Dave Farrar predicts the two top scorers in Serie A will collide in spectacular fashion, Sassuolo can make life difficult for Inter and Hellas cause another upset...
“Atalanta and Lazio are the two top scoring sides in Serie A and, given that they both have every reason to push hard to win, I can see there being plenty of goals here.”
Great entertainers go head-to-head
Atalanta v Lazio
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I refused to apologise for making the obvious selection in Atalanta v Sassuolo at the weekend, and I'm of similar mind this Wednesday night, as Atalanta host Lazio in what should be one of the games of the season.
These are the two top scoring sides in Serie A, with Atalanta having managed 74 to Lazio's 60, and given that they both have every reason to push hard to win this game, with little benefit to be had from the draw, I can see there being plenty of goals here.
It's no exaggeration to say that Atalanta against Sassuolo could have finished 8-2, and Gasperini's devil may care attitude continues to produce entertaining football, even if Josip Ilicic doesn't recover in time.
Lazio are missing their best defensive shield in Lucas Leiva, and Simone Inzaghi knows that his team face arguably their sternest test of the season so far. If they can overcome this hurdle, then they really could be champions.
On balance, I don't have a strong opinion in the match odds market, but would veer towards Lazio at [3.2], as that seems big given the absence of fans. The bet, though, is goals. Over 3.5 at [2.5] looks generous given the nature of the teams involved, and I'll happily side with the obvious choice once again.
Inter can't keep it clean
Inter v Sassuolo
Live on Betfair Live Video
You couldn't invent a football club like Inter Milan. A history of considerable glory, a consistent habit of blowing chances, and a new coach who is determined to rid them of their "crazy Inter" nickname. The pattern runs like this: they start the season spectacularly, they get past the point at which they normally fade, and then they do fade. Throwing away leads, drawing games that they should win. Season upon season, fans or no fans, same old Inter.
They were at it again on Sunday night, the team that has thrown away more points from winning positions this season than any other. Cruising against an abject Sampdoria, a 2-0 lead that might have been 5-0, and then a goal thrown away, and a nervy ending to the game which led to them scraping, rather than celebrating, a win.
They face Sassuolo on Wednesday, and while I think they'll win, I wouldn't go near them at [1.4], preferring instead to focus on their propensity for making life hard for themselves. Sassuolo have a habit of scoring against the bigger teams in Serie A, netting twice at Juve, twice at Roma, and at Atalanta on Sunday. They also scored three against Inter (going down 4-3) in their home game earlier this season.
Add to that the fact that Antonio Conte's side have kept one clean sheet in their last nine Serie A games, and none at home since December 21, and there's the makings of a bet. "Yes" to both teams to score is available at [1.9], and I'll jump on that.
Hellas to surge past Napoli
Verona v Napoli
Live on Premier Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Verona are a point behind Napoli and, should they beat them on Tuesday, will move above them into sixth in the Serie A table. And yet Ivan Juric's team are [4.2] for the win. I appreciate that a lack of fans diminishes home advantage, and I would make this a "pick 'em" game, but I can't ignore a price like that.
This is a game in which the absence of a crowd will be felt more keenly than most. These two sets of supporters despise each other (in short, it's a rich versus poor, north versus south thing that can get really unpleasant) and so it'll be odd to see them playing out a result with little noise at the Bentegodi.
Verona did well to beat Cagliari at the weekend, having to play with 10 against 11 for a large part of the game. Fabio Borini is suspended here because of that red card, but Verona are good enough to cope without him, and they face a Napoli side who are fresh from their glorious Coppa Italia win.
Will their Cup triumph spur them on to a strong finish or make them take their eye off the ball? They're guaranteed a Europa League spot, they still have a Champions League chance, the League will hardly be their major motivation.
Napoli are a better team than I expected under Gennaro Gattuso, but they can still slip up. They've lost at home against Fiorentina and Lecce this calendar year, both nights when their focus wasn't there. Verona are a far tougher proposition than either of those two, and beat Juventus here in February. The home team will believe that anything is possible, and will have their eyes firmly on a top six finish. I like them at the prices here.
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Back Over 3.5 Goals in Atalanta v Lazio @ [2.5]
“Yes” to Both Teams to score in Inter v Sassuolo @ [1.9]
Back Verona to beat Napoli @ [4.2]