their old selves against Chievo last weekend, but one of the reasons for that was the return to fitness of Diego Milito, who gives them an excellent focus in attacking areas. The news that he is out for the rest of the season must be a bitter blow for Inter fans, and should be for Inter backers as well.
Every time that I've seen Inter in recent weeks, they look weak defensively and on the brink of making a mistake. Teams that take the game to them tend to have success, and Fiorentina will most certainly do that. If La Viola can get service in to Luca Toni and Stefan Jovetic then I'm not sure that Inter can cope, and I'll take Fiorentina to win this convincingly, and to heap the pressure onto an increasingly under pressure Andrea Stramaccioni.
Fiorentina to beat Inter @ 2.0421/20
Finally, just some brief thoughts about Delio Rossi's return to Naples with Sampdoria. On the face of it, Samp shouldn't have too much chance against Napoli. Walter Mazzarri's team are second in the table for a reason, and for all that they fell apart against Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League on Thursday, they should finish the season second to Juve. I have my doubts about their ability to stay the pace though (and feel the same about Lazio), and if Milan, Inter or Fiorentina could come with a late run I could see those sides snatching second place. It may not happen because of the inconsistency of those teams, but don't be surprised if Napoli have a poor run, and it starts this Sunday against Sampdoria. Mazzarri is hugely reliant on two players, and with Marek Hamsyk and Edinson Cavani playing pretty much every game, tiredness becomes an issue. Napoli were terrible against Lazio last week, and lucky to escape with a draw, and if you throw in an atrocious Europa League performance, then they're a team who owe their coach a performance. Are they capable of delivering it? I'm not sure. Delio Rossi is the master of organising teams away from home, and he will be fully aware of how to stop his old side from playing. Samp have conceded only two goals in their last five games and have lost only one of their last six in Serie A. They have a poor away record, and Napoli are stong at home, but those of those statistics are factored into the prices, and I have no problem in taking a punt on Samp pulling off an upset. They're certainly overpriced to do so at 9.617/2, and given that their containing style could frustrate Napoli, they're also too big to win by a 1-0 scoreline. Napoli are rightly favourites, but there are chinks in their armour that we should try and exploit.