Serie A: The State Of Play
With Juventus now holding a three point lead over second placed Roma, today on the blog Adam Digby takes a look at the betting in Serie A winner, top 3 and relegation markets.
Serie A is littered with rivalries and matchups between its clubs, forming some of European football’s most prestigious and iconic encounters. The city derbies of Rome and Milan are among the most eagerly anticipated meetings, while the history of other games – such as those between Sicilian neighbours Palermo and Catania – are littered with vitriol and tragedy in equal measure. With a legacy reaching back to the very first days that the game was played on the peninsula, they are matches which truly capture the imagination and hold great significance to the supporters of the club’s involved.
This coming weekend’s biggest game is not one of these, but one which may well give birth to a new rivalry given the history of a number of its key protagonists. Under new ownership, Inter have – just as this column predicted – made a surprisingly good start to the season and currently sit just four points away from the Champions League places. Walter Mazzarri has instilled new belief in the Nerazzurri, guiding them some important wins, including a 7-0 demolition of Sassuolo that stands as the most one-sided match of the new campaign.
The coach has brought the best from a number of players, with midfielders Fredy Guarin and Ricky Álvarez making vital contributions. The former has recorded three goals and three assists, while the latter has added four more goals and created a further five for his team-mates. With Diego Milito not yet fully recovered from injury, fellow Argentinean Rodrigo Palacio has also been in fine form, leading the club with nine goals in the opening fifteen games of 2013-14. Improvement has also been seen defensively, with only Roma and Juventus conceding fewer goals, as the 3-5-1-1 formation of Mazzarri plays to the strengths of a number of players. Key to the new system is Hugo Campagnaro, the defender averaging 3.3 tackles, three interceptions and 5.8 clearances per game. He has helped the squad become accustomed to the coach’s plans, thanks to the time the duo spent together at Napoli, the very club Inter face this season.
There is no love lost between the coach and Aurelio De Laurentiiis, with the manner of Mazzarri’s departure drawing disdain from the Napoli President. He accused his former employee of “selling himself” to Inter after four years at the Stadio San Paolo. There is similar ill will in the opposite dugout, as new Napoli coach Rafael Benitez left the Nerazzurri in equally bitter circumstances. Succeeding Jose Mourinho following the historic 2010 treble winning season, the Spaniard felt he was never fully supported at Inter and has regularly voiced his displeasure at the time he spent there.
The Fight For Third Place
The game could play an important role in the battle for Champions League qualification, as Napoli currently occupy third place ahead of Inter, a huge improvement from the latter who finished last season no less than eighteen points away from reaching the elite competition. That ninth place finish was a major factor in their preseason odds of reaching the top three being set at 4.00, and they have now fallen as low as 3.60, in late September trading as low as 2.25. The incredible form of Roma and Juventus seems to leave only one spot for the remaining teams and the race looks set to be incredibly close.
Outside of these two, Fiorentina have had an inconsistent month, winning three and losing three of their last six games, a spell which has seen them involved in some wonderfully entertaining matches. They have kept just three clean sheets all season, while failing to score on just two occasions, testament to the exciting brand of football Vincenzo Montella has brought to the renaissance city. Giuseppe Rossi has been integral to everything positive about the Viola and currently leads all scorers in Serie A with twelve goals, no less than 41% of the team’s entire tally. With a comfortable run of fixtures in December and January – they face Bologna, Sassuolo, Livorno, Torino, Catania, Genoa, Cagliari and Atalanta in that period – Fiorentina should be capable of improving their position in the coming weeks.
The same cannot be said of a Milan side who began 2013-14 as second favourites for the title behind two time Champions, Juventus. Their opening odds of 6.00 have now drifted out as far as 501.00, which merely begins to tell how poor they have been in the first two months of the campaign. Currently sitting in ninth place, they are already twenty-one points behind the leaders and a worrying fourteen away from third place. That will now be their aim, but with only four wins to their name, it will take a remarkable change in fortune if they are to achieve that despite the regular heroics of Mario Balotelli.
Serie A Top 3 Odds - Odds as at 10th December 2013.
The Title Race
With the Rossoneri out of the picture, a five point gap has opened up between the top two and the rest of the pack, as nobody seems capable of matching their early pace. Roma returned to winning ways this past weekend, recording their first victory in five weeks and finally proving they can secure three points without captain Francesco Totti. That should be a huge fillip for Rudi Garcia’s side who, having opened the season with an astonishing ten straight wins, had labored to four consecutive draws following their talismanic leader’s injury.
That unbeaten run has seen the odds of a Scudetto triumph drop from 21.00 to as low as now 5.50, trading as low as 2.85 in early November. Meanwhile a top three finish – still available at 1.20 with some bookmakers – now appears certain. For Juventus meanwhile, it has been a return to business as usual, as the Bianconeri made a mockery of those who cast doubts over their own early form. Antonio Conte’s men have recently overtaken Roma atop the Serie A standings thanks to seven consecutive victories, and keeping clean sheets in each match as they improved at both ends of the field.
With only two more rounds until the Winter Break, the two sides go head-to-head immediately after the league resumes, a match that could go some way to deciding whether the trophy heads to the capital, or remains in Turin for a third straight year. The Giallorossi certainly seem to have the toughest upcoming schedule, facing Milan this coming weekend before meeting Parma, Hellas and city rivals Lazio in the weeks ahead. For Juventus, games against Sassuolo, Atalanta, Cagliari and Sampdoria sandwich the top of the table clash.
Serie A Title Odds - Odds as at 11th December 2013.
The Relegation Battle
Perhaps the biggest surprise of these first few months was the impact of newly promoted Hellas, who began the season as the third favourite for relegation, but now sit in sixth place and are more likely to spend next year in Europe, than in Serie B. The same can also be said of Torino who, thanks to Giampiero Ventura’s tactical re-think, are just one place behind the Veronese side with Alessio Cerci’s eight goals firing them up the table.
The same cannot be said of fellow new boys Sassuolo and Livorno, who both sit in the bottom five and face a difficult fight to survive this year. Joining them at the foot of the table are Sampdoria, Bologna and Catania, with the latter looking in real trouble. Already five points from safety and with matches against Hellas and Roma standing between them and the Winter Break, it seems set to be a tough holiday season at the Stadio Massimino.
Serie A Relegation Odds - Odds as at 10th December 2013.
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