Juventus and Milan, at this stage in the season are standing far away from each other on the table although the standings may make them look closer. Therefore the objectives from the remainder of the season too are considerably different for two of the three traditional giants in Italy. While Juventus have all but consolidated the top spot and are now clearly aiming at winning the title on the historic day of 5th May, Milan on the other hand find themselves in the dogfight for the Champions League spot as Fiorentina are inching closer with every round passing.
However, despite that, a Juve-Milan clash is always expected to be of a certain standards of intensity, passion and quality and all these perceptions were to be entirely negated when the two played what was a classic 90 minute long advertisement of unimaginative, dreary and tasteless brand of football. It took another defensive error in a big game from Ignazio Abate to liven things up for moments and Asamoah did enough to force Marco Amelia into tackling the Ghanaian inside the box which awarded Juve to seal the three points from the spot.
Arturo Vidal’s brilliantly taken penalty turned out to be the only eventual difference between the sides and quite disappointingly, the only moment in the game worth noting down. Either of the coaches failed to demonstrate any tactical innovation when both the teams rather chose to sit back and destroy the attacking play of the other. Milan resorted to physical measures in the second half and that slowed the game down even further. Juventus did show some intent to penetrate after taking the lead but their toothlessness inside the final third needs nomore description. Milan mainly constructed their attacking moves from both the flanks considering the numbers Conte had stuffed his central midfield with but hopeless crossing and indecisiveness from the forwards once again came into the fore as Milan failed to threaten Buffon even once in the course of 90 minutes.
This was a week marked by the high number of late goals which may prove to be decisive in both ends of the table. Napoli almost ensured Champions League football for next season while Milan are locked in a battle with Fiorentina for the other spot. Relegation battle also heated up with Siena, Palermo and Genoa looking to avoid two of the remaining slots to slide down to Serie B.
Napoli picked up three invaluable points after their come from behind victory against Cagliari at the San Paolo. Lorenzo Insigne’s goal few minutes before the final whistle ensured that the Neapolitans maintained their second position in the table as they wrapped up a 3-2 victory. Controversy raged after the match as Napoli’s outspoken president aimed a barbed tweet at his Cagliari counterpart as well as two players for whom a deal between the two clubs collapsed in winter – Radja Nainggolan and Davide Astori, the latter ironically scored an own goal on the weekend. Cagliari were left fuming at De Laurentis’ jibe and reacted with an official statement on their website. Despite the loss, it was another encouraging performance from a side which has improved dramatically in second half of the season.
The best match of the weekend, if not of the season, was played out in Florence where FC Torino almost completed an incredible turnaround. Few days back Torino themselves had given up a lead in last eleven minutes to lose against Napoli but they were starting a turnaround of their own here after the half hour mark against Fiorentina, trailing 3-0 thanks to goals from Aquilani, Cuadrado and Ljajic. Montella’s side seemed to take their feet off the gas pedal as Torino clawed back two goals by 55th minute. Thirteen minutes before the final whistle alarm bells were ringing at full volume as Cerci levelled the score-line. The Viola were desperate for a goal and it came through Romulo four minutes before the end of regulation time. With this win Fiorentina moved closer to a top-3 finish and they have hit form when it matters most.
Inter ended a disastrous run of three consecutive home losses by a scrappy but vital solitary goal win over Parma. Andrea Stramaccioni’s side has been hamstrung by a flurry of injuries recently and he had three of his best strikers ruled out for this game but Tommaso Rocchi’s fortunate goal on 82nd minute was enough to garner all three points. The Nerazzurri leapfrogged Lazio and Roma with this win though reaching Champions League may be a bridge too far for them.
Despite spending most of the season in lower middle table Udinese have once again hit form in business end of the season though they are unlikely to repeat their eventual finish of last two seasons. Their 1-0 victory over Lazio, thanks to an early goal from ageless Toto Di Natale, saw them overtake the Romans and move within two points of Inter. Lazio’s season, on the other hand, has imploded spectacularly and they have won just once out of their last five matches. Coppa Italia now appears to be the best chance for the club to get some glory this season.
Pescara are all but relegated but they picked up a moral boosting draw against AS Roma nonetheless. Palermo travelled to Catania to take part in the ever volatile Sicilian derby with the home fans swaying posters mocking Palmero as “Balermo” as a reference to possibility of Serie B football next season. Josip Illicic’s last gasp equalizer grabbed a very important point for the Rosanero in the derby. This draw, coupled with Siena’s home loss to Chievo and Genoa’s draw against Atalanta means that all a relegation slugfest between the three teams is about to get more intense in coming weeks. Siena are on 30 points while Palermo and Genoa are on 29 points each. Palermo’s recent form is most encouraging among the three and they have not lost in last four matches which includes two wins.