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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Super Sampdoria look set for more joy against Torino

Tony Pulis can get it right at Middlesbrough

Duvan Zapata celebrates after scoring for Sampdoria
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Sky Bet Football League
3pm Saturday
Serie A
5pm Saturday

Sampdoria v Torino
Sven-Goran Eriksson was managing a Sampdoria squad featuring Gianluca Pagliuca, Des Walker, Attilio Lombardo, Enrico Chiesa and Roberto Mancini the last time they lost at home to Torino in Serie A and the visitors could fall victim to their bogey team again.

That Torino triumph was back in 1993 - the 1-0 win aided by Mancini's absence on the day - and they have made many disappointing trips to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris since, with one success in the 2011-12 campaign when both sides were stuck down in Serie B.  

Samp were 2-0 winners in this fixture last season and look capable of repeating that success as they aim to lock down sixth spot.

Home wins have been the key to Sampdoria's excellent campaign with Juventus and Milan among the teams to have succumbed in Genoa. In total they have won eight of their 11 home fixtures and must be in high spirits following last week's triumph at Roma.

Samp smashed in ten shots on target at the Stadio Olimpico as Duvan Zapata finally found a way past inspired home keeper Alisson after 80 minutes to increase the reputation of coach Marco Giampaolo.

It helps when you have good players and Zapata has led the line well, while young midfielders Lucas Torreira and Karol Linetty along with the injured Dennis Praet will soon leave for bigger things.

Torino have lost only one of their last 12 matches and the shot data suggests there may not be as much of a gulf between the sides as the five-point tally would suggest. 

However, even allowing for that Samp deserve to be stronger favourites when factoring in home advantage, particularly as Torino manager Walter Mazzarri, formerly in the home dugout, has a fitness concern regarding star striker Andrea Belotti.

1pt 6-4 Hills

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Norwich v Middlesbrough
It has been a disappointing campaign for Middlesbrough but there is still more than enough time for them to make the Sky Bet Championship playoffs and they can show that with a positive result at Carrow Road.

Tony Pulis trimmed his squad in January, although it is still a pool of players packed with quality at this level and they totally dominated Sheffield Wednesday in a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.

Britt Assombalonga and Patrick Bamford will have to do better if the opportunities present themselves in Norfolk, although Rudy Gestede is another option should Pulis want to freshen up his attack.

Stewart Downing and Adama Traore provide the ammo down the flanks, Grant Leadbitter and Jonny Howson are solid in midfield and defensively Pulis should get it right with a back four of Ryan Shotton, Ben Gibson, Daniel Ayala and George Friend.

Norwich are also tight defensively but Daniel Farke's methodical approach isn't best suited to playing at home where the fans can become frustrated, and rightly so after two wins in their last 12 Carrow Road fixtures.

James Maddison is the one real exciting Canaries spark but if Pulis shuts him down Boro should escape with at least a point.

Middlesbrough draw no bet
1pt 19-20 Coral, Hills

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Northampton v Rochdale
Things are looking up for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Northampton and they look a value bet to overcome Rochdale in their crunch relegation clash at Sixfields.

Hasselbaink has made big changes to his squad in January, signing nine players in total and Town's ambitions were made perfectly clear when they paid a relatively decent fee to sign Kevin van Veen from Scunthorpe.

The Cobblers have won three, drawn one and lost one of their five matches in 2018 with the defeat coming against Wigan and the draw at Blackburn.

Rochdale's finances are a world away from Northampton's and Keith Hill's magic touch does not seem to be working quite so well this season. They have won two of their last 17 third-tier matches and are winless on the road in Sky Bet League One all season.

Northampton draw no bet
1pt 19-20 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Plays of the day

Crystal Palace 21-20 
Good things at reasonable prices seem thin on the ground but the prices suggest there is not much between Palace and Newcastle and that may underestimate the Eagles at Selhurst Park.

Monaco 11-8
Travelling Lyon are not a team to put maximum faith in, however, they have already won at Monaco in the French Cup this year and have had a free week to prepare, unlike their busy hosts.

Aston Villa 2-5, Wolves 3-4, Wigan 4-11 Hills

Both teams to score
Games at QPR 4-6, Oldham 4-6, Colchester 13-15 Ladbrokes

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Thought for the week

Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino meet at Anfield this weekend as two of the most talked-about bosses in the Premier League despite neither having won a trophy in English football.

Some, however, want to knock the pair for their lack of silverware success. Trophies mark the glory days for fans but an assessment of the job done cannot really be determined by what are ultimately relatively minor domestic knockout competitions.

For instance, the second time around with Liverpool Kenny Dalglish won the League Cup. He is a club legend and rightly so but that team was a mess.

Juande Ramos and George Graham won the League Cup with Tottenham - great days out for sure - but it's impossible to judge either stint as positively as Pochettino's time in charge even though the Spurs trophy cabinet has not been added to since 2008.

Football is about the process and the results will look after themselves over a long period of time. Relative to wage bills, both are doing jobs they can be proud of despite the lack of trophies.

Klopp and Pochettino have built teams who are excellent to watch. They are superb coaches in slightly different ways and if they carry on doing the right things something will eventually drop.

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Things are looking up for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Northampton
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