Juve revival starts here
Milan v Juventus
Live on Premier Sports 1 and Betfair Live Video
Much of this Serie A season has felt as if we’re in the early stages of the end of an era. Juve’s grip on the Scudetto loosening and other teams are showing the kind of form that could wrench it away for a year at least.
Milan have been chief among those to lay down a challenge, and their excellent form post lockdown means they thoroughly deserve to be top of the table, and to be praised to the rafters too. This has been a triumph of unity and spirit, exemplified once again by a backs to the wall display against Benevento at the weekend.
It’s hard to escape the feeling, though, that with so much having gone right for Milan to this point, and with Juventus having done so much wrong, the gap between them should be bigger than it is. If Juve win when the teams meet at San Siro on Wednesday night, they’d be seven points behind Milan with a game in hand, and you’d feel that a thrilling 2021 was well and truly on.
I still feel, as do many, that my pre-season tip Inter are the likeliest winners of Serie A. As much as I admire Stefano Pioli and his team, I fear that they may fade a little. Not so much that they’ll finish out of the Champions League places, but enough that they won’t be in title contention once we reach May.
For all Milan’s spirit, they were lucky against Benevento, as they were against Lazio in their previous game. They have key players out and they look stretched to the limit. In contrast, Juve, the weird aberration against Fiorentina aside, have started to look solid again. Disciplined, threatening, and balanced. If they carry this form into Wednesday and beyond, they could yet retain their crown.
The romantic in me hates saying it but I think that Juventus will win convincingly in the big game this midweek. They’re shorter than I expected, but still big enough to back, and I’ll be placing my faith in them at 2.47/5.
Torino v Verona
Live on Betfair Live Video
It was heartening to see Torino finally get the win that their recent form had deserved, as they brushed Parma to one side on Sunday. That result moved them out of the relegation zone, and they’ll take a fair bit of confidence into the visit of Verona.
Torino are looking to make it back-to-back wins in Serie A for the first time in a year. They are yet to win at home this season and, while those aren’t statistics which would have you forming a queue to back them, I’m a believer in momentum, especially when it involves a team who have been denied time after time, and then find a way to get over the line.
The sense that Marco Giampaolo’s team may feel that the shackles are off will be palpable, and I expect them to back up that Parma win with another here. This isn’t a suggestion that they’ll rocket up the table, merely that they should be good enough to cruise away from trouble.
Verona will not make life easy. They have won three of their previous four away games, but that’s a run which goes back to November, and not a statistic that means a great deal to me. Verona have the joint best defence in the League, but are the lowest scorers, Benevento aside, in the top half of the table, and that tells us what kind of game to expect. It’ll be low scoring, and I think Torino will be good enough, and confident enough, to edge it.
Another Atalanta annihilation
Atalanta v Parma
Live on Betfair Live Video
I won’t detain you long with the logic behind pick number three of this midweek. Atalanta are on one of those runs at the moment, the kind that has served this column well in recent years, and I see no reason to get off the horse this midweek, as they host a Parma side who are looking desperate. A heavy defeat here may send manager Fabio Liverani to the exit, and I think that’s a pretty likely outcome.
We shouldn’t ignore Atalanta when they’re in their current mood: their last three Serie A games have gone Over 3.5 Goals, they’ve scored 12 times in their last three home games, and they have put any thoughts of Papu Gomez firmly behind them.
They’ll beat Parma heavily, the only question really is how to support them. The Asian Handicap makes some appeal, but given Atalanta’s propensity to switch off defensively, even when they are playing well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Parma managed to find a way through. Atalanta wins are rarely bloodless, but they can be profitable if we play them right.