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Serie A Review: Measured Juventus and Mesut to Inter
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
December 10, 2018
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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.

This weekend wasn’t a great one for the pack of sides chasing down Juventus. The chase for the Italian title doesn’t seem that open, following a few days which went almost perfectly for the reigning champions. That’s going to lead to big reactions elsewhere, including potential signings down the line.

Once again it was an incredibly high scoring weekend in Italy, with a string of seven games which all finished without a clean sheet. The league is quickly becoming a fixture of both teams to score bets. With 30 goals across 10 games, there’s plenty to pack into our review of the big weekend results, which included the biggest game in Italy – the Derby d’Italia.

Derby Delight for Juventus

Juventus won the weekend’s big game on Friday night, edging out Inter Milan 1-0. Mario Mandzukic scored the crucial goal, which has opened up a 14-point gap between them and the third-placed Nerazzurri. The champions have now picked up 43 points from their first 15 games, dropping just two points in a close to perfect campaign.

However, it wasn’t a perfect Juventus display. They were measured, doing enough to edge a real challenge. The big thing for Juve of late is how they deal with the emerging threats, as this season has more tricky domestic ties than any of their recent title winning campaigns. Max Allegri knows that his side have raised the bar, but that’s inspired challengers. With that, the top sides are only likely to get stronger.

This week has seen huge transfer speculation in Milan, with Inter linked to Mesut Ozil following his struggles at Arsenal. His mammoth pay-packet would be a problem, but we’ve recently seen Juve take a hit for a marquee man. Ozil may not be on Cristiano Ronaldo’s level, but the German plays in a historic position for Inter – the number 10 role. Recent years their biggest issue has been trying to find a way to fill that spot. Given the slower pace of Italian football, Ozil could really add to the Nerazzurri.

One issue on Friday was that poacher Mauro Icardi had to drop deep too often, thanks to Inter’s flat midfield three. Their middle men tried to be everything but failed to really be anything. While Ozil has his critics, his ability is undoubted, and the Juve defeat shows how Inter need that presence and creativity.

Cruise for Napoli

Napoli took a chance to make changes, as they eased to a 4-0 win over Frosinone. The Partenopei would have been hoping for a positive result for Inter on Friday, to get the title race open again. However, wins for the top two means there’s an eight-point gap at the top, with Juve and Napoli starting to now pull away from the rest.

We’ve already talked about how Napoli seem to be moving forward this term. This victory was yet another example of the progress at the San Paolo. Carlo Ancelotti assured the media after the game that he was going for an attacking approach in their big Champions League tie with Liverpool this week, where they have the opportunity to build on last season’s European failure.

Roma Shocked by Nine-men

Problems continued at Roma, who are once again out of the European spots. They’re down to eighth in the Serie A table, following a poor display against nine-man Cagliari. The Giallorossi drew 2-2 on Saturday, a result which left them 22 points shy of the leaders. While a title chase wouldn’t have been their expectation this season, they need Champions League football. It is difficult to see them clawing their way back into the top four when they can’t win games like this.

Eusebio Di Francesco saw his side 2-0 up at half-time, and it seemed like the job was done. A nervy final six minutes came after Artur Ionita pulled one back, but the Giallorossi were on their way to victory. That looked certain when Cagliari had Darijo Srna and Luca Ceppitelli sent off in the 93rd minute, but Marco Sau found the net in the fifth minute of injury time to deny Roma all three points. While the club insist that Di Francesco’s job is safe, there have to be questions given the nature of that result.

Weekend of Late Drama

The late drama wasn’t restricted to Sardinia, it was a feature throughout the Serie A weekend. Roma’s rivals Lazio suffered a similar fate hours later, with two goals in nine minutes added on left them struggling in the top four race. Lazio fought back after the visitors took the lead, and the pair went into injury time at 1-1.

Sampdoria had Bartosz Bereszynski sent off in the 92nd minute, before Ciro Immobile converted a penalty kick in the 96th. That looked like enough for Lazio until Ricardo Saponara hit a 99th-minute equaliser to round off a dramatic Saturday of action. As it turned out, Sunday wasn’t half bad either.

Serie A’s fifth game of the weekend was another thriller, with Sassuolo 3-1 up after 80 minutes. Fiorentina pulled a goal back with a minute of normal time to go, after Sassuolo went down to 10 men. The visitors had a man sent off themselves moments later, only for Kevin Mirallas to score a 96th minute equaliser for the visitors. That leaves 12th placed Fiorentina just three points shy of the top six, in a condensed Serie A table.

Meanwhile, Empoli had an 80th-minute winner over Bologna to boost their survival hopes. The arrival of Giuseppe Iachini has been huge for the Azzurri, who have kicked off an excellent run of form. They are up to 14th with their latish win, which has put Pippo Inzaghi’s Bologna into the bottom three and left his future in doubt.

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