Still plenty to chew over in the title race
DESPITE all the uncertainties caused by the coronavirus shutdown, Italy’s top flight is playing out and heading towards an intriguing conclusion.
The condensed Serie A fixture list is being fulfilled and the Scudetto will now be presented, which is a scenario that seemed highly unlikely at the height of the crisis earlier this year.
Juventus look favourites again – despite this week’s show of fallibility against AC Milan – especially after nearest rivals Lazio began fluffing their lines just when it mattered most.
Lazio slumped to a second straight defeat and their third in five games after imploding 2-1 at relegationhaunted Lecce on Tuesday, their emotions boiling over with defender
Patric red-carded for chewing the arm of Lecce player Giulio Donati.
Juventus knew a victory over Milan later that night would have put them ten points clear but somehow the hosts came from two goals down in the second half for a 4-2 win.
The Old Lady still boast a sevenpoint lead as they chase a ninth straight title, but their nerves will be tested tomorrow against Atalanta.
The Champions League quarterfinalists boosted their hopes of returning to Europe’s top table with a 2-0 win over Sampdoria on Wednesday. That saw Gian Piero Gasperini’s side move above Inter (who played Verona last night) into third, just two points behind Lazio, who are now looking over their shoulders as much as above.
Milan’s win leaves them sixth but even a Europa League berth may not be enough to save coach Stefano Pioli, who insists he ‘can’t waste energy’ on rumours a deal has been inked to replace him with former Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick. Like Lazio, Milan’s city rivals Inter are also stewing on a lost opportunity. Having led the table earlier in the season, Antonio Conte seems to accept he is unlikely to land the big prize. The former Chelsea boss struggled to hide his frustrations after surrendering an early lead in Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to ten-man Bologna.
Conte is said to be already planning for a title assault next season, with Chelsea defender Emerson Palmieri and Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal reportedly among his targets.
As for Lazio, who led the table at the end of February, their post-shutdown dip has been hard to stomach for boss Simone Inzaghi. He too has been promised funds to take the fight to Juve again, but the champions will not stand still either. Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is said to be high up boss Maurizio Sarri’s wishlist.
Much more Italian theatre to come then, both on and off the field, but if you reflect on the once sombre lockdown mood amid the depths of the Covid outbreak in mid-March, all this is drama and excitement is probably just what this calcio-crazy country needs right now.
THE FRONT-RUNNERS KEEP FLUFFING THEIR LINES IN AN ENTHRALLING CAMPAIGN
Biting the dust: Patric heads off