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Andrea Calo 2nd Oct 2008 - 14:18

Wide-open Serie A is the reward for Calciopoli

Betting on Italian football has been re-invigorated by the fallout from the country’s biggest football betting scandal – and Italy’s reward for the pain of Calciopoli is a wide-open Serie A.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent dominance of Inter Milan. The first two of their hat-trick of titles were achieved by default; being handed the Scudetto after Juventus were stripped of it in 2006 and winning because of the absence of la vecchia signora and AC Milan’s points deduction in 2007.

In 2008 Inter were pushed all the way by Roma, with reviving giants Juve and Fiorentina pushing AC Milan into fifth place in Serie A and out of the Champions League for the first time in living memory.

This season looks like it’s going to be an equally open race, and fans of betting on Italian football can approach matches without worrying so much that a result is preordained.

Serie A betting: used to be a joke
It used to be a standing joke in football betting circles. Especially at the end of the season, Serie A football betting coupons would show ridiculously short prices on favourable outcomes for teams that needed points.

If neither team had anything to play for, a draw was almost inevitable – and reflected in the odds. The bookies didn’t know which matches were fixed, of course – but who could blame them for playing it safe?

Joe McGinniss’s 1999 book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro brought the problem to light half a decade before Calciopoli – but for those five years and longer, punters were faced with two choices when placing a bet on Serie A: risk picking the only fixture on the coupon that wasn’t bent, or not having a bet.

Italian football takes on the big clubs
Match-fixing may still go on in Serie A, but the perception now is that it will happen no more than elsewhere at least. Juve’s punishment has at least shown the authorities to be willing to take on the biggest clubs and – if you are to believe those who cry conspiracy at all the Scudetti Juventus have ever won – the biggest culprits.

Five games in, the 2008/09 Serie A table looks strikingly unfamiliar, with Lazio top, Fiorentina second and unfashionable Udinese in third. Inter are fourth, Catania fifth and Milan and Juve down in sixth and seventh. Lazio in particular have started superbly, with five goals from Argentinian striker Mauro Zárate firing them to four wins and twelve points out of a maximum fifteen.

Betting odds suggest close Serie A race
William Hill’s Italian football betting odds suggest the race isn’t as open as the league table might suggest: Inter are 5/6 favourites to win Serie A – largely, one suspects, through coach Jose Mourinho’s high profile in the UK – while AC Milan are odds of 11/4 and Juve are 4/1. Last year’s runners-up Roma are 10/1 and current leaders Lazio are next in the betting at 50/1.

There may be some inertia in those odds. Milan’s failure to qualify for the Champions League leaves them heavily reliant on Kaka, Ronaldinho and their former San Siro idol Andrei Shevchenko, who has yet to score for the Rossoneri. Juventus are still rebuilding after their Serie B exodus and coach Claudio Ranieri is finding it hard to get his side scoring goals. And Roma are struggling without the injured Francesco Totti and influential playmaker Mancini, who is now at Inter.

Which either makes Mourinho’s Inter either 5/6 certainties or puts the 50/1-and-longer shots right in the frame. Whichever way your betting preferences sway, it can’t be denied that this suggests an exciting Serie A season – and, at last, some sensible match betting odds.


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