Dave Farrar predicts Eusebio Di Francesco reaches the end of the road, Roma earn redemption against Spezia and an exhilarating San Siro clash at the top...
“It’s as if no one quite believes in Milan yet, but with the season at its halfway point after this weekend, they have to be taken very seriously as title contenders.”
Genoa v Cagliari
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Davide Ballardini's fourth spell in charge of Genoa has started predictably. They suddenly look much harder to beat, they have started to edge up the table, and you wouldn't be at all surprised if Ballardini once again got the job done for the President Enrico Preziosi. He'll be sacked again, unquestionably, but he is one of Serie A's hardy perennials for good reason.
After beating Spezia in their last game of 2020, Genoa have started this calendar year particularly well. A draw against Lazio, defeat by Sassuolo, before a win against Bologna, a narrow Cup defeat by Juventus in extra time and a 0-0 draw against Atalanta last time. This is an improving team, and one which is winning the games that matter, against those around them.
Cagliari head to Marassi in awful form: they've lost six in a row in all competitions and haven't won a Serie A game since the 7th November. Eusebio Di Francesco is on the brink, and if Cagliari fall into the bottom three after this game then that could be the end.
The last time that these two met in a League game it finished 1-0 in Genoa's favour, and with Genoa in good form, and having won four of their last five at home against Cagliari, I'm afraid that the writing may be on the wall here for the likeable Di Francesco.
Roma v Spezia
Live on Premier Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Roma were bundled out of the Coppa Italia in extraordinary circumstances by Spezia on Tuesday night, and they at least have the chance for instant redemption as the face the same opposition at the same venue in this weekend's League meeting.
Roma named a strong side for the Cup game, and so, for all of the "not knowing the rules" embarrassments, the result itself was a poor one, and after turning in an unfathomably lacklustre display in the Rome derby last Friday, Paulo Fonseca's team are at a crossroads. This season could melt away and cost the Portuguese coach his job, or may yet lead to something special. My money would be on the former.
The home team are prohibitive favourites for this, backable only at 1.42/5, with Spezia available at 8.88/1 to beat a side that they got the better of just five days ago. I wouldn't advocate piling into the visitors at that price, but this is a team who have now won three of their last four games in all competitions, and one which has a decent away record in the League.
Spezia have won three and drawn three of their nine away games so far, and only four times in this campaign, home and away, have they lost by more than a single goal. That makes them attractive to us on the Asian Handicap with a goal and a half start.
Roma are capable of turning on the style in front of goal, and that's the risk that we take here, but Spezia have already shown us once that they can match Fonseca's team, and with a healthy start, there's no reason why they shouldn't do so again.
Tussle for Winter title
Milan v Atalanta
Live on Premier Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video
Milan have lost only once so far this season, once in Serie A since the first lockdown in fact, and yet Atalanta start as favourites at 2.3411/8 to beat them on Saturday afternoon. It's as if no one quite believes in Milan yet, but with the season at its halfway point after this weekend, they have to be taken very seriously as title contenders.
The Rossoneri are behind only Inter in the Serie A outright market, and that feels about right, but it also feels like the kind of season in which just about any eventuality is possible, and Atalanta will put themselves firmly in the conversation if they can keep up their good recent run.
Gian Piero Gasperini's team are unbeaten now since the 28th November, but have had their momentum taken away by their last two results. Draws against Genoa and then Udinese were not in the script, and that adds to the importance of this game for them, as if the chance to turn Milan over at San Siro wasn't enough.
Atalanta have been oddly shot shy in their last two, but I don't expect that to be the case against Milan. Stefano Pioli's side are brilliant but flawed, and while three clean sheets in their last four will have been a huge tonic, I expect Atalanta to trouble them, especially with Alessio Romagnoli suspended.
Look at Milan's games against the big guns so far in this campaign: against Juventus, Lazio, Napoli and Roma, they traded blows and took part in high scoring games, and it was only against Inter, in a 2-1 win, that a game against one of the top sides failed to have at least four goals.
I'm tempted by Milan at 2.915/8 here, as that's too big a price for the League leaders, but these are two of the most combustible teams in the League, and Over 3.5 Goals should not be trading at 2.56/4.
Dave’s Serie A P/L – 2020/21
Staked: 52 points
Returned: 49.69 points
P/L: -2.31 points
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Back Genoa to beat Cagliari @ 2.35/4
Back Spezia +1.5 on Asian Handicap v Roma @ 1.910/11
Back Over 3.5 Goals in Milan v Atalanta @ 2.56/4