Odds on a low-scoring London derby, Juventus to march on and Napoli to halt Roma
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While Arsenal and Manchester City compete in the FA Cup, Chelsea have the chance to extend their lead in the Premier League against arch rivals Tottenham in the Saturday evening encounter at Stamford Bridge.
That's followed by two table-topping helpings from Italy on Sunday, as the four highest-ranked sides in the division face off against each other.
League leaders Juventus entertain Fiorentina in Turin on Sunday lunchtime, looking for a 23rd win from 27 Serie A matches in 2013/14, before second-placed Roma visit third-placed Napoli needing a win to keep their title hopes in tact.
We'll also give you the lowdown on the teams missing key men and begging to be taken on - featuring Chievo, Sassuolo and Stuttgart.
Chelsea vs Tottenham (Sun, 5:30pm)
Chelsea have moved to the top of the table on the back of a 13-game unbeaten streak, and they’ve not lost at home in 23 matches. Spurs, meanwhile, are hanging on in the race for fourth and it could now be that they are chasing rivals Arsenal with Liverpool proving unstoppable.
The Blues' defence has been supreme during their current run as they’ve conceded just 5 times. However, aside from one game against Man City, Spurs have been good defensively as well, having not conceded more than 1 goal in 10 of their last 11 games, with 5 clean sheets. It looks, therefore, like we’re in line for another low-scoring affair involving Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea against good opposition. In their 9 games this season against the top seven there have been just 15 goals with 5 of the matches seeing fewer than 2 strikes. You can back another match with Under 1.5 Goals at 3.9 while Under 2.5 Goals is 2.0.
Given the expected tight nature of this match, Chelsea look a little short at 1.55. Particularly coming off a round of internationals where their four Brazilians have travelled back from South Africa. A whopping 15 of the Blues' last 17 home wins have been by either 1 or 2 goal margins as they’ve rarely thrashed opponents in the manor of Liverpool or Man City. They have won all 3 of their home games this season against the current top six by exactly 1 goal, but in the previous two seasons they’ve won only 3 of 10 home matches against top-six finishers, and 0 were won by more than 1 goal. Furthermore, 5 of the last 7 meetings between these teams have finished level, and with Spurs having been very effective on the road this season they deserve to be supported on the Double Chance at 2.45 or for a safer bet on the Asian Handicap +1.0 at 1.9.
Juventus vs Fiorentina (Sun, 11:30am)
Juventus’ only defeat this season came at Fiorentina, where they threw away a 2-0 half-time advantage. Since then they’ve won 16 of 18 matches and still have a 100% record at home. 11 of their 13 home wins this season have come after leading at half-time while 8 of the last 10 have been by more than 1 goal. Furthermore, since 2011/12 they’ve won all 13 home matches against top-six finishers and teams currently in those positions this term, with 10 wins by at least 2 clear goals.
Fiorentina’s top-three challenge has faded recently as they’ve picked up just 5 points from their last 6 games. This can be linked to the absence of Borja Valero who has missed four of these games through injury and suspensions, and they’ve taken just 1 point from those matches. He’s still suspended and the Viola have also lost 6 of 8 trips to top-six teams since the start of last season. The only issue for Juve is Andrea Pirlo’s suspension, but they’ve won 7 of the 8 matches he’s missed this term, and they look a great price at 2.15 to win by at least 2 goals.
With 7 of Juventus’ 13 home games this season seeing at least 4 goals, and 10 having 3 or more, we would certainly expect ‘overs’ here. Fiorentina have played 7 matches this season against the current top seven and all have had at least 3 goals. Their goals have dropped off, however, in the continued absence of Giuseppe Rossi and Valero. So while 1.75 looks a decent price at the time of writing we wouldn’t want to back it much lower, with the Asian Handicap the much preferred bet.
Napoli vs Roma (Sun, 7:45pm)
Napoli have slipped six points behind Roma following a run of just 2 wins in their last 7 games. In the same time Roma have conceded just 1 goal and won 5 times. However, Roma’s form on the road is less impressive as they’ve scored just 9 times in their last 8 away matches while dropping points on 5 occasions. Roma will also be without Daniele De Rossi, and since 2010/11 he’s missed just 7 of their 33 trips to top-half teams, which have resulted in 5 defeats and only 1 win.
The Partenopei have lost at home only once this season, and just twice since the start of 2012/13. Moreover, they were unbeaten at home against the top six finishers in each of the past two seasons, winning 6 of 10 matches with 2 of the draws coming against Juventus. A lot of Napoli’s recent problems have come as a result of being without one or both of Marek Hamsek and Gonzalo Higuain in 5 of their last 6 away matches as they dropped points in 4 of those 5 games. However, they are both expected to start here and 2.4 looks a very generous price for a home win.
Napoli have only twice failed to score at home since the start of last season and the only time they’ve not registered this season with Hamsek and Higuain in the team was away at Juventus. 13 of the last 21 away matches Roma have conceded in have had at least 4 goals (15/21 had at least 3 strikes), while 7 of the last 10 meetings between these teams have had 3 or more goals, including this fixture in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Over 2.5 Goals looks fairly priced at 1.85 but since 2008/09 top-five teams have hosted top-three sides 64 times with just 47% having more than 2 goals and only 14% more than 3. When changing the criteria to top-five and top-three finishers the number of over-goals matches drops even further, as it does when the match is in the second half of the season, so we’ll avoid the goals markets.
Bostjan Cesar and Dario Dainelli (Chievo)
Chievo are missing both centre-backs through suspension and since the start of last season they’ve lost 63% of the 38 matches at least one was missing, compared to 31% otherwise. In fact they’ve lost 12 of the last 13 when one or more was missing. Genoa have lost once in 7 matches and can be backed at 1.70 on the Double Chance to avoid defeat again.
Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
Zaza and Berardi have played together 9 times this season and Sassuolo have scored 13 times in those games as they’ve won 2 and lost only 4 times. In their other 17 matches Sassuolo have scored just 12 goals and lost 13 times. The 3 matches both players have missed have seen them lose to nil each time. Bologna look unlikely to deliver a thrashing so it could pay to back the 1-0 and 2-0 scores at 7.75 and 9.75.
Vedad Ibisevic (Stuttgart)
Since the start of last season Ibisevic has missed just 8 Stuttgart games and without him they’ve picked up only 2 points while scoring just 6 times. Braunschweig are also missing an important attacker with Mirko Boland out, and they’ve lost all 5 matches he’s missed this season while scoring just 2 goals. Stuttgart’s last 10 games have all had at least 3 goals but with both teams missing attacking options this could buck the trend and Under 2.5 Goals is worth a look at 2.15.