Serie A has taken on an ominously familiar look already, with Juventus easing to the top of the table without breaking sweat it seems.
The Bianconeri haven’t yet hit top gear, but have still had more than enough about them to edge out most of their opponents. A surprise recent loss to Verona notwithstanding, Mauricio Sarri’s side have been alarmingly efficient, and the break will surely have re-energised them to push on in the final stages of the campaign.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 21 goals have been a major reason for the rise to the summit, and whilst Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain only have 12 more between them, both have been able deputies for the Portuguese.
Early front-runners, Inter Milan, have quickly found themselves nine points behind in third position, and in the worst form of the top four teams. Antonio Conte’s side started the campaign like a juggernaut, and whilst the wheels haven’t exactly fallen off, they were treading water prior to the suspension of the season.
Unfortunately for the Neroazzurri, the consistent rumours surrounding Lautaro Martinez haven’t helped the Argentinian. Only three goals in the calendar year doesn’t speak of a €111m player, leading to the only inevitable conclusion that he’s had his head turned by Barcelona and other teams.
Romelu Lukaku had five goals as well as one assist in six games pre-lockdown, and the former Manchester United man is clearly sustaining what little title challenge Conte’s men have left. Both they and Juve have only let in 24 goals in their 26 matches, but splitting the two are an overperforming Lazio.
Twenty-three conceded is the least in the Italian top-flight, and 60 goals scored is second only to Atalanta’s 70. Just one point behind Juve at the time of writing, Le Aquile have the best current form of the top three, mirrored by Atalanta in fourth, but whom are 14 points worse off.
Indeed, the two Champions League quarter-final games that Atalanta will also have to undertake as a minimum, could well derail their bid to stay in the top four in order to qualify for next season’s competition.
With three players already into double figures in terms of goals this season (Josip Ilicic, Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel), however, they have the firepower to potentially put some late-season pressure on Inter, who are only six points ahead of them in third.
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Race for Europe
The Europa League places are being keenly contested at present. Roma and Napoli are six points apart, but the former are just three points outside of the Champions League spots, whilst the latter are only three points ahead of AC Milan.
Bologna are all the way down in 10th but are only two wins from leapfrogging Napoli, however, the Partnopei look good value for their current sixth place. They too have Champions League fixtures to attend to, but the depth in their squad should ensure that this doesn’t affect league status quo.
With four wins from their last five matches, Gennaro Gattuso’s side are the form team challenging for a Europa League spot, and there would be a few headlines surely written if he were to keep the club he represented so well as a player, AC Milan, out of Europe for another season.
In Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik, he has three strikers of the highest quality, but it’s in defence where Napoli need to learn to shut up shop a bit better than they’ve done to this point. Thirty-six conceded is the worst of the top nine teams.
Noticeably, their passing stats (87.6% completion), possession across 90 minutes (57.2%) and shots per game (18.5) is clearly the best of those teams around them. With the motivation to catch Roma, there’s a decent likelihood of Napoli pulling further away from the teams below them rather than being caught themselves.
Paulo Fonseca’s Roma side have every chance of catching Atalanta, even though they’ve lost three of their last five. Their strength is in the collective, with at least seven of their squad having scored three or more goals during the campaign.
The one area where they’re letting themselves down is their discipline, with eight players on four yellow cards or more. At such a crucial stage of the campaign, they can ill afford any of their main men to be out through suspension.
Edin Dzeko remains key to their fortunes with a top-scoring 12 goals so far, and with the likes of Justin Kluivert, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aleksandar Kolarov all doing their bit, don’t be surprised to see them back amongst the big boys in Europe again next season.
The bottom three
Although there’s still plenty of time for any team down at the bottom of the table to haul themselves out of trouble, Brescia are currently nine points from safety with SPAL only two points better off.
Just 22 and 20 goals scored respectively, suggests that there’s not too much likelihood they’ll be able to find enough to save them from what looks like almost certain relegation.
Lecce on the other hand sit in the final relegation place but they are on the same points as Genoa, one place above them, one point behind Sampdoria, two shy of Torino, and only three behind Udinese in 14th. Perm one from those five to fall through the trap door.
With five straight losses before the break in the season, Torino have the most to feel concerned about at this stage, whilst of the bottom eight teams, Lecce actually have the second-best recent record, having won three and lost two of their last five.
Importantly, they’re also the top scorers out of those eight teams too, and they owe that to Marco Mancosu and Gianluca Lapadula, with eight and seven goals respectively.
A shots per game average of 13.4 is also comfortably the best at the bottom, so it would be hard to argue against them getting out of trouble in the end.