AC Milan are back on top of the Italian Serie A after the 1-0 win over Napoli but it is clear their work is still cut out. Unlike last season, when Inter Milan had a clear advantage in the title race, as Juventus and Napoli battled for a top four place, this season it will be different.
The magnitude of Milan’s win over Napoli is such that Napoli have dropped from top to third in a matter of days and Juventus have had great strides and look like they will be challenging for the Serie A title too, after a slow start to the season.
Inter Milan seem like silent partakers in all these, especially after their recent dip in form but they also have a stake here. They returned to winning ways in resounding fashion, beating Salernitana 5-0 to announce they are still in it.
Inter’s place is further strengthened by the fact that they have a game in hand on all their top four rivals, and with a win, they’ll go top. It should not however be lost on anyone that Inter have been poor of late, and that’s one of the big reasons their rivals have caught up.
There are also teams with outside chances here – Atalanta and AS Roma – the two having faced off over the weekend in a game that Roma won 1-0 and these will just serve to add spice in the race, as opposed to making it a foregone conclusion.
Seventh placed Lazio will feel they have a chance in this race too, and while they will be justified, they’ve been too inconsistent to be regarded as serious contenders in the race. They’ve lost the early season shine that saw them tipped favorites for the title, and have conceded the most goals in the top eight – 42.
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In an interview recently, Jose Mourinho, trying to play down Roma’s chances this season, had to admit a place in the top five is achievable for his team. With their win over Atalanta, and the fight to collect three points against Spezia earlier, it is hard to argue against the Portuguese manager’s sentiments.
Milan, who were dismal in the Champions League this season, will be hoping for a top four finish so they can rectify. The win over Napoli, and earlier over Inter just proves their resolve but the biggest positive for them in recent times is the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The team was clearly suffering from a lack of leadership. Simon Kjaer is set for a longer time out but Milan only need to start firing with consistency.
Being out of the Champions League, hard as it is for Milan, may be another positive, meaning they have more time to focus on domestic action. However, it seems Inter Milan will join that bandwagon too, as they trail Liverpool 2-0 going into the return leg of their round of 16 tie. The fact that one of these sides will also soon be out of the Coppa Italia may come as an advantage in the Serie A push.
With just seven points separating the top team from the fourth in Serie A, the race for the title may go to the wire this time.