Roma v Juventus: Can the pretenders stop the Ju-Ju train?

Since September 11th 2011 Juventus have lost only eight league games and taken exclusive residence atop Serie A. Five of those defeats came in the 2012/13 campaign where they would occasionally succumb to ennui at their whole shtick of going in front, controlling the game, seeing it out, then shaking hands and wishing their vanquished all the best. You know, that predictable old winning thing.

The previous season – when monopoly was still a fresh, intriguing proposition – they were invincible.

Roma v Juventus Betting Odds:

Roma win 2/1

Juventus win 13/10

Draw 11/5

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Since September 11th 2011 – that’s 138 games in case you were wondering – the Old Lady has crushed its nearest and dearest with iron-fisted dominance. And now, after extending their already-healthy lead over second placed Roma last weekend, the ruthless Bianconeri scent a fourth consecutive title.

They have done this before: Given their rivals a glimmer of hope, showed a bit of ankle, then raced away with half a season to spare. Now, with a nine point lead looking unassailable following Totti and co’s draw in Verona surely it’s all now a formality?
Surely we are all better off concentrating our attentions on a terrific scrap for European qualification or a bitter relegation dogfight involving Verona, Cagliari, Chievo, and Atalanta? The tussle for the top is over. The champions-elect may as well be crowned before March blossoms its blooms.

Unless…

Unless there is one particular fixture scheduled for this one particular time and rather wonderfully there is.
Juve – Tevez, Pogba and all – head to the Stadio Olimpico this Monday evening knowing the avoidance of defeat will put them out of sight. A stalemate will more than suffice but while Bonucci and Chiellini will typically be in lockdown mode, don’t expect classic catenaccio. For one thing it is impossible to curtail the scurrying adventure of Tevez while Pirlo’s pearler last week demonstrated once again that any set-pieces attained within his scud missile range are potentially priceless. Moreso the knowledge that Roma will have to unleash hell lends the perfect opportunity to be brave, allow the magnificent Pogba the freedom of the park, and hurt the home side when stretched.

And Roma WILL have to unleash hell; an opening up of their usual cat-and-mouse caginess that has seen them draw eight from their previous eleven games, only scoring more than once on a couple of those occasions.
Coach Rudi Garcia must dispense with conservatism and entrust the cute creativity of Ljajic to pick the Juventus padlock and perhaps add to his eight league goals this term. Pjanic’s pinpoint probing meanwhile must take priority over work-rate.
So much of Roma’s success this season has been built on solid foundations. The experienced De Sanctis has been in the form of his long career with Astori ahead of him a calm colossus. Now though we get to see what i giallorossi have to offer when all guns blazing. They will certainly be battle-hardened after coming through a highly charged trip to Feyenoord on Thursday evening, a Europa League clash that was suspended for ten minutes after objects were thrown onto the pitch including, depressingly, an inflatable banana.

The wounded whippet Iturbe will be a big loss as too, possibly, Maicon who is a doubt. But personnel plays secondary importance for such a clash. It is mentality – or more pertinently a change of mentality – that matters here.
For the neutral a repeat scoreline – either way – from the corresponding fixture in Turin last October will be welcomed. That barmy evening saw five goals, two reds, and three penalties.

Whether it’s a tight affair though or an incident-packed thriller one thing is for certain – if it goes Juve’s way the old lady will put on weight and start to sing.

Betting Instinct tip – with Juve content to keep things tight early on, we could well see the game being level at half-time. You can back this at 21/20 with Intertops.eu

Ste avatar STEPHEN TUDOR is editor of the Daisy Cutter, the football newspaper that only sometimes lies. He also writes  for  Sabotage Times, When Saturday Comes, Late Tackle and others. Follow him on Twitter.

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Will Liverpool and Man City miss key men in Champions League showdowns?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

While Chelsea and Arsenal have sealed their progress to the Champions League second round with a game to spare, things are not so simple for the remaining two Premier League representatives.

A combination of tough opponents and underwhelming performances have left Liverpool and Manchester City with a tough task to qualify, but both have their fate in their own hands going into matchday 6.

Liverpool v FC Basel Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/10

Basel win 7/2

Draw 53/20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Liverpool’s return to European football’s top table for the first time in five years has been overshadowed by attacking woes, with Daniel Sturridge’s absence through injury adding to the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Strikers Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert have scored just once each in the five group games so far, with Brendan Rodgers’ side picking up just one more point after a narrow win over Ludogorets in their opening game.

However victory over FC Basel would be enough to ensure progress behind group winners Real Madrid. The Swiss champions edged past the Reds at home thanks to a Marco Streller goal, but have won just one of their last five away games in the competition. That was in England, though, when a Streller winner made the difference against Chelsea last season.

