Predictions and Picks for Serie A Matchday 34 (2021)
It was all change in the top four of Serie A at the weekend, with Juventus and Milan now facing the real danger of not qualifying for the Champions League. That would be a disaster for either club coming so soon after the embarrassment of the aborted European Super League.
Inter is still on course for the scudetto, but there is another interesting battle at the bottom of the table with at least four clubs doing their best to escape finishing in the bottom three. Matchday 34 this weekend may not make that picture any clearer.
|Bottom of Serie A Current Standings|
There are ten Serie A games over the weekend, and I will be previewing them all. I will also choose three of the best bets in the Italian top-flight.
Hellas Verona and Spezia to Draw
Verona’s season has hit a brick wall in the last month or so as Ivan Juric’s side has lost seven of the last eight to end any European qualification dreams. The most recent loss was to league leaders Inter and was another close result, but one that extended the poor run. With little to play for, Verona might not be quite as up for this game on Saturday as the visiting team.
Spezia is still enjoying its first-ever season in Serie A but has been drawn into a complex relegation battle thanks to some defeats in the last few weeks. Vincenzo Italiano’s side is now only two points above the drop zone, but there are no injury worries ahead of this clash at the Bentegodi. If M’Bala Nzola can find the form he showed earlier in the season, Spezia could pick up a vital point here.
Inter to Beat Crotone
There is no doubt that Crotone will be making a swift return to Serie B. But the club from the south has been very entertaining to watch since Serse Cosmi took over at the start of March. There was even a rare victory last weekend away at Parma in which Simy scored two more to go third in the top goal scorers list. Defeat here could make the club’s relegation official, but there will be hope for next season now.
Crotone might be relegated, but Inter could also be crowned champions this weekend with a win here and a poor result for Atalanta on Sunday. There was another victory ground out against Verona last weekend, as Antonio Conte continues his pragmatic approach to success in Serie A. Inter fans will not care that soccer has not been the most exciting quality as their club gets ready to claim its first scudetto in 11 years.
Milan to Beat Benevento
Another defeat for Milan last weekend saw the Rossoneri drop out of the top four for the first time since matchday 2. This forced the club to face the prospect of missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in eight seasons. Lazio well beat Stefano Pioli’s side in truth – and he will be pleased that Zlatan Ibrahimovic should return for this one.
A 4-2 home defeat to Udinese last weekend saw Le Streghe fall into the bottom three for the first time this season. That is terrible timing, and another loss on Saturday is not going to help its situation.
Lazio to Beat Genoa
Coming into this game as one of the form sides in Serie A, Lazio transformed the race for Europe last week with that 3-0 win against Milan. Simone Inzaghi will be without Luis Felipe, Acerbi and Escalante on Sunday, but there is still enough talent in his squad to overcome Genoa. The Aquile still has a game in hand and is only five points off the top four now, so the Champions League is not out of reach either.
Genoa should consider itself above the relegation battle but needs a few more points to be completely safe. The 2-0 win against Spezia last weekend will have eased a few nerves, but head coach David Ballardini will still be keeping a close eye on how the clubs below Genoa get on for matchday 34. He will also be without the veteran Goran Pandev on Sunday, so he will do well to be celebrating at the end of this fixture.
Bologna and Fiorentina to Draw
Both these clubs will probably consider themselves safe now but could do with the security of another victory with just five games of the season remaining. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side had to deal with a rampant Atalanta last week with only ten men for most of the second half after Jerdy Schouten was sent off. The Rossoblu should find Fiorentina easier to play against but might not beat an improving Viola.
After a few weeks of poor performances and results, Beppe Iachini is starting to get his ideas over to the Fiorentina players. The 1-1 draw with Juventus last weekend was definitely the second-best result of the season – after the 3-0 win in Turin earlier in the campaign – and the home side reduced the champions to just one shot on goal in the entire 90 minutes. Fiorentina will expect at least a draw on Sunday.
Napoli to Beat Cagliari
This is a huge fixture for both clubs as they battle at different ends of the league table. Napoli has burst back into Champions League contention in recent weeks, thanks to positive results against Inter and Lazio and last weekend’s win away at Torino. The return of striker Victor Osimhen has been a big help for Gennaro Gattuso as he oversees the drive for a top-four finish in what is looking likely to be his final season at the club.
