Serie A Predictions and Best Bets – January 15-18, 2021
After a flurry of midweek Coppa Italia fixtures, Serie A returns on Friday with the Derby della Capitale to kick off proceedings on matchday 18. Roma is better placed at the moment, but this game in the Stadio Olimpico is about much more than league position.
There are other big games over the weekend, with the clash between Inter and Juventus on Sunday probably the most important in terms of working out who will challenge Milan at the top in the coming weeks.
As usual, I’ll be taking a look at all ten games in Italy over the weekend and picking out three of the best bets to consider for matchday 18.
Lazio and Roma to Draw
It might seem as if predicting a draw in a bitter local derby is a bit of a cop-out, but even with the space between these two clubs in the Serie A table, these two are fairly evenly balanced. Lazio has failed to reclaim the spark of last season but is still perfectly placed to make a run on the European places. Form has improved recently as well, with two victories since the turn of the year.
Roma does look the better of the city’s teams this season but has had a nasty habit of not being able to beat the big boys. Although a 2-2 draw with Inter is hardly a terrible result, it could be argued that the game last week was there for the taking for Paulo Fonseca’s side, as Inter committed too many men forward throughout. Friday’s game will be more scrappy but enthralling nonetheless.
Hellas Verona to Beat Bologna
Bologna finally ended its run of five straight draws last weekend, but the defeat to Genoa will not have been what manager Sinisa Mihajlovic would have had in mind. The Rossoblu has now not won a game since the end of November and is falling further and further away from the top half of the table. There could be further disappointment on Saturday.
Verona is making scoring exceptional goals a bit of a specialty at the moment, with another Federico DiMarco finish consolidating his side’s early lead over a Crotone team that was never able to get back into last weekend’s game. That goal was not quite in the same class as his the week before – and Mattia Zaccagni’s stunning overhead goal before that – but Hellas Verona is showing a little sparkle to go with its determination lately.
Spezia to Beat Torino
Torino is already struggling, so the news that midfielder Soualiho Meite looks like leaving the club to join Milan is just further bad news for manager Marco Giampaolo. He was left out of both games against the Rossoneri last week – in the league and cup – and the Granata was unable to win either in his absence. Torino could struggle again on Saturday.
Spezia followed up its surprise win in Naples with another victory last weekend, this time to record a first-ever home Serie A victory. Sampdoria was the losing side on Monday as M’bala Nzola continued his fine form this season by scoring the winner from the spot with half an hour still to play. Spezia will want to keep hold of him during this January transfer window.
Sampdoria and Udinese to Draw
This fixture brings together two teams that have managed some impressive results this season but have let things slide in the last few months. Sampdoria was unable to overcome Spezia last week, even with a spectacular Antonio Candreva goal, and ruined the momentum that the victory over Inter the week before might have set up. This will be another tough game for the Blucerchiati.
Udinese probably had the better of the game against Napoli last weekend – and was able to draw level on the half-hour mark after falling behind early on. But, even though the Friulani dominated the second half as well, Napoli took all three points thanks to a last-minute header from Tiemoue Bakayoko. Heartbreaking stuff for Udinese.
Napoli to Beat Fiorentina
All Gennaro Gattuso will be interested in is the three points won from that game against Udinese. But the performance was far from convincing, and the Partenopei will need to be more incisive if it is to push for a top-four spot again this season. There have been injuries and absences from some important players, though – and a home win over Fiorentina should be possible.
The Viola recorded its first home win, the Stadio Franchi, since October last weekend, as it overcame Cagliari thanks to a second half goal from Dusan Vlahovic. It was just the third victory of the season for Fiorentina, who also crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Inter in the week. Cesare Prandelli should be able to keep his side out of the bottom three this season, but it looks like being a tough haul.
Benevento to Beat Crotone
Benevento is unlikely to break into the top half of Serie A this season, but its current mid-table position shows that there has been a significant improvement on the club’s last top-flight campaign. Pippo Inzaghi’s team was unable to contain the rampaging forward runs of Atalanta last weekend but should find Crotone an easier prospect on Sunday.
