Serie A Title Race: Assessing The Candidates

Eight. That’s how many consecutive Serie A titles that Italian giants Juventus have won in a row. Juventus have had some good and (many) bad moments since the turn of the century – like Calciopoli. Calciopoli was a match fixing scandal that saw Juventus stripped of two Serie A titles, relegated to Serie B, and forced to sell stars such as Patrick Vieira, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Fabio Canavarro.

Since then, Juventus have recovered more than nicely, winning eight Serie A titles, four Italian Cups, four Italian Super Cups and making it to the final of the Champions League twice. Juventus’ death grip on Italian football looked set to end this season, with Inter Milan leading the table for many weeks and Lazio coming close, but then Juventus pulled away. However, the poor form of Juventus, including a 4-2 loss to AC Milan (which Juve initially led 2-0) as well as draws to Sassuolo and Atalanta. Juventus needed a Cristiano Ronaldo goal on a questionable penalty kick in the Atalanta game to get the tie. That limited their league lead to six points, but with five games remaining and three other teams within striking distance of the Serie A title, who has the best chance to win it all?

The Favorites: Juventus (1st Place, 77 Points)

Juventus are undoubtedly the favorites to win the Serie A, but they have some crucial games coming up. First, on July 20th Juventus play Lazio. Lazio are currently fourth in the Serie A and have already beaten Juventus twice this season, 3-1 in the league as well as the Supercoppa Italiana final. If Lazio beat Juventus, they can lower than point gap between the two clubs to five, and the gap between Inter (if Inter beat Roma) to three points.

They then have relatively easy matches against Sampdoria and Udinese before they play Cagliari, who were doing well early in the season but have struggled as of late. The final match is against AS Roma, who will be determined as they try to clinch a Europa League spot.

If Juventus can continue to get their front three of Ronaldo, Higuain, and Dybala the ball, they can win the league. However, those three players are the only ones in the Juventus squad who have scored more than five goals in all competitions. That’s an astonishing figure for a team that is first in Serie A, in the Champions League Round-of-16 and played in the finals of both the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

The Premier League All-Stars: Inter Milan (2nd Place, 71 Points)

Romelu Lukaku. Ashley Young. Christian Eriksen. Victor Moses. Alexis Sanchez.

Inter Milan have made it a habit of reviving the careers of players who struggled in the Premier League. Lukaku has contributed to more goals for Inter Milan this season than he did for both Chelsea and West Brom. Alexis Sanchez has played in 21 fewer games with Inter Milan than he did for Manchester United, but has contributed to 12 goals as compared to 14 goals for Manchester United.

However, Lautauro Martinez has arguably been the most key. a 22 year-old Argentinian striker, has scored 18 goals and gathered six assists for Inter Milan and has been linked strongly to FC Barcelona. Martinez was especially strong at the beginning of the season as Inter Milan were in first place for the first six matchdays, but Inter Milan have drawn eight times which has cost them massively in the Serie A rankings, despite only four league losses.

Offense, Offense, Offense: Atalanta (3rd Place, 70 Points)

Atalanta – which is named after a Greek huntress – have quickly risen to fame. The small club from Bergamo stunningly qualified for the Champions League this season, the club’s first ever, and the result was rather predictable.

Well, at first.

Atalanta lost all three of their opening group stage games. They lost 4-0 to Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb, 2-1 to Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk, and 5-1 to Manchester City. Then Atalanta went on a stunning run, tying Manchester City 1-1, beating Dinamo 2-0, and Shakhtar 3-0. This meant that Atalanta were the first club ever to qualify for the Champions League Round-of-16 after winning none of their first four games. They won both legs against Valencia, 4-1 and 4-3 to advance to the quarterfinals where they will play PSG.

And in Serie A? Atalanta’s record isn’t any less impressive. They’ve lost only five games, and they’ve scored five or more goals in six games, including back-to-back 5-0 wins over AC Milan and Parma. Atalanta are also on a 13 game win streak, started with a 7-0 win over Torino.

The Other Underdogs: Lazio (4th Place, 69 Points)

Lazio have flown under the radar for most of the season, despite being in the top four since matchday eleven. Arguably Rome’s second most famous team, Lazio have had a great year, lead by Ciro Immobile. Immobile has scored 29 goals for Lazio and assisted seven goals, meaning that he has contributed to more Serie A goals than three teams (SPAL, Brescia, and Udinese) as of July 16.

Lazio were in second place for nine matchdays but have struggled recently, having not won four in a row against AC Milan, Lecce, Sassuolo and Udinese, losing against the first three and tying Udinese.

However, as previously mentioned, all hopes of any non-Juventus team winning rest on Lazio, who are the only top-four team playing Juventus.

The end of the Serie A is set for an incredible end. Juventus are six points ahead of next-placed Inter Milan, with five games remaining, with Atalanta and Lazio close behind. What are your predictions?

Image courtesy of Werner100359 / CC BY-SA.

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