Turin giants Juventus turned the screw on their Scudetto rivals by beating overachieving Atalanta 2-0 on Saturday, with the Old Lady now four points clear at the Serie A summit having comfortably maintained their undefeated record with victory in Bergamo – which now stands at 19 games; 11 wins and 8 draws.
So, the onus is now on the chasing pack – spearheaded by reigning champs AC Milan – to reduce the arrears and to at least keep pace with Antonio Conte’s imperious charges.
Deja Vu for Novara at home to AC
In a repeat of their Coppa Italia encounter during the week, defending champions AC tussle with Novara, whom they only narrowly managed to overcome at the San Siro. They did so with a much-changed side however, one that did not include the first-team likes of Christian Abbiati (GK), Thiago Alves, Mark Van Bommel or star man Zlatan Ibramhimovic.
When Rossoneri coach Allgeri did inject some star quality late on, in the form of Brazilian duo Robinho and Alex Pato from the bench, Milan raised their game and ultimately secured progression with an extra-time win courtesy of Pato’s late effort.
The aforementioned match winner, as well as numerous other first-team regulars, will all return for the trip to Novara, fresh and raring to go for their omission, as Milan attempt to reduce Juventus’ lead to a single point with a sixth away win of the campaign – what would be their third on the spin, having secured 2-0 wins at Atalanta and Cagliari either side of the New Year.
I expect them to do just sat; Milan have the joint-strongest away record in Serie A (W5 D2 L2), winning three of their last four road encounters without conceding, and although they suffered the anguish of losing to arch rivals Inter last Sunday, they were previously on a three-game winning streak and I fully expect them to resume winning ways against opposition they are firm favourites to despatch.
Their opponents, meanwhile, are without a win in their last six in the league, losing four, and host this daunting fixture having shipped three goals in each of their previous two, in defeats to Fiorentina (0-3) and Cesena (3-1). They did claim the scalp of AC’s fierce Milanese neighbours Inter earlier in the season, but that was at a time when the Nerazzurri were on their knees. Milan certainly are not that, more a wounded animal blood-thirsty for redemption after last week’s Derby della Madonnia loss.
Chance your arm with Parma and a surprise outcome in Milan
Odds of around 1/2 on an away triumph for AC Milan aren’t all that alluring on their own. You could, then, try sticking them in a multiple, with Parma smashing value to win what should be an open contest in Bologna (11:30 GMT Kick-Off) while the draw in the late kick-off between Inter and Lazio at the San Siro cannot be discounted.
The Ducale Club, Parma, are under new management in the form of former Italian national team coach Roberto Donadoni and are boosted by the return of influential playmaker Giovinco, the former Juventus schemer who netted on his return from injury in last week’s 3-1 home win over Siena.
Just one win and six defeats from eight away league games this season is disconcerting, but the desire to impress the new man at the helm could see Parma land all the spoils away to fifth from bottom Bologna, whom have only won three of nine on their own patch and are missing several first-team figures.
As for Lazio drawing with Inter, now this is an intriguing pick considering the majestic form of Claudio Ranieri’s Nerazzurri.
Inter’s workmanlike performance in last weekend’s Milan Derby earned them a deserved 1-0 win, their sixth on the bounce in the league as their revival under the Italian tactician continues to go from strength to strength. They are also on a three-game winning streak at home, scoring 11 and conceding just 1 in the process in recording resounding wins over Fiorentina (2-0), Lecce (4-1) and Parma (5-0).
Lazio, on the other hand, touch down in the capital with the humiliation of a 4-0 loss to Siena in their last away encounter still fresh in the memory. The Romans do, however, boast a strong record away from home with five wins and only one loss, earning impressive draws with Napoli (0-0) and even AC, when they squandered a two-goal lead back in August to draw 2-2 at the San Siro.
Inter have had the upper hand in this fixture in each of the previous six seasons and are odds-on to record their seventh straight home Serie A win over Lazio. Edy Reja’s Romans are a dangerous outfit though and are certainly capable of capitalising on any complacency shown by the in-form hosts, should there be any that is – and there might, on the back of Inter’s Milan derby exploits seven days ago.
ESPN’s Serie A Glut
All three games will be shown live on ESPN throughout Sunday, with Bologna V Parma first up at 11:30 GMT followed by AC Milan’s trip to Novara at 14:00. Then it’s the clash of the weekend in Italy as fourth (Lazio) meets fifth (Inter Milan) at the San Siro, from 19:45.
Hence my decision to focus on these three clashes in particular, to give those who subscribe to ESPN a reason, as well as an insight, into Sunday’s live Serie A billing.
My picks are Parma to overhaul Bologna at 11/5 (WilliamHill), AC Milan to claim their second win in the space of five days over Novara at 4/9 (Bet365), and finally, Inter and Lazio to play out a draw at the San Siro at tasty odds of 13/5 (BetVictor).