Mark O’Haire’s European Footy Tips – Serie A Week 2

After some surprises in the opening round of matches, Serie A returns with some tasty ties this weekend.

Milan v Empoli, Saturday 29 August (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Milan’s bright new dawn suffered a difficult start as new head coach Siniša Mihajlović saw the Rossoneri go down 2-0 at Fiorentina, without managing a shot on target. La Viola had already squandered a gilt-edged chance before debutant Milan defender Rodrigo Ely received his marching orders for two first-half yellow cards.

Fiorentina scored a wonderful free-kick following Ely’s dismissal and Milan failed to find a way back into the fixture. But with only four road wins in 2014/15 and only four sides collecting fewer away successes, perhaps defeat wasn’t quite so unexpected.

On Saturday night the Rossoneri return to the San Siro and I remain bullishly confident that, following huge summer investment and the appointment of Mihajlović, Milan can regain their place in Serie A’s top–three. To do so, the 18-time champions will need to brush aside the likes of Empoli.

Empoli saw last season’s highly-rated coach Maurizio Sarri pinched by Napoli in the off-season and their former boss also raided the Azzurri for their finest footballers. Lower league journeyman coach Marco Giampaolo has taken over the reigns but failed to stop Empoli being beaten 3-1 at home to Chievo in their curtain-raiser.

It was a worrying result for a side I expect to struggle to stay up this season. With Sarri gone, Empoli looked directionless and could be put to the sword by Milan in the San Siro.

Still, the Rossoneri’s defence problems look far from sorted so whilst I’m happy siding with the hosts, we can add Both Teams To Score into the equation for a hunky 12/5 price.

The visitors have only failed to net in 12/39 Serie A showdowns since promotion to the top tier.

Roma v Juventus, Sunday 30 August (17.00), BT Sport Europe
Roma’s meeting with Juventus is the undoubted box office hit in Serie A this weekend as the champions and hot favourites travel to the next best side in the betting. And after both sides suffered surprising setbacks in week one, it’s all to play for in the Stadio Olimpico.

Last season Rudi Garcia’s Roma were expected to run Juve close but a remarkable drop-off in results during 2015 saw the Giallorossi finish a huge 17 points behind the table-toppers. Garcia has reloaded the squad over the summer, bolstering his forward options as the Wolves bid to challenge for top honours.

The capital club could only manage a 1-1 in Verona last weekend with Edin Dzeko cutting a frustrated figure in his Serie A bow. The Giallorossi will need to feed the Bosnian hitman and fellow new recruit Mo Salah more often against the Old Lady on Sunday if they wish to stand any chance of succeeding.

However, Juventus fell victim to the biggest upset across Europe as 12/1 shots Udinese left Turin with maximum points. Max Allegri’s side had enjoyed total control but appeared to be missing the talents of Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal in their attempts to unlock a steady Udine defence.

The Bianconeri will be desperate to avoid back-to-back defeats following their first ever home loss on the opening day of a new season and I’m inclined to think we may be treated to a goal-hungry game in Rome.

Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 10/11 and it’s an appealing price considering the visitors have kept just one clean sheet in 10.

Juve are undergoing a transitional phase and whilst they toiled against Udinese, still boast enough quality to trouble a rigid Roman backline.

Napoli v Sampdoria, Sunday 30 August (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Maurizio Sarri bemoaned the state of the pitch at Sassuolo as his Napoli side went down 2-1 in his first league fixture in charge. The Partenopei had made encouraging early inroads and when Marek Hamsik opened the scoring, the Azzurri looked destined to open their account with three points.

Napoli have tended to drop easy points when playing on the road and prefer to do their best business at their San Paolo base in Naples. The past two campaigns have brought outstanding W24-D9-L4 figures when hosting Serie A fixtures and we should expect that trend to continue under their new highly-rated coach.

Next up is a visit from a Sampdoria that side punished minnows Carpi 5-2 on their Serie A debut. The Blucerchiati were already subject to a less than friendly welcome following their flop in the Europa League qualifiers with their latest head coach Walter Zenga on the end of some stinging criticism.

But Samp stormed into a 5-0 lead as the partnership of Eder and Luis Muriel ran riot against their inexperienced opposition. However, Carpi fought back valiantly and exposed plenty of ricks in the Blucerchiati backline. Sampdoria, so accustomed to organised and efficient defending under Siniša Mihajlović’s watch, look far from secure under Zenga’s charge and it should help Napoli on their way.

But with the home side too short to back, it’s worth adding Over 2.5 Goals to the equation – the bet will then cover Napoli winning 3-0 or 2-1 and looks decent value at 23/20.

Napoli + Over 2.5 Goals should round off an excellent weekend of action on the peninsula.

*Prices correct at time of publication.