The major news in the peninsula this week has been the less than amicable break-up between the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and his long-suffering wife Veronica Lario. The pair have had an eventful recent history, most notably when Silvio was forced to make a very public apology to his wife due to his inappropriate at best decision to ‘propose’ over the dinner table to another attractive woman, seemingly in jest. He wasn’t laughing after that I’m sure. But the Premier should have known that his apparent ‘cavorting’ with an 18-year-old actresses, of whom he has a particular penchant, would be met with a similarly strong response this time around from a woman that will not be seen to ‘do a Hillary for the sake of her husband.
Sometimes when such a break-up occurs, the partners know of the likelihood long before it happens. Juventus has now gone from an assured second spot and challenging for lo Scudetto, to an unsteady third and without a win in a staggering six games. After each match Coach Claudio Ranieri has looked more and more resigned, both resigned to criticism, but also to the increasing probability that his relationship with the New Juve is coming to an end. Having brought them a renewed respect and feeling of transparency after the Calciopoli relegation, he has taken the Old Lady up from Serie B, to immediate Champions League football, and up until only a month ago was still in with a chance to win the title. Now however, both the fans and possibly the management have had their heads turned by the thought of a new experience, a more attractive proposition in the form of Gian Piero Gasperini. Or maybe the young, more inexperienced Antonio Conte of Bari. In any case, it seems like the honeymoon period is well and truly over for Ranieri and Juventus – and everyone knows it.
It had become one of those questions down the pub that would often not ever be fully answered. What happened to Laura Esposto, the one from Channel 5’s Football Italiano? Well in the name of public interest we decided to plan a feature to explain the real answer (essentially the answer is “back to Italy” ), but instead of giving you a list of job titles and opinion, we can give you the news first hand. Be sure to visit the site this Saturday when Football Italiano will release their first exclusive celebrity interview, as I discuss media, Milan, and much more with Laura Esposto.
This weekend sees the battle for second place. Without doubt it is a consolation prize, compared to what could have happened had fate dealt a different hand, or if Inter had not been so good, depending on which side of the fence you are. But such circumstances are never going to make a Milan versus Juventus tie mean anything less than usual. As with every team against Juve, Milan has a huge rivalry, very possibly a greater emotional rivalry than that of their Milanese neighbours Inter, at least until Inter started to become successful. And with the Bianconeri openly showing their wounds, and il Diavolo in startling form, all Milan fans, and many neutrals may well be hoping that Filippo Inzaghi and co. can fill their boots, and hammer a rather significant nail into Ranieri’s already well secured coffin.
In terms of Serie A significance, the major tie of the weekend has to be 17th versus 18th – Torino vs. Bologna. Both experienced defeats last week, Bologna with the more disappointing of the two as they crashed 1-2 at home to bottom place Reggina. Whilst none of the bottom five clubs are out of danger as yet, this tie is the true definition of a six-pointer – win and you may be very close to safety – lose and either Torino or Bologna could theoretically be bottom of the league come Sunday night. It’s high quality drama, especially as 19th place Lecce host the inconsistent Napoli, and form team Reggina are away to Sampdoria, who on their day can lose to anyone.
Elsewhere there is the small matter of a Champions League place up for grabs. In the week Gasperini claimed his Genoa side had a less than 50% chance of making 4th place. Words intended to dampen expectation and pressure no doubt, but if his side win away to Atalanta, and Fiorentina slip up as is very possible away to a Catania side all but assured of their safety, then he may not be able to be so modest when asked next week. Just one point separates Cesare Prandelli’s side from 5th place, but Genoa have the much easier remaining matches after this weekend, playing only teams from the bottom five. La Viola instead must also face Sampdoria and Milan. My money is on il Grifone to complete a fairytale story.