An absent striker is the main story for Manchester City as well, with the injury picked up by Sergio Aguero in Saturday’s victory over Everton ruling the Argentine out of Wednesday’s trip to Roma. And after his hat-trick in a last-gasp win over Bayern Munich, it is fair to say that Aguero will be missed, with Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko both yet to score in the competition this season.

Like their fellow Premier League club, City have just one win from five games so far. However, due to a quirk in the Champions League’s head-to-head tiebreaker, Manuel Pellegrini’s men could progress with six points or exit with eight. All they know is defeat in the Italian capital (or a goalless draw) would see them eliminated.

Will we have a repeat of 2012-13, where two English sides failed to make it past the group stage, or could we still see the perfect qualification record enjoyed by Premier League outfits last season?

Betting Instinct tip Liverpool to win and Manchester City to win or draw is 2.6 with Intertops.eu

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

Napoli to pressure Roma in race to be best of the rest?

Gazzetta Dello Sport had some fun with their image of ‘Rudeboy Garcia’ and ‘Rapper Benitez’

In contrast to the Premier League and the Spanish top flight, Italy’s title race is as good as over. After scoring during a 2-0 win for the imperious Juventus at Milan, Carlos Tevez proclaimed the scudetto to be ‘three quarters ours.’ Even that statement could be construed as modest – The Old Lady are eleven points clear of second place Roma.

Whilst the title conversation may be a moot point, the race to be the best of the rest in Serie A is very much on and will be decided in large part when the aforementioned Roma travel to third place Napoli this Sunday evening. A mere four points separates the two.

Napoli v Roma Betting Odds

Napoli win – 

Roma win – 

Draw – 

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Recently Rafa Benitez’s team has endured some disappointing draws in the league. Last weekend’s round of fixtures saw the Partenopei travel to struggling Livorno only to manage a 1-1 draw. A first half penalty converted by Belgian international Dries Mertens was cancelled out shortly after thanks to a fumble by ‘keeper Pepe Reina. Post-match the coach said he was, “disappointed with everyone,” whereas the team’s colourful owner, Aurelio De Laurentiis stated “I don’t want to talk about the game yesterday.” In their league game prior to this the spoils were also shared at home to Genoa.

Napoli’s fans and their film producing benefactor may hark back to the embryonic stages of the season in which the side won nine of their first eleven games. Nonetheless their record at the Stadio San Paolo remains remarkably strong with just one blot on the copy book; a 1-0 loss to Parma back in late November. Crucially their last game on the Ligurian Sea did not feature Gonzalo Higuaín. This was not trademark rotation from Benitez. The Argentine hitman was suspended along with centre back, Raul Albiol. ‘We do not depend on Gonzalo, but we do depend on determination,’ said Benitez at the weekend. The accuracy of that view is debatable and the issue could well be addressed in this summer’s transfer window.

 

The former Real Madrid striker will be available for the upcoming clash with Roma. He leads the way in goals and assists for the Neapolitans this season. El Pipita has found the net thirteen teams this league campaign and assisted his teammates on seven occasions. His unerring finishing, clever passing and strength on the ball is fundamental to the success of the team. His presence invariably brings the best out of the attacking triumvirate that feature behind him, ensuring their enterprising play has an effective outlet. The forward was on target the last time Napoli met Roma in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final. He helped them to a 3-0 (agg 5-3) win to take Napoli to their fifth domestic cup final.

Roma’s Rudi Garcia was undoubtedly frustrated by that loss but the French tactician can take solace from their previous league meeting which ended in a 2-0 win at the Olimpico. That victory was in the halcyon days of the Giallorossi’s ten straight wins at the beginning of the campaign. However, they had their own dour draw to reflect upon last weekend as Inter held them 0-0 at home.

Stand-in captain Daniele De Rossi is suspended having been punished retrospectively for punching Mauro Icardi in an ill tempered stalemate, and Francesco Totti is unlikely to feature as he continues to regain fitness following an injury. On the plus side Brazilian full backs Maicon and Dodo will be vying to return to a back line which remains the stingiest in Europe’s major leagues with Leandro Castán and Mehdi Benatia imperious in central defence. The latter has attracted admiring glances from some of Europe’s elite clubs, while the same applies to the young Bosnian central midfielder Miralem Pjanić who plays with a composure and intelligence indicative of someone ten years his senior.

