Udinese v Sassuolo Saturday, 17:00 Live on Betfair Live Video Two sides who really shouldn't be trusted kick off the Serie A weekend, with Udinese looking to find some 2018 form against a Sassuolo team who are in desperate need of a win as they slip further and further towards the relegation zone.
Udinese improved markedly under Massimo Oddo in the build up to the mid-season break, but so far in 2018 they have been poor. They've lost their last four, and badly miss the goals of Kevin Lasagna, out with injury for a month.
Those four defeats aren't maybe as bad as they look, which is why I believe that Udinese are a bet this weekend. Two of the defeats were against Roma and Juventus, one was at Samp, and the only one that can be seen as disappointing was the loss at Torino. To use a horse racing analogy, Udinese have been running in Championship races and are dropping down to a seller. They should be too good for Sassuolo.
The visitors have plummeted down the table, having not won since December 23, and they've had some horrendous defeats. I've had my eye on them for relegation for some time, with SPAL and Verona improving, and they are now looking over their shoulders.
Sassuolo are also missing important players, as Domenico Berardi, Antonino Ragusa and Federico Peluso sit out bans. While their form away from home is better than in front of their own fans, I'll still take Udinese to be a level above, and kick our weekend off with a winner.
Inter pile misery on Samp
Sampdoria v Inter Sunday, 11:30 Live on BT Sport 1 and Betfair Live Video
Sampdoria were on the wrong end of one of the shocks of the season so far last week when they went down 4-1 at Crotone. They'll be happy to be back at home this weekend, but they'll face an Inter team who produced one of their best performances.
Inter were outstanding against Napoli, and were unfortunate not to win a tight game. With Samp still reeling after what happened at Crotone, I think that Inter are good value at odds against for the victory in this one.
Samp have now lost two of their last three, have strikers who are dangerously out of form, and they look to be treading water. Inter have had their bad run, look to be on the other side of it, and I think that they'll now finish the season powerfully.
Draws are obviously a worry with Inter, as only Torino have drawn more than them in Serie A this season, and they can be a little conservative, but Mauro Icardi always has a point to prove against his old team, is without a goal since January 5, and I feel like he's in the mood to produce a big performance.
Inter will be too good for a fading Samp. I see Inter as the bet of the weekend at a generous enough price.
Verona v Atalanta Sunday, 14.00 Live on Betfair Live Video I know that Atalanta's win at Bologna last weekend cost us, but I'm again a little baffled by their price. Verona might be in the middle of the relegation battle, but they've won their last two after much improved performances, and I have to give them a chance here.
Verona are7.20 to win this, and there's certainly a case to be made. They lost 3-0 in Bergamo earlier in the season, but that was in the middle of a terrible run of form, and they're a different proposition now.
Atalanta have won only one of their last seven in all competitions, and their elimination from both the Europa League and the Coppa Italia has clearly affected them. They were fortunate to win in Bologna last time, and Fabio Pecchia will feel that his Verona team can get something from them.
There was some squad rotation, but Atalanta still used up precious energy in Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Juventus, a game rescheduled when it was snowed off last month.
Verona have won their last five home Serie A games against Atalanta, and the Bergamo boys traditionally have a really poor record against this opponent. I know that those historical statistics can seem largely irrelevant in a game in 2018, but they add to the general feeling that this won't be a walk in the park for Gian Piero Gasperini's team.
The price is ultimately what convinces me: 1.56for an away win is simply too short, and even though they pulled out a victory last time, I'm happy to oppose Atalanta again.