Lazio opens the season amidst scandal and embarrassment off the pitch. Dominating the headlines (again) in Italian football is accusations of match-fixing with Lazio captain Stefan Mauri at the forefront of it all. He has been suspended for six months for playing a significant role in the scandal.
That’s not all though as Lazio is also bearing the brunt of the punishment that was meted out for the racist chants which tarnished the weekend’s Super Cup clash with Juventus and as a result a section of the stadium – Curva Nord – will be closed for one match, effectively denying them supporters.
Why is all this relevant to our soccer picks? Simply because, such distraction and agro off the pitch can spill forth into their opening match. It doesn’t help matters either that Lazio was routed by Juventus in Super Cup action at the weekend 4-0 and, thus, confidence might be low as well.
In spite of all that’s been going on however bookies send Lazio into their home opener as the favourites to win outright at +100 at Bet365 and William Hill. Granted, they aren’t convincingly priced but they are favoured nonetheless and pose value for fans that are looking to back them to victory.
Lazio finished the season last year respectably, seventh in the table following an 18-7-13 mark and 61 points gained. In fact, they were a point shy of sixth placed Roma. Where they enjoyed success was in Coppa Italia, winning the title with a 1-0 victory over Roma. Along the way, they also beat domestic champions Juventus 3-2 on aggregate in the semis.
Udinese have a stake in the match
Udinese have a stake in the match despite the hefty odds against them, listed at +280 to win outright at Bet365 and +275 at William Hill. So if you are inclined to back them the former sportsbook has the marginally better odds right now and would be the place to go.
There is a lot to recommend Udinese for the outright win in this highly-anticipated opener. Udinese finished fifth in the table last year with an 18-12-8 mark and 66 points. The result was aided along with a strong finish to close the season, winning their last eight fixtures including an impressive 5-2 victory over Internazzionale on the last turn out. Overall, during that run they scored 21 goals and Captain Antonio Di Natale finished runner-up to Edinson Cavani in most goals scored.
Though Udinese have lost several players including Almen Abdi, Joel Ekstrand and Diego Fabbrini, in their stead they’ve brought in some young promising prospects such as Bruno Fernandes, Jadson Alves dos Santos and Frano Mlinar. And with Antonio Di Natale (Toto) to nurture the talent on the pitch, Udinese could emerge as one of the teams to watch this season. Certainly, with Cavani out of the way in French Ligue 1, Toto can score to his heart’s content and possibly finish the season as the top scorer. Speaking of Toto, among sportsbooks, William Hill is offering props on goal scorers for the game and Toto is priced at +125 to score anytime.
Lazio vs. Udinese Predictions:
Head-to-head, the pair split their meetings last season with each side winning at home. Lazio beat Udinese 3-0 in November while Udinese beat Lazio 1-0 in April. Home edge certainly was a factor last year and could therefore be a factor this time around.
Over the last six meetings Udinese has the slight edge having won three and drawn once. Over 38 matches played however (source soccerway.com), Lazio has the 18-9-11 edge, which includes ten home wins. Statistically then Lazio would appear to be the smart play.
That said given the dark cloud that hangs over the club right now, Udinese really have the opportunity to snatch the away win (or at the very least the draw which is trading at +230), and so we are plumping down to their nice +280 betting odds to do just that. Moreover, while bookmakers favour the Under 2.5 at -125 at Bet365 and at -138 at William Hill, we feel the Over 2.5 at +100 is better suited for this matchup given some of the firepower on the benches.
Soccer Free Picks: Udinese at +280 to win outright and the Over 2.5 at +100