While talking about the trends in Italian football in recent history one can easily chalk out a theme. A general theme of one team dominating the league season while the chasing pack falling short sooner or later. This year, like the last five years, the chase might be prematurely over. Sure, if mathematical calculations are to be considered Roma can still cut down the eight point lead. But history trumps statistics here. With nine games remaining in the league, Juventus are in cruise control; affirming their place at the top. And it would only take something special to knock them off their perch.
Over the weekend, Sampdoria weren’t going to offer anything special. With Juventus winning at Sampdoria on Sunday, the latter’s seven-game unbeaten streak came to an end. Sampdoria, who are looking for an impressive top 10 finish this year, looked no match for Juventus who have now made it 13 points from their last five away games. As much as the statistics show the ease with which Juventus are strolling past opposition, on the field things aren’t much different. Like on Sunday, at times Juventus have needed to do what is simple and what is needed – play better than the other team. Against Sampdoria they scored early, with Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross finding Chelsea loanee Juan Cuadrado in the box, who sent a flying header past Sampdoria keeper Christian Puggioni in the seventh minute. But credit where it’s due, Sampdoria did offer a spirited fight. But in the end they were no match for Juventus. Apart from a first half injury to Paulo Dybala, Juventus left the Stadio Luigi Ferraris with no complains. Juventus would love to believe that the league title is in their bag; and they wouldn’t be much wrong either. Following the international break, Juventus will play Napoli twice in a period of four days followed by their Champions League clash against Barcelona. Juventus would be hoping to replicate their league form in the remaining cup competitions they are looking to challenge.
With Juventus on a relentless run towards achieving a sixth straight Serie A title, their rivals can’t afford to slip up. And they didn’t. Second-placed Roma welcomed Sassuolo late on Sunday and made sure all three points were theirs with a 3-1 victory. Despite going down in the 9th minute, Roma came back with goals from Leandro Paredes, Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah. Salah orchestrated the victory as he set up the opener for Roma via Leandro Paredes. Two minutes after the break Salah scored himself after a rebound off Sassuolo keeper Andrea Consigli. Edin Dzeko wrapped up the game in the 68th minute ensuring Roma remain within eight points of Juventus.
One position and two point behind them, Napoli on Sunday managed to hold on to a three-goal lead and beat Empoli 3-2 away from home. Lorenzo Insigne scored twice whereas the highlight of the game was certainly a stunner of a free kick by in-form Belgian Dries Mertens. His 20th goal of the season, despite two late goals by Empoli, made sure that Napoli keep within reach of Roma.
Even as the title race doesn’t seem to head for a photo finish, the race for the European places keeps pushing towards uncertainty. Lazio and Inter Milan emerged the losers over the weekend as both of them could only manage draws away from home. Despite Inter Milan’s resounding 7-1 thrashing of Atalanta last week, on Saturday it took two errors by Torino keeper Joe Hart to save them the blushes as they managed to come away with a point. Lazio played out a goalless draw away to Cagliari, though they still are two points ahead of Inter in fourth. Atalanta meanwhile put behind the shock of last week’s humbling at Inter Milan with a fine 3-0 home win over relegation-doomed Pescara. The win now brings them equal on points with Inter, though in 6th place only behind on goal difference. AC Milan on the other hand are looking to set their season on track. With a slender 1-0 win at home over Genoa, Milan remain two points behind Atalanta in seventh place.
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