Predictions and Picks for Serie A Games – April 17-18, 2021
All seven clubs at the top of Serie A won last weekend to keep the race for the Champions League qualification spots as close as ever. The scudetto looks just about certain to return to the San Siro after Inter won yet again to go a full 11 points clear.
The battle really is for the remaining European places now, but a lot is going on at the foot of the table too. Most clubs look just about safe, but a run of form for Cagliari or Parma would certainly spice things up as far as relegation goes.
Matchday 31 kicks off on Saturday this weekend, and I will be looking at all ten games in the Italian top-flight as usual. I’ll also be picking out three of the best bets to consider in Serie A.
Udinese to Beat Crotone
Crotone remains 12 points from safety with just eight games to go and looks like making a swift return to Serie B. But there has been a renewed sense of enjoyment, at least since Serse Cosmi took over. Points haven’t been quite as forthcoming, but the games have been entertaining to watch. Crotone led Spezia 2-1 with just two minutes to go last weekend and still lost 3-2. This promises to be another good game on Saturday.
Luca Gotti will be hoping that his Udinese side can benefit from Crotone’s welcoming defense, as he could really do with a win after three straight defeats have ruined what had been an impressive run of form. There is very little chance of the Friulani getting dragged into any relegation battle, but this losing streak needs to end soon. Udinese should manage that this weekend.
Sampdoria and Hellas Verona to Draw
Both these sides already have very little to play for, which could affect the level of enthusiasm shown at the Marassi on Saturday. Sampdoria lost at home to Napoli last weekend but will finish the season in a comfortable mid-table position in all likelihood.
Hellas Verona might have been an unlikely side to back for a European place this season, but it looked good at one point and has only really fallen away in the last few months. The league position has hardly changed – but the points gap between the Gialloblu and the top sides has lengthened. Ivan Juric will also be dealing with a few injury concerns this weekend, so a draw away from home will probably be warmly welcomed.
Sassuolo and Fiorentina to Draw
Sassuolo continues to deal with a spate of injuries as it sees out the season but still managed to beat Benevento away from home on Monday. The Neroverdi had to rely on an own goal, though, and it is has been very noticeable that the goals have dried up since Domenico Berardi was ruled out with an injury. The striker misses this one too, and head coach Roberto De Zerbi would probably be quite happy with a draw.
Fiorentina has slightly more to play for and welcomes back Franck Ribery after his one-match ban. The Viola fought back well in the second half of its game against Atalanta last week to level things up at 2-2 before ultimately losing to a Josip Illcic penalty 20 minutes from time. Beppe Iachini is still yet to taste victory since returning as head coach – and he may have to wait a little longer after this weekend.
Cagliari to Beat Parma
This looks like being a massive game in the relegation battle as the loser can probably start saying goodbye to the Italian top-flight. Cagliari lost its fourth straight game last weekend as it became just the latest to fall to Inter, but this fixture looks like a great opportunity to give itself a fighting chance of staying up. Even that is still a huge ask – but three points on Saturday would definitely help.
Parma, if anything, has been playing the better of these two in recent weeks but is still unable to stop opponents from scoring. The latest defeat came at the hands of a Milan who had Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off on the hour mark. Parma was already two down by then, though. Just one win in the last 21 Serie A games explains why the club is in its current predicament, and things could get even worse this weekend.
Milan to Beat Genoa
Milan’s vain hopes of stopping Inter from winning Serie A this season seem to have just about disappeared, but there is still the matter of qualifying for the Champions League for the Rossoneri.
Stefan Piolo will have to do without Ibrahimovic for this one after he was sent off in the win at Parma last weekend, but there should still be enough in his squad to take all three points.
Genoa will be no pushover – as many have found since Davide Ballardini took over as head coach just before Christmas last year. The Grifone were in the relegation zone at that time but now enjoy a far loftier perch. The defeat away to Juventus last weekend was predictable – but still not a problem for Genoa as it continues to work towards a very comfortable mid-table finish.
Atalanta to Beat Juventus
Atalanta frightened itself last weekend as it allowed Fiorentina to come back into a game it was leading by two goals at halftime. A penalty allowed La Dea to take all three points in the end. Still, it should have served as a warning to the players that they need to keep concentrating and focused for the full 90 minutes to ensure Champions League qualification once again this season. That lesson will be even more important this weekend.