The bottom-placed side was unable to come back from two first-half goals for Hellas Verona last weekend – and is now five points from safety. Although that difference is theoretically fairly straightforward to makeup, Giovanni Stroppa has a monumental job on his hands keeping this club up this season.
Sassuolo to Beat Parma
The red card shown to Pedro Obiang just before halftime in the game against Juventus last weekend made Sassuolo’s task even more difficult. But the 3-1 scoreline probably doesn’t reflect how close the game was in the end. Manager Roberto De Zerbi was disappointed his side couldn’t hang on for a draw and will want three points here to revitalize the quest for European qualification this season.
Parma has a completely different set of priorities at the moment, with new manager Roberto D’Aversa trying to figure out a way to keep the Gialloblu in the top flight. There are bound to be a lot of transfer dealings at Il Tardini in the next few weeks in an attempt to arrest a worrying slump. Parma’s last win was back at the end of November, and a defeat to Sassuolo on Sunday would be the sixth in a row.
Atalanta to Beat Genoa
Gian Piero Gasperini’s freezing out of influential playmaker Papu Gomez continues to pay off, as Atalanta thrashed Benevento 4-1 away from home last week. Gomez looks certain to leave the Bergamo club this month, but Atalanta seems to be doing just fine without him. Genoa might have improved since the new manager, but it should not be a match for the home side here.
Davide Ballardini’s appointment just before Christmas has definitely had an effect on Genoa, but it was a touch fortunate that a woeful Bologna was the opponent last weekend. The 2-0 win for the Grifone meant that the club climbed out of the bottom three for the first time since the start of November – and there is definitely more belief in staying up now.
Juventus to Beat Inter
Antonio Conte was not happy with the cavalier approach his Inter team took against Roma last weekend. But it almost paid off, as the Nerazzurri was still 2-1 up with less than ten minutes to play. But a late equalizer from the home team condemned Inter to its second winless game in succession and allowed Milan to stretch its lead at the top of Serie A. It cannot afford to make the same mistake against Juventus on Sunday.
Juventus boss Andre Pirlo will be sweating over the availability of Paolo Dybala and Weston McKennie, but his side should still look formidable as it attempts to record a fourth consecutive victory. It is just that shock defeat against Fiorentina in the loss column this season – and the win over Milan showed that the Old Lady is definitely in the race for yet another scudetto. Three more points in the San Siro would certainly prove that to be the case.
Milan to Beat Cagliari
The Rossoneri will have the added luxury of being able to see if anyone gets any closer at the top of the table, as it faces Cagliari on Monday. There have been rumors that veteran striker Mario Mandzukic could be making a return to Serie A with Milan. But with Zlatan Ibrahimovic making a cameo appearance in the win over Torino on his return from injury last week, it doesn’t seem as though the league leaders will need him.
Cagliari could probably do with a proven goalscorer of its own, as the Sardinian club fell to its fourth defeat in a row last week – and was unable to find the net against Fiorentina at the Stadio Franchi. The addition of Radja Nainggolan on loan will help, but the Rossoblu has tumbled down the league table and has not won a Serie A game since the first week in November. It would be a shock if that changes on Monday.
My Top Serie A Picks for January 15-18, 2021
Here are my top three selections for the weekend’s games on matchday 18.
- Lazio and Roma to draw – 3.50
- Hellas Verona to beat Bologna – 3.10
- Spezia to beat Torino – 4.00
I am always tempted to go for the draw when it is a big local derby – and you don’t get much bigger than the Derby della Capitale. Roma has struggled to see off the top teams this season, and Lazio will not want to lose to its city rivals. A draw could well be the outcome in the Stadio Olimpico.
Bologna is looking to be in real trouble at the moment, as it has been unable to win games and has now lost to a fellow relegation rival in Genoa. Hellas Verona looks far steadier and has added spectacular goals to its resume now. This should be three more points for the Gialloblu.
My final pick of the week is backing Spezia again. M’bala Nzola has been the driving force behind the Serie A new boys this season – and I expect the striker to have another big say in how the game with Torino will go.