Mark O’Haire’s European Footy Tips – Serie A Week 1
If you’ve seen my outright preview, you’ll know I’m keen on Roma this season. Leandro Castan is back from injury to improve the defence but serious summer work has been done to address a misfiring and limp attack from last season.
Edin Dzeko and Mo Salah’s arrivals should transform the Giallorossi’s offence and I’m keen to get the Romans onside for the Serie A opener.
Their 2014/15 campaign was written off as disaster but the capital club still managed to secure the runners up spot for the second successive season of Rudi Garcia’s reign.
Supporters demands for a return to their exciting, pressing style that lit up the Frenchman’s first year in charge appear to have been adhered to and I fully expect the capital club to close the 17-point gap on Juventus this time around.
Roma have won 20 of their 38 away games under Garcia’s watch – that’s a 53% success rate – and I reckon the Giallorossi now have their best squad at their disposal since their last Scudetto title nearly 14 years ago.
They should have more than enough in the locker to get their season started with three points at a Verona side still struggling to put together a convincing defence.
Hellas finished last season 12 points above the drop zone and are starting their sixth season under coach Andrea Mandorlini. But last season the Verona coach struggled to exert his training ground methods and looked tactically naïve on too many occasions.
With the fifth smallest wage bill in Serie A, the Gialloblu should have focussed on strengthening their defence but instead spent a fortune on bring in Giampaolo Pazzini.
The hosts are top-heavy with evergreen Luca Toni already in the ranks. Fresh off a 22-goal season as Serie A’s top goal-getter, Hellas will hope the former Italian marksman can continue his outstanding form in front of goal.
But ultimately, the league’s worst defence is no stronger and that glaring weakness should cost them against the capital club on Saturday night.
Rather than the straight away win, I’m going to back Roma and Both Teams To Score at a handsome 13/5. Since returning to Italy’s top-flight, Verona have seen the BTTS bet bank in 24/38 (63%) of home Serie A encounters, failing to score in only seven outings and keeping just eight clean sheets.
Juventus v Udinese, Sunday 23 August (17.00) – BT Sport 2
A new era dawns in Turin on Sunday evening as Juventus chase a fifth consecutive Serie A title – equalling the record set by the Old Lady sides from 1930-1935.
Having clinched their latest league triumph with room to spare, many are expecting Juve to walk their way to another under Massimiliano Allegri’s steady hand.
But no matter how you look at it, the departures of Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, three players that symbolised the dominant era, have departed in the summer and it might take time for the new blood to gel.
Luckily for the Bianconeri, they’ve been handed a relatively comfortable first fixture and although they’ve undergone the biggest overhaul since 2011/12, they’ll be too good for Udinese.
Across the past four title winning campaigns, Juve have W62-D12-L2 of their home league fixtures. A huge 42/76 (55%) clean sheets have also been kept at Juventus Stadium and so the 20/23 offering from Boylesports on the home win ‘to nil’ stands out as a decent value bet for the opener.
Stefano Colantuono replaced Andrea Stramaccioni in the Udinese dugout over the summer following a disappointing 16th-placed finish last time out. Antonio Di Natale has delayed his retirement by another year but Italy’s second oldest club are lacking in key areas.
A meagre four wins this calendar year and seven defeats from their final 10 under Stramaccioni highlighted the problems whilst standout star Allen has moved on.
Duvan Zapata’s an excellent capture in attack to help ease the burden on Di Natale but whether the duo receive enough service to cause the untouched home backline problems remains to be seen.
The Zebrette have lost 21 of their 38 road games since the start of 2013/14 and failed to score in 16 of those 38 fixtures. I’m counting on that record extending this weekend.
Fiorentina v AC Milan, Sunday 23 August (19.45) – BT Sport Europe
Both Fiorentina and Milan are under new management and fans of both clubs are expecting a serious challenge for Champions League qualification in 2015/16.
In Milan’s case, attention has already turned to toppling Juventus but despite the heavy investment, the Rossoneri aren’t quite ready to win back their title.
However, Siniša Mihajlović’s appointment should at least go someway to resolving a calamity defence whilst also making Milan a more stable and solid unit.
The former Inter hero transformed Sampdoria from relegation candidates to European qualifiers and with the club splashing the cash over the summer, Milan now boast an attack that’s the match for most on the continent.
Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano have the potential to run riot if provided with the right service and the early signs are promising. Mihajlović’s men are moving the ball faster, pressing with greater intensity and working harder.
The team finally look like they’ve been whipped into shape and having lost only 25/76 (33%) of fixtures in charge of Samp over the past two campaigns, I’m confident Milan’s new Serbian coach can steer the Rossoneri to a positive opening day result at Fiorentina.
Boylesports make Milan a 7/10 prospect in the Double Chance market and that looks a price based on last season’s excursions. But the hosts are also under new stewardship with Paulo Sousa taking over from Vincenzo Montella and La Viola have lost a number of their standout stars from recent years in the off-season.
Goalkeeper Neto, Stefan Savic, David Pizarro, Juan Vargas and Alberto Aquilani have all left the Florence club whilst Mo Salah’s loan has expired.
I’m not totally convinced with the players being brought into the club and whilst returning Giuseppe Rossi will feel like a new face, I don’t see Fiorentina featuring in the end of season top-three shake-up this time around.
Sousa has talked about reinventing La Viola as a counter-attacking side that’s attractive on the eye but they’re likely to find the going tough at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Last term the hosts failed to beat a top-six side and managed just four victories against the top-half. Milan have the tools to avoid defeat and deliver at 7/10 in the Double Chance market in week one’s standout showdown.