Serie A Betting: Santa brings victories for Atalanta, Sassuolo and Parma
Dave Farrar predicts the final round before the Christmas break will have Milan, Gennaro Gattuso's Napoli and Brescia on the naughty list...
Seeing as we'll be breaking for Christmas after this round of Serie A, it's probably worth having a look at the bigger picture, before focusing in on our bets for the weekend.
The struggles of both Milan and Napoli make my pre-season predictions look a bit stupid now, and Inter have been better than I expected, largely because they, more than any other big team in the League, managed to get themselves in order off the field and in the dressing room. Bravo to Antonio Conte, who deserves a great deal of credit.
He's not the coach of the season so far, though. That honour must go to Rolando Maran of Cagliari, with honourable mentions to both Simone Inzaghi and Gian Piero Gasperini. Atalanta in the last 16 of the Champions League still feels like a dream.
Atalanta aren't going to win the European Cup, though, and nor are Lazio or Cagliari going to win Serie A. That will come down to a straight fight between Juve and Inter, and I still think that the market has it right about Juve. They're more flawed than ever, but more consistent than Inter, who seem certain to have a bad month in 2020. That could seal it for Juve, but Inter will be fascinating title contenders in 2020-21.
Ciro Immobile will be Capocannoniere, but I'm delighted to see my pre-season poke Francesco Caputo in 4th place on that list. Hopefully he will have a stellar 2020. Season's Greetings to you all, and here, in a relatively anaemic week, are the offerings for this Matchday.
Atalanta bring their A-Game
Atalanta v Milan Sunday, 11:30 Live on Premier 1 and Betfair Live Video
Atalanta's progress in the Champions League means that they have stuttered in Serie A, and last weekend's defeat in Bologna, when they were tired and missing key players, seemed almost inevitable.
Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic will be back for this, and given that La Dea are taking on an under-strength Milan, it's surprising to see them as big as1.85 for the win.
The Rossoneri are without Theo Hernandez and Lucas Paqueta, and even though they're unbeaten in four in Serie A, and can talk confidently of a revival under Stefano Pioli, I don't see that continuing here.
Atalanta are notoriously hard to predict, but this has all of the makings of a feel-good afternoon. They'll be refreshed, they'll be in front of a crowd which is keen to celebrate their magnificent European achievements, and all of that normally means that Gasperini's team will click. Over 3.5 Goals are certainly of interest, but I'll take them to win at a price that is a couple of fractions too big.
Another Gattuso upset
Sassuolo v Napoli Sunday, 19:45 Live on Premier 1 and Betfair Live Video
The new Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso (a dismal appointment, in my view) has a tough task in front of him, as his team look to recover from their worst start in nearly 20 years, and try to break a run of eight Serie A games without a win.
They head for Sassuolo, who were in a slump of their own until they won at Brescia last time, and while the opposition here is considerably tougher, Roberto De Zerbi's team will be confident of causing an upset at5.10.
When you consider Napoli's issues on and off the field, with their injury list thrown in, that looks like a crazy price. Sassuolo have an attacking threat from Francesco Caputo and Mimmo Berardi, and Napoli will be without Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic, with Dries Mertens also struggling.
Sassuolo are unbeaten in four, and when you consider that three of those results have been draws at Juve and Milan, and a throwaway draw against Cagliari, you can see how seriously they have to be taken. It'll take Gattuso a while to get things right, and his team are up against it here.
The Asian Handicap is of course of interest, with Sassuolo trading at1.85 with a goal start, but I'm confident enough to support them outright.
Parma primed for victory
Parma v Brescia Sunday, 14:00 Live on Premier 1
Finally to ham and cheese country, as 7th placed Parma take on third from bottom Brescia. The Rondinelle have certainly improved lately, but their wins over Lecce and SPAL were spoiled a little by that rescheduled home defeat against Sassuolo midweek.
Parma have injury issues, but have overcome them with style in recent weeks, winning three in a row in all competitions, and playing with confidence and class.
They have won five of their last seven at home, and I'm baffled to see them trading at2.12 for the win here. Brescia are not without a chance, and Parma don't have a full strength squad, but this is still a team which is riding high in the table at home against one in the relegation zone, and Parma are, quite simply, a better and more consistent team than Brescia.