Dave Farrar is back to look across this weekend's Serie A action, and he fancies wins for both Napoli and Juventus.
"I don’t see Napoli being quite good enough to beat Juve to the title, but they should brush Lazio aside."
Lazio v Napoli
Napoli have had a wonderful 2013 so far. Before Christmas, it looked as if the best that they could hope for was an honourable second place and another Champions League adventure, but a Juventus mini implosion means that Walter Mazzarri's team have closed the gap to three points and, with Juve facing two difficult Champions League matches against Celtic, Napoli have every chance of overhauling them and getting the psychological boost of taking the Serie A lead.
Napoli were workmanlike in their win over Catania last weekend and there are two ways of looking at that: one is that this is what champions do, doing just enough, and the other is that Napoli are starting to look tired and are trying to conserve energy. I tend to favour the latter opinion. Napoli are an excellent football team and are enjoying a wonderful season, but I am wary of sides that rely so much on three or four key players, and I don't think that they represent any kind of value for the title at around [3.6].
You could aim a similar criticism at Lazio, although they had managed to survive the indifferent form of Hernanes until the last two matchdays, but are now paying the price for that small squad being overworked. They had gone unbeaten for 16 matches, and they've now lost their last two. With Miroslav Klose out for two months, Lazio have signed Louis Saha on a short term deal, and if you think that you smell panic then I think that you're right. Saha has done nothing in his time at Sunderland, and there's no reason why he should suddenly set Rome alight.
Napoli can look a little shaky defensively, but I see no reason why Lazio should bother them. If we establish that Napoli should keep a clean sheet, then it's just a question of whether Napoli can score, and I think that they can. We know all about Edinson Cavani, and last weekend Marek Hamsik proved that if Cavani doesn't fire then the Slovakian can fill in the gaps. Napoli also missed Cristian Maggio last weekend, but he looks like he will return and will give them some much needed impetus down the right hand side: energy that they don't get from Giandomenico Mesto. I don't see Napoli being quite good enough to beat Juve to the title, but they should brush Lazio aside.
Juventus v Fiorentina
After a decidedly average start to 2013, Fiorentina may have found form at just the right time. Last week's win against Parma was a real morale booster, and now they head to Turin with the self belief that they'll need to come away with a victory. I'm fascinated at the way that the market has reacted to Juve's recent shakiness. I was fully expecting Antonio Conte's team to be around the [1.5] mark for the win, and yet they're available to back at [1.73]. I know that the admirable Leonardo Bonucci joins Giorgio Chiellini on the central defensive sidelines, but that still looks a big price against a team that has won only one match this calendar year. Juve are shaky at times, but they're still the best team in Italy by some distance, and we mustn't allow ourselves to forget that.
It's my contention that Fiorentina (with the proviso that they keep hold of Vincenzo Montella) will be genuine title contenders next season, but the best that they can hope for this campaign is a Champions League place. They are really impressive, but the absence of Alberto Aquilani is a blow, and, while I can see Stevan Jovetic and Luca Toni conjuring up a goal, I can't see La Viola being good enough to win. Both Teams to Score is very attractive at [1.97] given that this has occurred in 8 of Juve's last 9 games, and as well backing Juve at a price that is too big I'll play the Correct Score market, backing Juve to win 2-1 at [9.6] and 3-1 at [16.0]. Both of those outcomes could well trade shorter in running.
Parma v Genoa
I got my fingers badly burnt last week by Parma's inability to score in Florence (and yes, they missed chances), but I'm confident that it will be business as usual at the Tardini this weekend. Parma may not have managed a victory in their last four Serie A matches, but they are very powerful at home, and until last weekend, the last time that both teams hadn't scored in one of their games was on the 26th November. Both teams have also scored in three of Genoa's last four, as David Ballardini has started to play the slightly loopy style of football which matches his character. The last seven times that these two teams have met have produced a goal for both sides, and the way that these current incarnations approach the game gives me no reason to think that they won't make it eight in a row. [1.96] represents value.
Back Both teams to score in Parma v Genoa @ [1.96]