Juventus took advantage of Inter having to play the SuperCoppa and established themselves as the new Serie A leaders. Everything is set for a Scudetto showdown next Sunday when the ‘Derby d’Italia’ will take place at San Siro.
But first, on match day 22, we’re looking at three key games for the race to play in Europe next season but also to avoid relegation.
- Cagliari are in top form in front of their crowd
- Winter mini-break can boost Atalanta
- Walter Mazzarri has re-discovered his team’s fighting spirit
Cagliari vs Torino (Friday, time: 19:45)
The hosts are just one point above the drop, having won just one of their last seven matches. Torino are in good form (only one defeat in seven games) and only four points away from the seventh spot.
With only 18 goals conceded, the visitors have Serie A’s third-best defence, as goalkeeper Milinkovic-Savic has so far kept ten clean sheets.
But the issues for manager Ivan Juric are upfront: the Granata are second from bottom for goals scored (18) and bottom for shots taken.
This is reflected in their poor away form: Torino have just won two games (against Lecce and Salernitana) and have the worst attacking record on the road (six goals scored).
Cagliari haven’t lost in any of their last six home matches in Serie A and have scored 13 times at home (more than Torino and Lazio). But on Friday the Sardinians will be without their three best goalscorers (Luvumbo, playing at the AFCON; Pavoletti, suspended; and Oristanio, injured).
The reverse fixture, in match day one, finished 0-0, and it’s likely this won’t be a high scoring match either.
With the #PickYourPunt tool you can get Evens odds for Torino or draw combined with the Under 2.5 Goals.
Atalanta vs Udinese (Saturday, time: 14:00)
Atalanta are in scintillating form, having won four of the last five games in all competitions. The ease with which they put five past Frosinone showed they’ve found the right balance to get the most out of their talented players.
Seven of the last nine Atalanta games have ended with more than three goals, and although the Bergamaschi’s biggest strength is upfront (they have Serie A’s second-best attack alongside Juve, but with a game in hand), their defensive record is not too shabby either.
Their ability to dominate possession and control games has led them to keep nine clean sheets so far (12, counting the Europa League). Six of them came in front of their home crowd, where Atalanta has been ruthless against lower-table sides.
As demonstrated against Fiorentina, Udinese can be dangerous on the counter-attack and have scored at least a goal in all their last six games.
But in a high-scoring encounter, as this will probably turn out to be, it’s hard to imagine Gabriele Cioffi’s men will prevail against such in-form Atalanta.
Las Saturday, against AC Milan, the Friulani found their two goals almost out of nothing and were dominated by the Rossoneri for large spells.
I believe Atalanta will get the three points and will score at least a couple of goals. A home win and over 2.5 Goals pays 6/5.
Lazio vs Napoli (Sunday, time: 17:00)
Both sides are looking to shake off the SuperCoppa disappointment with a win on Sunday.
Napoli got beaten in the final but showed strong resilience and good tactical know-how to stop Fiorentina first and then Inter.
Despite playing with ten men from the start of the second half, due to Giovanni Simeone’s sending-off, the Partenopei almost managed to drag the final to penalties but were punished by Lautaro Martinez in stoppage time.
This disappointing result has virtually ended last year’s champions’ hopes to win a trophy this season, but the good news is that playing with a back three and two dynamic wing-backs has helped Napoli to rediscover their team spirit.
Walter Mazzarri knows his players have not been capable of playing with the same fluidity they showed last season, and the defence needs more protection.
Napoli are depleted up front as Victor Osimhem (AFCON), Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and Giovanni Simeone (both suspended) will miss this game.
But president Aurelio De Laurentis has recently strengthened the team with the singing of Hamad Traore, Cyril Ngonge (six goals already with Verona) and Leander Dendoncker.
Lazio were deemed as one of Italy’s most in-form sides but were humbled by Inter in the SuperCoppa semi-final last Thursday.
Like Napoli they are also far away from the level they reached in 2022/2023 and, since a couple of months, they’ve been playing with a slightly less high defensive line and, sometimes, are happy to leave the ball possession to the opposition.
Only seven out of 20 Lazio games in Serie A have produced more than two goals, and Napoli’s last two away games against top sides in Italy (Juventus and Roma) have both ended 0-0 after the first 45 minutes.
This could be (another) cagey Serie A game, decided by an episode in the second half. The odds for the second 45 minutes being the highest scoring half are 11/10.
You can check out all of Daniele's Serie A Betting Tips here each week along with those of our other Italian Football writers...