In the first of a new, regular feature on Football Italiano, the site’s writers all chip in with answers to those crucial questions surrounding Serie A. This week we kick things off with the rather blatant question, “Who will win lo Scudetto?”
Doug Drinkwater: For me, Inter are in such a strong position and have so much quality in all positions of the team, that it is hard to see anyone but them lift the title.
With Jose Mourinho at the helm, Inter have become a tough, uncompromising side. They mix the know-how of Samuel, Chivu and Materazzi with the exciting Maicon and new boy Davide Santon at the back, and they have real experience and versatility in midfield. Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic and even the fringe players of Luis Figo and Patrick Vieira have all remained key contributors to Inter’s midfield – despite approaching the latter stages of their career. Inter’s strikeforce remains one of the finest in Europe even if Adriano still divides opinion. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a fine, game-changing striker at the peak of his powers and the youthful Mario Balotelli looks a real prospect.
Puds: My money is on the Nerazzurri. Jose Mourinho gave himself the title the Special One and rightfully so, love him or hate him he is a born winner hungry for success.
The Portuguese gained a vast amount of experience in a variety of leagues and wherever he has been he has been successful. Jose knows how to get results, his sides may not play the most attractive football but ask any football fan what counts and they will tell you “winning is everything”. With Mourinho at the helm, Inter are one of the few clubs in Europe let alone Italy that are consistently able to deliver results, not just in the key games such as the Derby della Madonnina last Sunday but it’s the results against the lesser sides that are just as important, grinding out wins where draws will not do. This is what gives Inter the edge over Milan and Juventus, an edge that amounts to a very healthy nine-point lead.
Mike Carre: Can’t look past Inter I’m afraid. Nine points is a massive gap at this stage of the season and if anything, I can only see that increasing.
It’s a shame because Jose Mourinho’s men have been far from spectacular this season, but their rivals have slipped up far too many times. The Old Lady’s draw with Sampdoria epitomized their season and Milan has suffered similar setbacks. We would all liked to have seen a closer title race but you have to credit Mourinho – to win the league in your first season is no mean feat. It’s something he accomplished at both Porto and Chelsea and you’d be a fool to bet against him making that a hat trick. He is still unpopular amongst many Nerazzurri fans for his style of football, but you cannot argue with its effectiveness.
Tim Doel: Inter. If you had asked me this question on Sunday afternoon before the Milan derby then I would have had a different answer for you, and it wouldn’t have been Juventus, but I don’t think you can see past them.
Mourinho has done what he did at Chelsea, that is creating a team spirit, and a team-based style of play. I don’t believe that they have the best players in Serie A, I think Milan do, but I do however think they are the best team. They may not play the best football, but they are tough in the tackle, hard to play against, and decisive. What’s more, after that albeit fortunate victory over the Rossoneri, I don’t think they are scared of anyone anymore, so even Manchester Utd should look out. Juve and Milan however, are fighting for second now, not first.
Chris Sloley: Conforming to the majority, it would seem that the Nerazzurri have an unassailable lead at the summit of Serie A.
However, taking into account other commitments, Inter have by-and-large the hardest Champions League challenge of the three Italian teams still left in Europe’s premier cup competition. Even taking into account the potential headaches that the God’s of European football could throw up between now and May, the domestic scene is proving somewhat unpredictable with top clubs stalling against inferior opposition. The title will be decided, ultimately, between the top clubs butting heads and given that Inter still have trips to Naples and Turin and a home tie against resurgent Roma, the man holding the chisel to the Scudetto can stop engraving the first I for the time being. We may have to wait for a much clearer picture after April 19’s clash between Inter and Juve.
Francis Barbuti: Inter will win lo Scudetto. This is not due to the genius of the Special One.
Inter looked a stronger team last year, this season they have been far from impressive but the lack of credible title challengers means that the title now, at this stage of the season is Inter’s to lose rather than Inter’s to win, especially with the Nerazzurri being nine points ahead of their nearest rivals Juventus. The Old Lady had, up until a month ago, put up a decent title challenge but in recent weeks, the wheels have come off, with back-to-back defeats coming against Udinese and Cagliari. The other potential challenger was Milan, however after the defeat to their city rivals this put pay to any title push whilst Roma’s title aspirations subsided after the first two months of the season, due to their terrible start.
Mateusz Nowak: All the signs are that lo Scudetto will travel to Milan again and to the blue and black half, again.