But Cagliari will go to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona full of confidence after winning three consecutive games to climb out of the bottom three. Leonardo Semplici was well without the influential Radja Nainggolan last week as Cagliari beat Roma 3-2. This should be an excellent game, but the home side should do enough to take the points.
Atalanta to Beat Sassuolo
Everyone was getting ready to call the European qualifiers this season in Serie A. Suddenly, clubs like Sassuolo set off on winning streaks that have made all league positions below Inter at the top a free-for-all. Domenico Berardi was on target last weekend to score the only goal against Sampdoria. His fitness will be key to whether the Neroverdi does snatch a Europa League place this season.
With Sassuolo playing so well recently, it is a shame for Roberto De Zerbi’s side that it now comes up against Atalanta.
The 5-0 thrashing of Bologna last week extended a seven-game unbeaten streak thanks to five different goal scorers. That seems ‘very Atalanta,’ and La Dea should be successful again this Sunday.
Udinese and Juventus to Draw
Udinese looks set to finish comfortably in mid-table but could still affect what is going on higher up the table by ruining Juve’s evening on Sunday. Much of the confidence I have in the Friulani recording a surprise draw here is down to the form of Rodrigo De Paul. His goals and assists have helped secure Udinese’s current position, and I feel as though he may be able to unlock a Juventus defense that does not seem to be enjoying itself at the moment.
The draw with Fiorentina last weekend is a good case in point for the current mood at Juventus. Cristiano Ronaldo looked particularly frustrated with what was going on. He will probably be contemplating where he should be playing next season if Juve fails to finish in the top four. He only has one season left on his contract but will not want to see that out playing in the Europa League. This is a bit of a long shot, but if RDP gets going early on, Juventus could be in trouble.
Sampdoria and Roma to Draw
Sampdoria will look to deepen Roma’s misery in the late game on Sunday. They will continue a good run of form that has seen the Blucerchiati easily pull away from any danger near the bottom of the table and remain floating around the middle of Serie A. The defeat at the hands of Sassuolo last weekend was the first in three games, and Claudio Ranieri will look to the likes of Candreva and Quagliarella to get Samp back to winning ways.
I’m not sure that Roma will lose again, but things are not looking good for the Giallorossi right now. The future seems even bleaker for head coach Paulo Fonseca after the heavy defeat to Manchester United in the Europa League semifinal first leg on Thursday. That followed defeat to Cagliari at the weekend – a result that saw Roma remain in seventh, but just three points above Sassuolo. Another poor result here could seriously affect Roma’s chances of qualifying for Europe at all this season.
Torino to Beat Parma
Both these clubs could be in the bottom three by the time this game is played on Monday. But Torino will feel it has a better chance of escaping relegation after a good spell of results following the appointment of Davide Nicola in January. The defeat to a resurgent Napoli last week was the first in five games, and beating Parma would get the survival dream back on track.
Defeat for Parma could see it relegated to Serie B after four consecutive defeats severely hampered the club’s ability to pull away from the bottom three. New appointments off the pitch do bode well for the future, though, which is good news for a club that went bankrupt recently as 2015. Another reverse to Torino on Monday will not help the current situation, but the future is not looking too bad for Parma.
My Serie A Bets for Match Day 34
Many pressure-driven mistakes could make or break seasons with so much on the line in the coming weeks. But there is also likely a hesitancy shown by some teams as they do everything they can not to lose a game rather than go for the win. That’s part of the reason why I’ve gone for three draws as my betting picks this week.
My first pick brings together two very evenly balanced teams that have done just about enough to stay up this season. A draw would probably suit both managers and help keep the relegation battle at bay. Fiorentina may well look to sit back and strike on the counter to snatch a point away from home.
Udinese and Juventus to draw is probably my biggest long shot of the season. But I really think that the champions are in danger of completely crashing and burning as the experiment of appointing Andrea Pirlo as head coach this season spectacularly fails. There will be huge ramifications if Juventus doesn’t finish in the top four, and a draw away at Udinese will certainly worry the club’s owners.
My final pick is for Roma’s season to continue to spiral after virtually ending its Europa League dream with the thrashing received at Old Trafford this week. That tournament had seemed to be a lifesaver for head coach Paulo Fonseca, and if the Giallorossi fails to win on Sunday, he may well be forced out of the club.