Dave Farrar predicts Fiorentina will suffer at the hands of Juventus yet again, a Sassuolo revival, and a thriller in Sardinia as he takes a look at this weekend's Serie A action...
“The Artemio Franchi will be buzzing for the visit of Juventus, and while the Champions have shown some frailty away from home this season, losing on three occasions, I think that they'll be too good for La Viola here.”
Fiorentina v Juventus
Live on BT Sport 3
It's not the most appetising Serie A weekend that I've ever seen in terms of either entertainment or betting opportunities, but at least it finishes with an old-fashioned fixture which is full of animosity.
The Artemio Franchi will be buzzing for the visit of Juventus, and while the Champions have shown some frailty away from home this season, losing on three occasions, I think that they'll be too good for La Viola here.
The Champions League is a major ambition for Juve this season, and acts as a distraction when in full swing, but they're fresh from both a winter break and victories against Bologna and Atalanta (the latter a rather sketchy one in the Coppa Italia) and they're more than up to this challenge.
Fiorentina finished the first half of the season with an excellent second half performance against Napoli, but after having a game called off against Pescara, they were poor in the Cup against Chievo in midweek and already look short of momentum again.
Paulo Sousa's men have been largely listless this season, with only the odd momentum of inspiration to energise their excellent fans, and that won't be good enough against the best team in Italy. Juve may look short at 1.845/6, but I think that price makes them a bet.
Stephan Lichtsteiner is suspended with Mario Lemina, Medhi Benatia and Patrice Evra out for a variety of reasons, so there should be a return to the three-man defence. Borja Valero is finally ready to start after his injury problems and that's a huge boost for the hosts.
Back Juventus to beat Fiorentina @ 1.845/6
Sassuolo v Palermo
Sassuolo and Palermo may be separated by only a couple of places in the table, but as the second half of the season gets underway, there could be quite a gulf between them.
The Neroverdi welcomed back their best player Domenico Berardi after four months out, and he looks set to start this week. That's an immeasurable boost for them, and with their Europa League nightmare and injury crisis behind them, I expect them to surge away from the relegation places.
Palermo had a brief spike for Eugenio Corini, winning at Genoa, but they look to have turned back into a club in decline over Christmas, with President Maurizio Zamparini already talking of sacking his new Coach and reverting to Plan A, if indeed there ever was a Plan A.
The absence of Simone Missiroli is always a concern for Sassuolo supporters, and they have lost four games at home this season, but those worries are outweighed by the return of Berardi and a few others, and by just how poor Palermo are, and will continue to be. I'm happy to support Sassuolo conceding 0.5 and 1.0 on the Asian Handicap as I think that they'll win this comfortably.
Back Sassuolo -0.5 and -1.0 on the Asian Handicap @ 1.9720/21
Cagliari v Genoa
Live on BT Sport 1
I was tempted to back Atalanta to win at Lazio, but have reverted instead to an old favourite. Cagliari may have been involved in a couple of quiet away games lately, but they're an entirely different animal at home, and I expect goals in Sardinia once again this weekend.
Genoa can be attritional on their travels, but the thing about Cagliari at home is the way that they play draws the opposition into a shoot-out and I suspect that the same thing will happen here with Ivan Juric's side. You can travel with the best intention of "keeping it tight and nicking a 1-0 win", but carrying that out is something else entirely.
The goals make up in Cagliari home games this season reads: 7, 5, 3, 3, 8, 3, 3, 3, 4, 6 - that means any chance that we have of backing Over 3.5 goals at 3.185/40 must be taken, and that's the case here. It might seem an obvious ploy, but that doesn't mean that it won't be a successful one.
Back Over 3.5 goals in Cagliari v Genoa @ 3.185/40
Staked: 57 points
Returned: 69.40 points
P/L: +12.40 points