Juventus prove they’re still the team to beat in Serie A
For non-Juventini, the storyline has been getting repetitive as Juventus are on the path to winning their seventh straight Scudetto in Serie A. Their 3-1 win over Milan puts them four points ahead of Napoli atop the table in what was another memorable comeback this calendar year.
Just like in the second leg against Spurs in the Champions League, coach Max Allegri changed his tactics in the second half by making substitutions that would alter the result and get his team back into the game. Against Milan, the Bianconeri started the match with a dull 3-5-2 that lacked any sort of dynamism or pace. Milan seemed to be in control for large swaths of the first half and it wasn’t until the 46th minute that Allegri made the change to bring in the electrifying Douglas Costa for the weary legs of Stephan Lichtsteiner.
This move changed the formation from a back five to a more balanced 4-3-3, with Costa going right at Milan’s right-back Davide Calabria, often beating him for pace and getting inbetween the lines with great success.
Allegri has shown the ability to adapt his tactics to the matchup at hand. Juventus can alternate seamlessly between various formations, like a chameleon adapting to his surroundings, and it often works to great effect in being able to negate what the opposition does best. Even though Juventus might not play the most aesthetically pleasing football, there’s no team that can win the ugly matches quite like they can and it’s why they’ll most likely grab another Scudetto. If Napoli don’t win the title this year, expect another summer sale.
With the Scudetto probability ratcheted up a notch, Napoli seemingly shrunk under the massive pressure by drawing to lowly Sassuolo over the weekend. It’s been decades since they last won their Italian title, and it feels very much like this season could be their last real chance at grabbing glory.
Think of it this way - many of their stars are now in their 30s while some of their younger players will be lured by the possibility of big money elsewhere. If a massive offer does come for Lorenzo Insigne as it did for Gonzalo Higuain, it’s hard imagining President Aurelio De Laurentiis declining the offer. Although Napoli have done well reinvesting their funds from previous sales, it’s hard to picture them being able to replace this current group with even better players.
When they sold Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, they used the money to sign the Real Madrid trio of Higuain, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol, who have all been stalwarts for the Partenopei since joining. However, this formula of selling your biggest stars to reinvest in smaller pieces is hardly a recipe for success.
While Napoli play the most attractive football in the peninsula, they don’t have the depth or the wage bill of Juventus, and it’s really remarkable that they’ve been able to put in such a challenge for the Scudetto. Inter have the momentum against Milan for the upcoming derby
That’s now four undefeated in the league for Inter with four consecutive clean sheets. The Miranda - Milan Skriniar pairing is one of the best in Europe, and it’s evident how much weaker the Nerazzurri are when either of the two go down with injury. The way the two defended in keeping Napoli scoreless a few weeks ago was telling of just how dominant they can be when healthy.
More impressively, Inter have been able to score eight goals in their last two domestic matches, with Mauro Icardi putting his stamp on six of them. The Inter striker looks absolutely unstoppable at the moment. Not only has he scored 24 goals already on the season, but he hasn’t been burdened by international week as Argentina don’t even call him up anymore (most likely because of the Maxi Lopez situation having been a deal breaker for some other players in that dressing room).
While Milan put together an impressive string under Gattuso, they were demolished by Arsenal over two legs in the Europa League and fought valiantly against Juventus, only to succumb in the second half as Juve grew into the match.
Inter will be at full strength for the upcoming Derby Della Madonnina and have been putting together their best spell of the season. They don’t give you an inch in the defense and are brutally efficient with their chances in the final third. I’m predicting a narrow win (recent derbies all seem to have a one goal differential at most) for the Nerazzurri. @TheCalcioGuy
Matteo Bonetti is a sports journalist for beIN Sports USA