Both Napoli and Roma have comparable styles characterised by short passing, possession, attempting to get beyond the opposition’s line of defence and controlling the ball in the opponent’s half. Both have free kick specialists and relish the chance to attack set pieces. Can punters, therefore, expect each side to nullify the other? That is arguably where the smart money will go, with both teams just over evens to win the game. Yet a returning Higuain could be telling. Benitez should be emboldened by the gap between Napoli and fourth place Fiorentina (seven points). The onus is on the Azzurri to pressure Roma in the race for automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – With Roma’s formidable defensive record and Napoli netting just once in each of their last two games, less than 2.5 goals can be backed at 2.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack Howlett avatarJACK HOWLETT spends most of his time following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of West Ham United. To find some solace he takes a keen interest in foreign leagues, especially Italy’s Serie A. Follow Jack on Twitter @Jack_Howlett.

Mid-table Milan to Restore Pride Against Rampant Roma

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan's resurgence after a slow start

Mario Balotelli has been crucial to Milan’s resurgence after a slow start

The last time AC Milan faced Roma at the San Siro it was a mild May evening and the 2012-13 Serie A season was drawing to a close. Milan were on the cusp of confirming a Champions League finish while Roma were set for an unremarkable top half place under caretaker manager, Aurelio Andreazzoli. A goalless draw was distinguished by two red cards and the unedifying sight of a stoppage for racist abuse aimed towards Milan’s Mario Balotelli. The fortunes of both clubs have diverged since but the result when they meet again is likely to be the same, with the spoils shared once more.

AC Milan v AS Roma betting odds

Milan to win – 2.26

Draw – 3.10

Roma to win – 3.05

(Odds provided by GEObet.com are current as of today but subject to change.)

The Rossoneri are enduring their worst start to a league campaign since 1981-2 when the team was relegated. History repeating itself is improbable but this is a disjointed side led by the beleaguered Massimiliano Allegri. Their first 13 games this season returned a meagre 14 points, drawing the ire of the hardcore in the Curva Sud.

Following a 1-1 home draw against Genoa last month, Milan’s Ultras blockaded the team bus’ exit from the San Siro in protest. The iconic Kaka and club stalwart Christian Abbiati eventually relented, engaging with the supporters to ease the situation. Adding to the soap opera there has been a public power struggle for the day to day running of the club between the owner’s daughter, Barbara Berlusconi and the current vice president Adriano Galliani. This resulted in the latter’s resignation which was duly rejected by Barbara’s father, Silvio.

Recovering from a sluggish start may well be Milan and Allegri’s forte, however, as it was the hallmark of their previous season. Those signs could be revealing themselves again. After six weeks without a win they managed a 3-1 victory away to Catania. From a one goal deficit the spine of the team finally showed some resolve. Goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Mario Balotelli and Kaká provided a comfortable win. The returning Brazilian who now has 99 goals from Milan has injected some desperately needed creativity, while the talismanic Balotelli rescued a 2-2 draw last weekend at newly promoted Livorno. Meanwhile there is optimism that the prodigiously talented Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio will feature more following injuries.

Reaching the glided Champions League places seems unlikely for Milan but there are loftier ambitions in the capital where Roma broke Italian football history to record 10 wins from their first 10 league games this season. The Giallorossi sold Erik Lamela, Dani Osvaldo and Marquinhos but their loss was mitigated by the club’s most important summer business, the appointment of the urbane Frenchman, Rudi Garcia as manager. Canny acquisitions followed in the form of Kevin Strootman, Gervinho and Mehdi Benatia. Quick, transitional football with a watertight defence has been their strength thus far. A vintage season from their all time top goalscorer Francesco Totti hasn’t hurt either.

At 37 years of age it is remarkable how reliant Roma remain on Totti for that touch of brilliance and invention in tight games- his absence through injury coincided with four consecutive draws, halting their astonishing start to the campaign. Il Capitano returned to the bench last weekend for a home tie versus Fiorentina where Mattia Destro, fresh from returning from injury himself, scored the winner and immediately raced to the bench, embracing Totti.

Despite remaining unbeaten, Roma are now second in the division with Juventus three points clear. A first Scudetto since 2001 may be a step too far for the Romans but with a stingy defence, a well balanced midfield and the attacking intent of Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi, this is undoubtedly an exciting side.

Monday night sees ninth clash with second. The slowly recovering Milan are without a home win since beating Udinese in October. Coincidentally Roma have not won away since travelling to Udine in October. A draw seems the best bet with both teams to get on the scoresheet.

Betting Instinct tip – Milan 1-1 Roma is 7.00 with AllYouBet.ag

Jack Howlett avatarJACK HOWLETT spends most of his time following the ups and downs (mostly downs) of West Ham United. To find some solace he takes a keen interest in foreign leagues, especially Italy’s Serie A.