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Serie A Review: Thrilling Weekend in Champions League Chase
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
February 5, 2019
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Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

It was a nervy weekend in Serie A, although not typically Italian. While we still saw plenty of goals, it was a weekend that was low on victories. With over half of the league at least in contention to finish inside the top four this term, it’s no surprise that a few sides are suddenly feeling the pressure.

What’s surprising is that Juventus suddenly seem to be under pressure themselves. This weekend saw them become the only side in Europe’s major leagues with an unbeaten record, but there was little cause for celebration. In fact, a Serie A loss for the champions is starting to feel like it is just around the corner.

Gervinho Stars in Thriller

In a match featuring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic, it was surprising to see Gervinho come out as the key man. The Parma winger rolled back the years as he troubled Juventus once again, challenging the Old Lady in an epic 3-3 draw in Turin. It was a distantly average performance from Juve, who now have major issues in defence.

While Ronaldo notched twice to put Juve 3-1 ahead in this clash, it was Gervinho who ended up deciding the game. Of course, the Ivorian had some help from a struggling Juve backline. They started this one with Mattia Perin stepping in between the sticks, while three of their usual back four sat out. Martin Caceres – recently signed from Lazio as Juve’s fifth choice centre half – got a start alongside the shaky Daniele Rugani. Just days after their 3-0 Coppa Italia defeat to Atalanta, this was another humbling for the champions.

Juventus have a strong enough grip on the league that this result shouldn’t bother them. However, they don’t have the advantage you’d expect after winning 19 of their 22 league games this term. Napoli are staying in the hunt, having dropped only 15 points all season themselves. With clear defensive issues, the champions are on shaky ground going into a month which could define their season.

Quag Mired as Napoli Bounce Back

It wasn’t just Sampdoria’s great form which ended in their 3-0 loss to Napoli at the weekend. Fabio Quagliarella had scored in 11 straight league games, but he couldn’t continue that streak and break the Italian record at his hometown club. The Partenopei kept a clean sheet, cruised to victory and erased memories of their 2-0 Coppa Italia defeat on Tuesday.

Crashing out to AC Milan in the cup seems like a huge missed opportunity. However, Napoli have moved back within nine points of Juve following this victory, with the two sides meeting in Naples next month. A title race could be on, especially if the Partenopei are brushing off top four contenders with this ease. If they can focus on the final 16 league games and hit a winning streak, then we could get a Serie A title race after all.

Roma Reclaim Pride

The Coppa Italia quarter-finals hung over this weekend’s Serie A action. No side had that shadow more than Roma, who lost 7-1 at Fiorentina in midweek. That humiliation left the club shattered, having boosted their reputation as a cup side over recent seasons. They had to follow that up with key absentees in midfield, as they faced AC Milan in a huge top-four showdown.

The sides fifth and fourth in the league clashed at the Stadio Olimpico, with the Giallorossi aiming to return to the Champions League spots for the first time in months. However, their expectations were tempered after that thumping loss. Roma managed to pull off a 1-1 draw and stay in the hunt, which seems like a decent result considering their circumstances. They had to fight back after going behind, as Krzysztof Piatek continued his great start for the Rossoneri. The £35million forward scored his fourth goal in three games, leaving him just three shy of Ronaldo in the golden boot chase.

Top Four Race Continues

With it finishing all square in the capital, the fight to finish in the top four remains as tight as ever. That also acted as a let off for Inter Milan, who lost 1-0 at home to Bologna in a shock defeat, adding to their recent problems. More and more, they are starting to look like they could blow a position of security and be dragged into the scrap for the Champions League.

The two Milan clubs hold on to the last two slots, but only for now. Lazio moved back within a point of fourth thanks to their narrow 1-0 victory at Frosinone. After a tough period, they’ve got back to their best with a narrow win over the league’s second-bottom side. However, it was only enough to lift them into seventh place, after starting 2019 inside the top four.

Atalanta leapfrogged Roma into fifth, leaving them just a point off Milan. The league’s top scorers hit just the one goal, but it was enough to secure a win in their visit to Cagliari. La Dea are the league’s form side, while they featured in our rundown of the Coppa Italia contenders, thanks to an impressive 3-0 hammering of Juventus. The manner of that win showed the resolve within this Atalanta side, and they could take that all the way into fourth.

Of the sides between third and 17th, Lazio and Atalanta were the only two to claim victories. That’s kept things compressed in the table, enough to leave 11th placed Sassuolo just six points shy of the top four. We’re likely to see a close race for over half of the European spots, while this weekend may just have opened up a potential fight for the Scudetto.

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