The weekend that started with Lazio’s draw against Verona in a postponed match finished with both teams taking three points. The title race in Serie A hasn’t been this intense in years with three candidates – Inter, Juventus, and Lazio – making a run for it, promising a thrilling end of the season for the neutrals.
Our biggest takeaways include Juventus’ crisis, Lazio’s emergence as a serious Scudetto candidate, and the exciting battle of Milano.
Juventus Slip Up for a Change at the Top
It looked like things would get back to normal when Juventus overtook the top of the table from Inter as the Nerazzurri went through a crisis in results, including three consecutive draws.
But, the Bianconeri didn’t take into account an important factor – themselves.
Juventus repeatedly showed signs of instability this season. Two losses against Lazio in Campionato and Supercoppa were shrugged off by a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired winning streak that positioned them at the top of the league.
It was obvious that Sarriball wasn’t completely working. Massimiliano Allegri’s spirit crept in, but it also resulted in some undeserved wins throughout the season… until it stopped. “Only” 44 goals so far make up for the league’s fourth-most efficient attack. This is very underwhelming and almost shocking considering the budget and the names up top for Juve.
While Ronaldo keeps doing his thing, it seems as if it’s coming at cost of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala’s weakened performances. The midfield is even more problematic – Sarri is unable to find the right combination, and Aaron Ramsey already looks like the odd man out, with Miralem Pjanic struggling to find his form from the beginning of the season.
The loss to Verona was specifically surprising because you won’t see Juve giving up a 1-0 lead so late in the game, let alone against a so much weaker opponent… at least on paper.
Verona Are the Real Deal
When they saw the upcoming game schedule that paired them with Milan, Lazio, and Juventus in succession, Verona fans were probably scratching their heads.
But, Ivan Juric and his men know what they’re doing and they just proved it. Going against two of the top three teams in the league and the rising Milan, they went unscratched, claiming draws to Milan and Lazio before shocking the world by turning around a 0-1 deficit into a win against Juventus.
It’s not even the result that’s satisfying as much as the fighting spirit, a belief you can beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus when 1-0 down. Ivan Juric is proving he can play some neat football with an underdog while keeping results way above expectations. You can imagine how Genoa’s president Enrico Preziosi must be banging his head against the wall for having sacked this man not once, not twice, but three times: Now the tables have completely turned with the Rossoblu sitting in the relegation zone.
Inter On Top Out of Nowhere
0-2 down going into the half of the Derby di Milano. Inter fans must have thought about all the times they started the season on fire only to end up in disappointment and misery. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was enjoying the spotlight as he dominated the first 45 minutes, while his pupil Romelu Lukaku looked like a mere student next to the master of the art.
To put it short – Inter looked dead.
But then, the San Siro turned into Giuseppe Meazza himself and the Nerazzurri were determined to protect their home turf. Marcelo Brozovic started off things with a volley out of nowhere – something that brought much more than just a goal to make it 2-1. Inter’s captain for the night lightened up the whole stadium. You could feel it in the air: Even on TV there was a prevailing sense that Inter had taken the match by the throat and they weren’t going to give in.
Matias Vecino tied the score just two minutes later after a combination of the old guard in Diego Godin and Alexis Sanchez set him up with an empty net. VAR confirmed the decision and it was on. The Derby della Madonnina in its full glory brought havoc when one of Inter’s best performers this season, Stefan de Vrij, made it 3-2 before Romelu Lukaku confirmed the win in the last seconds of the match for an eruption of happiness, both on the pitch and in the stands.
Antonio Conte’s team is now on top of Serie A, but after a win like this, they’ll feel like they’re on top of the world.
Lazio’s Breaking Point
Simone Inzaghi is a sight to behold. A man with limitless energy, always at the bottom or in the focus of the screen, running, shouting, gesticulating as if he was a cartoon character with his slim shape and funny gestures.
But, he’s none of that. Simone Inzaghi is a champion.
The sole fact that we can talk about Lazio overcoming a “crisis” after two draws to Roma and Verona in three matches speaks volumes. They went out against Parma with just one goal in mind – to get three points at any cost. And get them they did, as they’re now just a point behind the leading duo and it’s all hands on deck. The Biancocelesti can believe in dreams like they haven’t since the turn of the millennium. Simone was there then as a player, Simone is here now as a coach.
No matter what happens from this point forward, the Laziali can and will be proud of their team.
Farewell to Leonardo Semplici
A legend in his own right, Leonardo Semplici was the longest-tenured manager in the Serie A before he was sacked after this weekend’s loss to Sassuolo.
Semplici made history by leading SPAL from Serie D to the Italian elite. He produced a miracle last season, too, by finishing in the mid-table and far away from the relegation spots. Luigi Di Biagio will now be handed a tough task of trying to keep SPAL in Serie A, with safety seven points away and performances even farther from the top-flight standard.
More to Come…
Next week should be even more exciting with the big clash at the top between Lazio and Inter, while Juventus will try to take advantage of their collision by hosting Brescia.