However, there is a lot going on around the Special One and his team. Recently, he confirmed the rumours that he would come back to Chelsea in the future. It has to have an impact on the overall performance of the team – look at Mancini’s on-off resignation this time last season for proof. Another important aspect in the race for the title matter are the European Cup. The Manchester United clash will cost a lot for both teams. Everybody knows that Mourinho needs to win the Champions League and I strongly believe that taking into consideration all aspects, the race for the title is not over. It has just begun. Both the Old Lady and Rossoneri still have a chance to win lo Scudetto, albeit a slim one.
Rob Paton: Blinded by youthful optimism and exuberance, I went for Milan at the start of the season, but dejectedly will now have to plump for Inter too.
Looking at the story Milan were setting themselves up for – years without a title, key man Gattuso ruled out for the season, Beckham’s arrival and subsequent battle over, the Kaka to City saga – Carlo Ancelotti was facing his biggest challenge in keeping the players’ heads down and focused on the football. Despite his best efforts and some scintillating attacking play, the defensive vulnerabilities and failure of some of their summer buys have seen Milan fall by the wayside. Juve were never going to challenge for the title with a squad barely stronger than the previous season’s “achievement” of third place. Sadly, as much as Inter has tried to drop points against smaller sides to keep the race competitive, Juve’s and – more disappointingly – Milan’s only consistency has been their inconsistency.
David Swan: Incredibly difficult to look past Inter for the title. Their rivals are making all the right noises, but they know the game is up.
They are against a team who, in Jose Mourinho, have a manager who has not lost a home league game since February 2002. He seems to have transferred the machine-like method of gaining results perfectly to this Nerazzurri side. The optimists point to the Champions League restarting, but their squad is big enough to cope with this. In any case, their lead is sufficient to allow the Coach to rest players and get by with a few draws here and there. The other important aspect to it all is the inability of Milan and Juventus to put together a run of victories that will put pressure on them. Mourinho knows these two will drop points, and so his team can enter their own games with confidence.
Mark Jones: I don’t like to stick my neck out and be controversial, but I’m going to shock you and go for Inter.
If it wasn’t obvious enough already, the Milan derby win has surely made it almost impossible for their nine point lead to be usurped, and it is the title run-in remember, where Mourinho shines brightest. His Premier League successes with Chelsea both came when he was leading from the front going into the home straight, and the only way you can possibly now imagine that the Portuguese would loosen his grip on the trophy would be if he starts to covet the Champions League more, a real possibility. The depth of Inter’s squad means that they can virtually go anywhere in Serie A and feel confident of three points. It would take something very, very special from Juve and Milan to deny them now.
Dan Cooper: Given their lead at the top, it may seem like an obvious selection, but I think Inter have enough quality to regain their Scudetto title.
Last weekend’s crucial derby win extended their lead by nine points and I can’t see either Milan or Juve managing to catch them. Jose Mourinho not only has the reputation of getting the best from his players, he has proved his title winning ability at both Chelsea and Porto and with players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano and Dejan Stankovic at his disposal, its is hard to envisage la Beneamata slipping up. As well as their attacking threat, their defence has been strengthened with the introduction of 18 year-old Davide Santon, who has proved he can more than hold his own despite his tender age.
David Weston: With a nine-point gap separating Juventus from reigning champions Inter and Milan President Silvio Berlusconi having openly declared his side out of the race, it is no surprise that the Nerazzurri are worthy favourites for the Italian title.
All too often the magnitude of such a gap is underestimated – the chances of Juventus winning three with no response from Inter seem extraordinarily unlikely. However, it would be a grave error in judgement to suggest that it is a foregone conclusion. Mourinho’s men may well be home, but they are far from dry. March could prove a telling month in the Scudetto story, with the blue boys of Milan hosting the in-form Roma and Fiorentina, as well as a tricky away tie with fifth-placed Genoa, and a few adverse results could blow the whole race back open. Forget the fat lady, it’s the Old lady we all want to hear sing and if she does the Nerazzurri might not get things their own way.
Rich Oldale: With a nine point lead over their closest rivals, Inter seem destined to lift the Scudetto for a fourth consecutive year.
Unless they completely capitulate there doesn’t seem much hope of the trailing teams knocking them off their perch. Jose Mourinho is a coach that knows how not to lose games and whilst they are playing some attractive, free-flowing football at the minute, if at any point he feels the boat rocking, he is not afraid to tighten the ropes and revert back to preventing goals rather than scoring them. He has had his critics for his approach to the game in the past, but criticism does not bother him – he will answer them in the best possible way, by guiding his side to glory with a significant points gap over his rivals.
So there you have it, a clean sweep in Football Italiano’s first writer’s discussion. Next time our focus shifts swiftly to the other end of the table as we discuss who faces the dreaded drop out of Serie A – opinion then is guaranteed to divide the team.