There is no doubt luck plays a decisive role in the destinies of both the Scudetto, and those teams lingering at the bottom of the table. They do say, however, that luck evens itself out over the season. In which case, Juventus are due a tough 90 minutes at some point, having had the benefit of Lady Luck on Saturday evening in their 1-0 victory over Fiorentina.
La Viola were deserving of at least a point and will feel aggrieved at a couple of decisions from the officials in particular, but unfortunately they were the unwitting victims of a sinister plot to remove Inter from the top of Serie A, or so Nerazzurri Coach Jose Mourinho would have us all believe. Stevan Jovetic had a decent claim for a penalty turned down, one of those that would be given to the home team. Perhaps if he had not been so desperate to find the turf once Olof Mellberg had charged in, the decision may have fallen in his favour. The second controversial decision was more clear-cut. Alberto Gilardino, having tapped in from near the six-yard box, was adjudged to have been offside, with the assistant referee failing to spot Marco Marchionni on the far side keeping the striker onside.
Nevertheless, the Bianconeri managed to hang on and keep their ninth clean sheet in 20 games, most of which was down to keeper Gigi Buffon, who showed no ill effects from the torn adductor muscle that kept him out for several months. He, along with numerous others to return from injury, will play a big part over the coming months in their pursuit of Inter, who also secured a 1-0 victory at the weekend over Sampdoria.
Milan completed a clean sweep for the top three with an impressive 4-1 defeat of a Bologna side who played with 10 men for 50 minutes. The Rossoneri look like a side who are hitting a good run of form, and while there are some rather silly attempts to place the majority of the credit at David Beckham’s door, in actual fact the biggest change has been the removal of Ronaldinho from the team. This only serves to highlight the hindrance he has been to the Carlo Ancelotti’s slick team. Many just point to his goals, though of the seven he has scored in Serie A this year, only three have been from open play, and his free-kick against Napoli has been dubiously credited to him, despite German Denis getting the key touch on the ball.
In his absence, Kaka and Alexandre Pato have demonstrated the sort of verve, link-up play and urgency that their attack has been lacking this campaign. The No. 22’s comments earlier in the year regarding his preference to play alongside Clarence Seedorf have been supported by his performances since the ritorno began after Christmas. Problems still infest their game, mainly in defence (Christian Amoroso underlined these once more on Sunday, galloping through the centre of the park far too easily to win the Rossoblu’s penalty) , and unfortunately unless they are dealt with in the January transfer window, the likelihood is that the Scudetto will be just out of reach.
With Genoa, Napoli and Fiorentina all dropping points, it allowed il Diavolo to strengthen their grip on third place, with four points now separating them from fourth, and seven points between them and fifth placed Napoli. Also worthy of a mention are Roma, who have come from the relegation zone to sixth, and only three points away from the coveted Champions League places. They have quietly gone about their business, winning seven of their last nine games, losing only one. They destroyed Napoli’s unbeaten home record with ease, and are bang in form at this current moment, despite Christian Panucci’s outbursts and request to leave the club.
The relegation battle has finally caught up with Sampdoria. Having lingered just above the bottom five for a good number of weeks now, they are well and truly in the mix. Chievo’s second successive win, a 1-0 victory over Reggina, has shifted the group towards the Marassi outfit. Torino and Lecce sharing the spoils in their match-up has not helped matters either. Even worse, the mid-week set of games sees the aforementioned quartet meet once more. Each club will view their game as winnable, and unfortunately a victory in both games, for either side, will set the alarm bells ringing at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
It would certainly help if Antonio Cassano started turning up for matches. Without a goal since the Week 13 game against Catania, he is starting to look increasingly frustrated at being surrounded by team mates who do not have as much quality as he does. He was injured against Inter, and is unlikely to be fit for their Wednesday evening match versus Lazio. He is very much their talisman, proof of which can be found if you go back (it is a long time ago now) to their last victory, against Reggina, where he set up both goals. Since then the performances have waned, and along with it the results. Against Inter, Samp had no chance of coming back into the game and despite conceding just the one game and facing nervy opponents, they offered very little going forward. It is now time for other players to step up and take the burden away from the former Bari and Roma forward, otherwise one of Italy’s oldest and most well recognised clubs could replicate the Parma team of last year, and find themselves dropping back to Serie B.