The first half of the Serie A season wrapped up this past weekend, and it was full of action. Most of the season has been fairly straightforward with Juventus dominating proceedings over the rest of the pack, and the only Champions League place that has a healthy challenge is fourth which became closer with Lazio dropping points this past weekend, which allowed Roma and AC Milan to make up ground.
The Top 4 is virtually a lock for the top three sides as Juventus, Napoli, and Inter all have secure cushions above the rest of the pack. Lazio currently hold the pole position for fourth place, but only hold a point over fifth place holders AC Milan and a two point point advantage over sixth place Roma. The battle between these three teams should be interesting because Lazio has a recent history of being the most consistent performer among the three sides. Both Roma and AC Milan have struggle for consistency this season, more so the latter, and all three will want to lure potential summer signings with the lure of Champions League football next season.
The biggest surprises of the season have to be Atalanta who finished sixth last season along with a run into the knockout rounds of the Europa League where they almost defeated Borussia Dortmund. This season, they currently languish in eighth place and were eliminated in the final Europa League Qualifying Round on penalties against FC Kobenhavn. Sampdoria are another side who are playing well, and who have posed serious threats to the top teams in Italy. They currently sit in seventh, and should be a contender for one of the European spots in the league.
Before I get into the future predictions, let’s recap the action from the prior matchday.
Last Matchday Results and Breakdown
Juventus 2-1 Sampdoria
Breakdown: Juventus got a Cristiano Ronaldo double that was sandwiched by a converted penalty for Juventus. However, it was Ronaldo’s second, also a penalty that secured the victory for Juventus. Sampdoria did manage to muster a solid effort for a second, but it was disallowed due to VAR.
Chievo Verona 1-0 Frosinone
Breakdown:Emmanuele Giaccherini Chievo Verona managed to take all three points in this match against 10-man Frosinone after they had a man sent off in the 58th minute. While the two bottom teams had very little to separate them, managed to scrape a goal and give his side the full share of the spoils.
Empoli 0-1 Inter
Breakdown: Keita BaldéInter finally got the fruit for its labors in the 72nd minute when broke Empoli’s tough resistance. Both sides did a decent job creating chances, but the quality of Inter was able to show through on a day where they were not at their most clinical given that they controlled the match for large spells.
Genoa 0-0 Fiorentina
Breakdown: This was a match where both teams just lacked the killer edge that would have secured all three points. Possession and shots were fairly equal, as were the chances created by both sides. Fiorentina will most likely be least satisfied with the single point, but both sides will be happy to have gotten something from the game.
Lazio 1-1 Torino
Breakdown: Both sides saw themselves reduced to ten men late on which sealed the fate of the match as a draw, but both sides got a goal that was deserved. Lazio had much more going forward and equalized in the 62nd minute, but ultimately lacked the clinical nature in their finishes that would have secured a home victory and given them a larger lead over fifth place AC Milan.
Parma 0-2 Roma
Breakdown: Roma secured a comprehensive victory, and finally got their two deserved goals in the second half. Parma offered very little going forward and looked more interested in keeping goals out rather than actually scoring goals. This match helped Roma climb back into the European places, and close the gap heading into the winter break.
Sassuolo 2-6 Atalanta
Breakdown: Atalanta secured a comprehensive victory over Sassuolo, headlined by a hat trick from substitue Josip Ilicic. Sassuolo did manage to score twice, but were overcome on day where the road team could not miss the back of the net. Both sides have great attacking initiative, but it was the clinical side of the Atalanta who shone the brightest.
Udinese 2-0 Cagliari
Breakdown: This was another match where both sides were reduced to 10 men, although it had little effect on the outcome which boosts Udinese’s chance of survival. The home side dominated proceedings against Cagliari and will move into the winter break on a high note following a deserved victory.
Napoli 3-2 Bologna
Breakdown: This was a cagey affair at times, but the quality of Napoli was what shone through at the end of the day. Bologna fought valiantly pulling equalizers back twice, but they were undone by the brilliance of Dries Mertens late in the match. The result fortifies Napoli’s position in second although the title race may be over.
AC Milan 2-1 SPAL
Breakdown: Things did not look good for Gennaro Gattuso’s men early on as they fell behind just thirteen minutes into the match. They did manage to equalize three minutes later, and managed to get enough of a hold on the game to knotch a 64th minute winner. This match may save Gattuso from a sacking until after the winter break, but they never really established control in a home match they should have been all over.
The relegation battle is already starting to take shape with Frosinone and Chievo Verona firmly rooted in the bottom of table. They both look likely candidates to go down. The battle for the final relegation spot is between SPAL 2013, Empoli, and Bologna, who currently occupy the final relegation spot. Although Bologna may edge closer to escaping the relegation zone, they have not shown the sufficient ability to get results against sides at home, and that will seal their fate.
Player of the Year: Cristiano Ronaldo
Top Scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo
Most Clean Sheets: Samir Handanovic
Juventus (champion and Champions League qualification)
Napoli (Champions League qualification)
Inter (Champions League qualification)
Roma (Champions League qualification)
Lazio (Europa League qualification)
Sampdoria (Europa League Final Qualifying Round qualification)
Parma Calcio 1913
Chievo Verona (relegated)