Each week Tim mixes tales of his experiences of living in Italy with comments on the past week’s major talking points whilst also looking ahead to the coming weekend’s biggest games. Enjoy…
This weekend marks the beginning of the Christmas season here in Milan, and therefore gives partial, but not total, justification for the endless playing of Christmas carols in the shops and on T.V. But what is the “silly season” like in Milan? Well Duomo Square now boasts a spectacular Christmas tree with thousands of bright lights, and a height that rivals Cathedral itself. This being the result of 3 days, and 4 cranes’ work. Shortly, the Galleria will present it’s own, Uber fashionable version, decorated with elaborate Svorovski pendants that you can purchase straight from your favourite branch. And of course shop windows are decked with tinsel, trees and nativity scenes, and supermarkets are stocked up with Panettoni, Pandori and Pollenta. Essentially though, Christmas is about the same things here; time with the family, time off work (the Milanese will be disappointed), and for exchanging gifts.
Returning to Serie A, and after the weekends last round of matches, Jose Mourinho’s slice of Panettone will have tasted extra sweet, as the Nerazzurri continue to add points to their tally with a win over the lessening force that is Napoli, creating a 5 point gap between themselves and Juventus. They will be aiming to repeat the feat this weekend as they face another of the early season pace-setters, Lazio, who although have struggled to keep the pressure on the top teams, will be buoyed by their midweek extra-time victory over Milan. The Biancocelesti can bounce back from their 2-0 away defeat to Atalanta, and start another fantastic run if they are able to overcome Inter away, but this would seem just too much to ask in their current form.
Milan are, if you believe some of the newspaper reports, in crisis again, for the second time this season following the aforementioned defeat in midweek. The defeat to Palermo last week was another example, as if more were needed, that the Rossoneri problem lies in performing consistently. One debate that has come to light in the week has been regarding the goalscoring of Kaka. The player himself has declared that he is having to sacrifice himself more this season to accommodate the new star of San Siro, Ronaldinho, and one can’t help but wonder whether this is causing some friction between the two Brazilians. They seem to be able to gloss over the differences regarding their very different way of life, but if there are problems also on the pitch, or that impression is given, it will leave Carlo Ancelotti with an extremely difficult job to unite his team both on and off the pitch. This process begins on Sunday at home to Catania, a game you would expect them to collect all 3 points; the perfect recipe for another upset.
The other big game of the weekend is the Genoa derby, between Sampdoria and Genoa. A win for Walter Mazzari’s side would give them a confidence boost that they appear to be in need of, especially after the poor defeat against Standard on Wednesday. The return to the side of Claudio Bellucci should help improve the goals tally somewhat, but also it should give Cassano the freedom to do what he does best. And as is often mentioned, but especially true in this Samp team of few stars, the performance of the team will be affected most greatly by the success of their star players.
For Genoa, the man who nearly signed for Tottenham Hotspur, Diego Milito, has won over the Genoa Tifosi in double quick time, and is currently topping a list of some excellent names in the Capocannoniere standings. I can’t help but wonder what impact he would have had in the Premier League – often South American players that are successful in Spain and Italy find the style of football just too different in England. Milito’s powerful, more direct style could have provided Spurs with the perfect replacement for Dimitar Berbatov, but after 11 league goals this season, it is both Genoa and Serie A that are reaping the benefits of his move to the Peninsula.
Elsewhere, Juventus will expect to cement their position as the closest team to challenge Inter with an away win in Puglia, against Lecce, whilst Roma expect to continue their comeback to form with an away win against lowly Chievo. Fiorentina are inconsistent at best, but Cesare Prandelli will be under closer scrutiny should the Viola fail to get all 3 points against out of form Torino. Udinese need to recover the early season promise they had when they topped the league, having just one win in the last six, and now facing an away tie to Atalanta, the side that defeated Lazio a week ago.
The Christmas period is one that can determine a season – if the current challengers to the Inter throne lose their way in the next three games, it can be the end of their dream, for this year at least. The ability to go through the season without at least one major “crisis”, is the reason why Inter’s stars are currently sitting happy at the top the tree.