Our Italian Football columnist Enzo gives his best bets for the opening round of the 2021/22 Serie A season.
Salernitana v Roma Sun 14th Aug 19:45 GMT
Salernitana scraped salvation on the final day of the 2021/22 season after picking up 15 points from their remaining eight games. The incredible spell was down to the fact that they suddenly began scoring goals which had previously been their Achilles heel. The January arrival of Simone Verdi galvanised strikers Djuric and Bonazzoli into action and on to safety. However, with Djuric and Verdi both moving on, it could be back to square one for the side from Salerno. On Monday, they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Parma in the Coppa Italia and all the signs point to the impotency returning.
Mourinho’s Roma took the opposite approach. After a number of shambolic defensive displays during the opening half of the campaign, there was a marked improvement in the latter half as the Giallorossi were transformed into one of the leagues most solid outfits. The key protagonists, Ibanez, Smalling and Mancini, have all stuck around so there is no excuse for a repeat of last seasons opening shockers.
Roma should win this easily especially after strengthening the forward line with Paolo Dybala but at 2/5 there is not much value in the away win. Instead, I’m banking on last years trends to continue and going with Roma win to nil @ 6/4 as my first Serie A bet of the 2022/23 season.
Spezia v Empoli Sun 14th Aug 19:45 GMT
A fourth consecutive season in Italy’s top flight will be the sole aim for Spezia this season. The Aquilotti have managed to hang in there year on year by the skin of their teeth and to do so again would be a fantastic achievement. Empoli’s goals won’t be much loftier but their squad is of a slightly higher level than Spezia’s, at least on paper. Even with star striker Pianamonti moving on, his replacement Mattia Destro is more than capable of leading the line.
It’s always difficult to predict what will happen during the first couple of games but an Empoli Win @ 2/1 looks like solid value especially since they were so strong on the road during 2021/22.
Hellas Verona v Napoli Mon 15th August 19:45 GMT
Both of these clubs are in a state of transition after a number of key departures over the summer. Napoli lost captain Lorenzo Insigne, as well as their defensive rock Koulibaly and super sub Dries Mertens. Verona will be without the creative genius of Gianluca Caprari but more significantly, former manager Igor Tudor. Prior to his arrival mid campaign, Hellas had been languishing in the bottom five before the Croat turned things around and eventually guided the club to a 9th place finish. Without him I think Gli Scaligeri will struggle and the 4-1 defeat to Bari in the Coppa Italia doesn’t bode well for new manager Gabriele Cioffi. Napoli Win @ 11/10 is my final Serie A pick of the weekend.
Salernitana v Roma: Roma Win to nil @ 6/4
Spezia v Empoli: Empoli Win @ 2/1
Hellas Verona v Napoli: Napoli Win @ 11/10