After having a dream start to their season, of late Juventus appeared to have just stepped off the paddle. The uninspiring results against Sampdoria and Genoa had even allowed their nearest rivals Napoli to cut down the lead to merely three points. But then, there’s a reason they are deemed outright favourites to retain the league title. The quality and depth in their squad is unquestionable and that is what exactly showed in their latest triumph over Fiorentina over the weekend where they fielded a defence that missed Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Fiorentina were the only team from the first half of the season that dominated Juventus during the corresponding fixture in the city of Florence. Although Fiorentina aren’t riding as highly as they did in the month of September, the likes of Jovetic, Valero and Toni were expected to give the hosts a run for their money. However, the game was largely a one sided affair as two first half strikes from Vucinic and Matri were good enough to seal all three points for Juventus. Fiorentina could barely threaten Gianluigi Buffon’s goal and much of the major credit should go to Andrea Barzagli who kept the defence tight in the absence of his regular colleagues.
This was perhaps the last time Jovetic played at the Juventus stadium in capacity of an opposition player with the increasing talks of a summer move. This win was very important for Juventus considering they are facing Celtic for the Champions League knockout clash. The winning momentum at this stage is very vital as the Bianconeri travel to Glasgow. A draw away from home won’t be a bad result for Conte’s men in the first leg. With their three first team players expected to return soon, Juventus should face little problems in holding on to their dominance in Serie A.
The closest rivals for the champions – Napoli – were riding on a good run of form lately and before the last round of action they were well within the reach of Juventus, having reduced the lead considerably. However, they needed a late strike from defender Hugo Campagnaro at Stadio Olimpico to salvage a draw after Lazio were put into lead early on by Sergio Floccari. The shared points between the two sides worked well in favour of Juventus as they extended the lead back to five points. However, with neither of these two teams being engaged in European action this season, they may start to give some sleepless nights to Juventus as the season progresses, provided Juventus themselves advance enough in the Champions League.
Lazio dropping points should have worked in favour of both the Milanese clubs but only Inter managed to make the opportunity count. After going winless for nearly a month, Inter came back to the winning ways, convincingly beating Chievo 3-1 at San Siro. A goal apiece from Cassano, Ranocchia and Milito took the game far away from Chievo who at once had equalized through Rigoni. The win takes Inter back to the fourth position on the table and leaves them only a point behind Lazio.
Milan were perhaps the most in-form team in Serie A going into this round of games and a win in Sardinia, therefore, wasn’t too much to expect. However, in the absence of Montolivo – the midfield general of sorts – Milan were completely clueless with their passing options. There was no fluidity in their play and the opposition defence was hardly tested before it was too late. Ibarbo put Cagliari in front at the stroke of half time – yet again after Milan failed to defend from a set-piece. Milan looked more incisive with their movement in the second half but atrocious crossing from the wings and a clear lack of a proper passing model was pretty evident as the visitors could not create a single goal scoring opportunity until the former Milan youth player Davide Astori realized it was time to repay for the football he learnt at San Siro. In a moment when he lost his composure, not only did he concede a penalty but even received his marching orders for his team to play with the numerical disadvantage for the rest of the ten minutes.
Pigs shall fly the day Mario Balotelli misses an opportunity from the spot. The Super Mario – as he’s fondly known – continued with his dream return to Serie A and earned his team a crucial point. If not for a close call from the linesman during the dying minutes, Balotelli had won the game for Milan with a magical looking volley. However, Cagliari have reasons to feel having been hard done. Phillipe Mexes was already on a yellow when he, rather unwisely, handled the ball and mysteriously escaped the second booking. Milan were still chasing the game back then and with a man down, perhaps things could have ended differently.
But it doesn’t seem like things are going to proceed any differently for Roma – at least anytime soon despite the managerial change. The interim coach Aurelio Andreazolli did not have the best of the starts as Roma showed no signs of change in their game whatsoever. Sampdoria didn’t fail to take advantage of their opposition’s porous defence and registered an all important home win that now places them 11th on the table while Roma were pushed further down to 9th.
In the other games, Udinese were straight back to business after the heartbreak of last week where they felt they were robbed at San Siro. Their visitors at Friuli on Sunday were Torino and Argentine youngster Roberto Pereyra’s strike early in the first half was the only difference between the sides. Palermo and Pescara cancelled each other out and settled for a 1-1 draw which doesn’t greatly benefit either of the two sides. The scoreline was the same in the game where Bologna hosted Siena. The home side needed to come from behind to earn a point.
The next week in Serie A is going to be an exciting one as Juventus travel to the city of Rome to take on Roma. Although the Bianconeri would have preferred facing the old foe Zdenek Zeman, the game remains an important one nevertheless. Fiorentina host Inter in what promises to be a cracker of a game as well.