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Serie A Review: Milan Edging a Five Way Fight
Aaron Rogan
Aaron Rogan
January 22, 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.

The first weekend of Serie A action in 2019 certainly didn’t disappoint. We saw 33 goals across the 10 matches, including a 3-0 thumping of bottom side Chievo by Juventus. While the champions continue their iron grip on first place, there’s a huge battle heating up behind them.

We always suspected that Italy’s big six would fight for the top four, but it has turned out to be even closer. With 20 games gone, all of the top eight have ambitions of playing in the Champions League next term. This weekend’s results have seen a shake-up in the race for fourth. Here’s the best of the action from Italy’s top flight.

Milan Show Life After Higuain

Life without Gonzalo Higuain started for AC Milan on Monday night, as they moved into fourth place. Young forward Patrick Cutrone made a push to replace the Chelsea-bound Argentine, scoring in a 2-0 victory away to Genoa. That win was enough to push them into a Champions League place, easing the pressure on Gennaro Gattuso. It hasn’t been an easy time for the manager, who needs to keep things steady at Milan to get them back into Europe’s biggest competition.

While Higuain wasn’t a long-serving member of the Milan dressing room, he was their big marquee signing. He was the man who should have lifted Milan’s scoring burden. Instead, he departs early from the move, having barely made an impact in Serie A this term. Meanwhile, the Rossoneri have looked to their latest opponents to find their striking successor.

Krzysztof Piatek didn’t feature for the Grifone, with his £35million move to Milan edging nearer. He couldn’t add to the 13 goals he’s scored in Serie A this season. Unsurprisingly, a Genoa side who have scored just 10 times without Piatek this season looked toothless here. While they’re about to sell him on for 10 times what they paid for him in the summer, their survival hopes without the Pole are a real concern.

Lazio Stuck in Big Game Shackles

The big clash of the weekend in Italy was Lazio’s trip to Naples. The Aquile have a poor record against the top sides, and their losing streak against Napoli continued. The Partenopei claimed a 2-1 victory, pulling off a win with a changed side. It was a criticism of Maurizio Sarri last season that he stuck rigidly to the same side. It left the squad players feeling shut out, something Carlo Ancelotti has worked to fix since taking charge in the summer.

For Lazio, this defeat took them out of the top four. Their Champions League push had issues in the first half of the season, now they’re already started out on the back of a defeat. Coming up short in the biggest matches is an obvious problem for Simone Inzaghi’s side, and the manager’s ambition of rising up the ladder. The Aquile have a history of coming up short when it counts, and this defeat is more evidence that Lazio are likely to fall short this term.

In a campaign were Milan are looking weak up top, and Roma’s squad seems a little too green, Lazio should have stamped their name on fourth. Another loss has pushed Lazio away from that, and it is worrying in a tight battle. With four other sides to rival for fourth, the Aquile need to break out of the shackles they seem stuck in during this crunch clashes.

Are Roma Coming of Age?

Kostas Manolas Roma

Roma finished an inconsistent first half of the campaign with a rally, which moved them into sixth. They kicked off the second half with a thrilling 3-2 win over Torino, which moved them above rivals Lazio. The Giallorossi handed out a first away defeat of the season to Torino, which has kept them in the running for a Champions League place. We picked out Roma as the side to watch in the top four race in our Serie A betting tips. So far, they’re on the right track.

This success boosts Eusebio Di Francesco’s position, as his side’s inconsistency has put his job in jeopardy. However, with their top four hopes boosted the Giallorossi can hope for a strong second half of the campaign. This victory was Roma at their very best, defying weaknesses at the back with some great attacking football. That comes from a talented, youthful side, with 19-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo taking up a starring role in the middle of the park. He was part of last summer’s youth recruitment drive at the Stadio Olimpico. That caused them problems in the early stages of the campaign, but it’s turning around for them now.

Dark Horses Marching On

There are other sides in the running, which could see a surprise name in the Champions League next term. Atalanta are dreaming of fourth, according to manager Gian Piero Gasperini. His side produced an impressive 5-0 thrashing over Frosinone, furthering their position as the league’s top scorers. They’re now just three points shy of the top four. On top of that, they have a deep squad, better attacking options than Milan and fewer fixtures than Lazio or Roma.

Another side who stayed in the running were Sampdoria. They played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Fiorentina, which has left them in eighth – just four points shy of the top four. While their defensive issues are a problem, Samp’s talented young side are proving themselves to be capable of a European push. If they can continue to play like this, then we are in for a thrilling Champions League race in Italy this term.

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