January always brings hope. The New Year is a chance to change, to improve and to reach for your dreams.
Sure thing, Juve have a four-point lead at the summit and betting odds are stacked in the Old Lady’s favour, but all the chasers, as well as those struggling for survival, return this week with renewed enthusiasm.
As former Italy boss Antonio Conte comes to terms with Chelsea’s failure to stretch their own lead in the EPL after their defeat to Spurs, Roma, Napoli and others will resolve to keep the Italian title race alive with 20 football games left to play.
WEEK 19 SUNDAY:
Napoli vs Sampdoria
Third-placed Napoli are on the up, having booked their place in the Champions League last 16 and climbed to within just seven points of the summit. In Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne, the Naples giants have the guile to test anyone. Sampdoria are 13th and haven’t won in three.
You can get 1.96 on a Napoli first half lead with -0.75 handicap.
Empoli vs Palermo
17th plays 18th but hosts Empoli have the cushion of a four-point advantage over Palermo. The visitors did bring their season to life with a 4-3 win in Genoa, last on their travels before the winter break. Ilija Nestorovski has bagged seven goals for the Pinks of Palermo and wants to start the New Year with a bang.
Genoa vs Roma
Genoa have slipped to 12th after three defeats on the bounce, and the loss of Rincon is a blow. But second-placed Roma aren’t quite as strong on the road as they are in the capital. Edin Dzeko’s early season form gave him a glut of goals, and he needs to fire again if Roma are to chase down the Bianconeri. Otherwise, a loan move for Sunderland’s Fabio Borini could be on the cards.
Lazio vs Crotone
This looks like a New Year gift for Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio, a point behind Napoli and sitting handily in fourth place. Crotone have picked up a couple of results recently but are still in deep trouble in 19th.
Chievo vs Atalanta
This is a very tight match to call and a draw at 2.98 looks as likely as anything. After an incredible run, Atalanta have stuttered rather winning for the first time in four, last time out. But they still sit sixth. Meanwhile, Chievo are unbeaten in four at home.
Udinese vs Inter Milan
Inter have won four on the trot in all competitions and Mauro Icardi sits proudly atop the scoring charts with 14 goals, but Udinese will present stiff opposition having taken 10 points from the last four games and with Cyril Thereau providing their own attacking threat with eight goals to his name.
Sassuolo vs Torino
Torino are already on the hunt for a new goalkeeper as they anticipate Joe Hart’s summer departure, but at the other end of the pitch Andrea Belotti’s 13 goals have kept European hopes alive. Sassuolo’s season just hasn’t got going and they languish in 16th after losing four on the run in all competitions.
Pescara vs Fiorentina
After a brave start to their Serie A campaign, you have to fear for Pescara as they sit rock-bottom. And the only win to their credit came from a forfeited match when Sassuolo fielded an ineligible player. Ninth-placed Fiorentina are unlikely to have much sympathy when they visit the east coast.
WEEK 19 MONDAY:
Juventus vs Bologna
15th placed Bologna won 3-0 away in Pescara, but this is a mighty different prospect, facing the top rather than the bottom team. Juventus have signed Genoa’s Tomas Rincon on a three-and-a-half year deal to strengthen Max Allegri’s hand.
Milan vs Cagliari
Milan sit in fifth place, nine points off the pace, but they do have a game in hand on all their rivals apart from Juventus; and they are taking a close look at Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu. In the meantime, this is a good chance against 14th-placed Cagliari who have lost four of their last five away games, drawing the other.
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Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.