Dave Farrar predicts Lazio will be celebrating in the Capital on Saturday and Juventus will comfortably see off Napoli, but expects more Milan misery against third-place Sassuolo...
“After losing their opening two matches against Napoli and Juve, Lazio have now won five in a row in all competitions, never perfect, but always doing more than enough.”
All roads lead to Lazio
Roma v Lazio
Live on Betfair Live Video
The Serie A weekend starts with the high potential for drama at the Olimpico as Roma and Lazio face off in a game that Eusebio Di Francesco really can't afford to lose. I know that Roma got back to winning ways in midweek against Frosinone, but that's such a routine victory that it doesn't count for much, and certainly doesn't hide the fact that they have been poor this season so far.
Di Francesco already had his doubters after the way that his team capitulated against Liverpool in the first leg of last season's Champions League semi-final, and he needed to hit the ground running, rather than limping tamely.
Roma have already lost twice in Serie A, they've been brushed aside by Real Madrid in the Champions League, and they have twice been held to home draws, by Atalanta and Chievo. They've looked listless and disorganised, and Simone Inzaghi and Lazio must fancy that they can do something significant, given the run of form that they're currently on.
Lazio could have limped into this season after losing out on the Champions League on the last day of the previous campaign, but after losing their opening two matches against Napoli and Juve, they have now won five in a row in all competitions, never perfect but always doing more than enough.
After failing in those first two cracks at a big name, Inzaghi will be determined to see his team win against one of the division's giants, and where better to start than against their city rivals. They're too big, and we should back them.
Napoli no competition for Juve
Juventus v Napoli
Live on Betfair Live Video and Eleven Sports 1
The monumental weekend continues with Napoli's visit to Turin on Saturday evening, and even though a dramatic win here last season remains fresh in the memory, Juventus rightly start as strong favourites.
I was hoping that Juve might be somewhere nearer even money than 1.774/5, but that accurately reflects their chances against a Napoli team who have picked up well after a lukewarm beginning. I'm not convinced that they're ready to throw down a challenge for the title, and still feel that they'll be found wanting on Saturday.
Napoli have a Champions League game against Liverpool to think about too, while Juve have the relatively easy task of a home fixture against Young Boys, and that further tips the scales in the home team's favour, but I still can't back them at that price as I don't think that it represents any value for us.
I know that this is the game of the season so far, and as a result I feel duty bound to preview it, but I don't see a bet that really jumps out at me. I'll tell you what I'll do, though. I think that Juventus will win, and do so fairly comfortably, and on the basis that they have won four of their six games by two clear goals, and look to be finding their rhythm, and given that Napoli have distractions on their horizon, I'll take a look at the Asian Handicap.
Juventus are 3.39/4 -1 on the Handicap, and I think that gives us a chance. We're fine if they win the game, and we have a good winner if they do so by two clear goals. With Cristiano Ronaldo starting to relax and perform, and with Juve so potent at home, I think that's the bet. It won't be my biggest stake of the season, but it gives us a live chance.
Sassuolo simply stronger than Milan
Sassuolo v Milan
Live on Betfair Live Video and Eleven Sports 1
Both Sassuolo and Milan were in action on the Thursday of the midweek round, and so they face another game in quick succession, one which I think will provide some serious entertainment.
Betting on goals is a definite option, with Over 2.5 trading at around the 1.910/11 mark, but the question that I'm asking myself is whether I dare go into to a weekend supporting Sassuolo again. This is a team which is playing way above the general public's opinion of it, coached by a man that I'm convinced will be a star of the future in Roberto De Zerbi, and still the market is treating Sassuolo as an also ran.
I'm not suggesting that they can finish in a Champions League place or anything like that, their squad will inevitably be found out over the course of a tough season, but I do believe that they're underrated, and that they'll be more than a match for a frustrating Milan.
Sassuolo have now won three of their last four, and when you consider that their only defeat was a gallant one at Juventus, AND that they beat Inter on the opening day, you might understand why I'm so keen on them. Even ex-Milan man Kevin-Prince Boateng was rested against SPAL, keeping him fresh for this reunion.
They've won all three of their home games, and face a team that looks unconvincing after fumbling yet another lead to draw at Empoli. The Rossoneri only lost once, away at Napoli, but have now been held by Cagliari, Atalanta and Empoli, and Sassuolo are a far better team at the moment than any of those.
Factor in that Gonzalo Higuain might not be fit in time after a muscular issue, Patrick Cutrone is still not 100 per cent after a sprained ankle and the only remaining striker is Fabio Borini - Milan are in real trouble.
Staked: 18 points
Returned: 20.90 points
P/L: +2.90 points
Back Lazio to beat Roma @ 3.02/1
Back Juventus -1 on the Asian Handicap against Napoli @ 3.39/4
Back Sassuolo to beat Milan @ 3.412/5