Cristiano Ronaldo was very visibly frustrated with himself – or, more likely, his teammates – last weekend, even though Juventus was able to beat Genoa. But it does look as though his big-money move to Italy has been ultimately unsuccessful as the Old Lady has not gotten nearer to winning the Champions League. The scudetto is also out of its grasp this season, and he may well look to leave before his contract is up next summer. All is not well in Turin, and a defeat to Atalanta this Sunday could make matters even worse.
Bologna to Beat Spezia
Bologna is one of these two clubs coming into this game with the worse recent record. But considering Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side has played Roma and Inter in the last two weeks, I think we can reserve judgment on the Rossoblu. The previous two games are probably more indicative of how good or bad Bologna is this season, and it was able to score goals and beat Sampdoria and Crotone quite convincingly. Spezia falls into the same category as those two, so a home win should be on the cards.
Spezia only just beat Crotone itself last weekend, thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Martin Erlic. The Serie A minnow had only leveled the score a minute earlier. The victory has surely helped Vincenzo Italiano secure only a second-ever season in the club’s Italian top-flight. There are ten points between Spezia and the bottom three now, and even a defeat to Bologna should not worry the players too much.
Lazio to Beat Benevento
It is the battle of the Inzaghi brothers on Sunday as Lazio welcomes Benevento to the Stadio Olimpico. Simone was unable to overcome brother Pippo in the game earlier in the season but has overseen an improvement in his Lazio side in recent months and enjoyed four consecutive victories, culminating with the win away in Verona last weekend. It took a last-minute winner from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to earn all three points there and keep the Aquile in the hunt for a Champions League place.
Benevento will probably never be pushing for a top-four finish but will be happy enough if it can secure another season in Serie A – and a win against Lazio would go a long way in achieving that. But it couldn’t beat Sassuolo at home on Monday and now sits in 16th, eight points off the drop zone. That gap should be enough for top-flight safety, but Pippo would love a win on Sunday to make the situation even more positive.
Roma to Beat Torino
Torino is currently attempting to put together a deal that will keep Andrea Belotti at the club for the foreseeable future.
The club is still flirting with relegation and it should do everything it can to convince him to stay. He scored the only goal to beat Udinese last weekend, but Torino is still only five points from safety (albeit with a game in hand) and will be the main focus of attack again here.
Roma has been one of the clubs that has linked with Belotti this season and will come into this game, having played a crucial Europa League quarterfinal second leg against Ajax on Thursday. That game is at home, so there won’t be even more fatigue for the Giallorossi to deal with – but it might find a battling Torino a tough opponent. Paulo Fonseca will have to use his squad well to come away with the points.
Inter to Beat Napoli
The weekend’s final game comes from the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as Napoli attempts to do what only two other clubs have been able to do this season – beat Inter. The 2-0 victory over Sampdoria last weekend made it just one defeat in the last eight Serie A games for the Partenopei, but this weekend’s task is a tough one. Gennaro Gattuso will need his best players all fit and on top of their game to break through what has become a very stubborn Nerazzurri.
Antonio Conte has received criticism for his tactics this season but can point to the 11-point gap at the top of the table as an instant retort. His side enjoyed just 30% of the possession last Wednesday against Sassuolo but still won, as it did against Cagliari at the weekend. Conte has patched up his leaky defense from earlier in the season, and now Inter quite regularly scores in the second half to win games. It could be a familiar story on Sunday in Naples.
My Top Serie A Bets for April 17-18, 2021
Injuries and dead rubbers play a big part in some of my betting picks for matchday 31 in Serie A. Both Sampdoria and Hellas Verona can feel fairly pleased with themselves this season and will more than likely finish in mid-table. Another draw to keep that outcome on track should be the result on Saturday.
Sassuolo should be able to beat Fiorentina. But there are many injured players at the club and, without Berardi, the Neroverdi lack a killer punch up front. Fiorentina has been consistently inconsistent as ever this season but might benefit from veteran Franck Ribery’s return. A draw is possible for the Viola.
My final pick of the weekend is for Atalanta to frustrate Ronaldo even further by beating his Juventus side on Sunday. Gian Piero Gasperini’s team should always be feared thanks to its wonderful attacking talent, and Juve might not be able to put in the required effort as its title slips further and further from view.