Somebody on the Juventus Twitter account just could not resist the temptation. A play on words compared the Bianconeri’s lunchtime victory over Fiorentina with the consumption of one of the Tuscan city’s famous T-bones. In the process, the stakes were definitely raised for the two clubs’ upcoming Europa League clashes.
Prior to that tasty tweet, in truth, the opening dish in this trio of ties had been a little bland. Deprived of their respective conductors of the Centrocampo - Andrea Pirlo and Borja Valero - the match had more errors than a schoolboy’s hurried homework. It was decided, however, by a single strike of sumptuous skill from Kwadwo Asamoah shortly before half-time.
That was no more than the home side deserved for a first 45 minutes in which they dominated with asphyxiating authority. Fiorentina found it so hard to get a foothold that they were entirely unable to get their challenge off the ground. In boxing parlance, all they could do was cover up on the ropes and wait for the bell to sound.
In the second half, at least, they showed that they might make a contest of those future encounters. A contentious offside call on a Modibo Diakite strike and a Ryder Matos header which cannoned off the crossbar were the best they could muster. It wasn’t really enough to feel aggrieved about - at least not until someone got carried away with the Turin giants’ social media.
“A Fiorentina for lunch was good,” the quick quip read. “We’ll meet again in four days’ time for dinner.” The speed and tone of the statement seemed to suggest that the Viola’s amazing 4-2 comeback earlier in the season had still not entirely been digested. It also served up a side order of snideness which the upcoming European clashes could probably have lived without. The winners, of course, get to celebrate in whatever manner they see fit.
And there was more good news for the Bianconeri from Sunday’s night game as Napoli all but served up the Scudetto on a plate for them. Roma looked the side more likely to succeed for long spells in their clash at the San Paolo but Jose Callejon had other ideas. His neat header had the cumulative effect of cementing Rafa Benitez’s side’s place in a Champions League qualification slot while also giving Juve a more than comforting advantage at the table top.
“It was an important goal,” said Callejon in one post-match interview. “But I hope there are more important goals to come. I think the team worked really well.”
That victory only compounded a bad day for Fiorentina. Their failure in Turin allowed Napoli to stretch clear and also put their fourth place under serious pressure. Both Inter and Parma got key victories in their hunt to overtake the Viola in the race for the Europa League places. A looping Rodrigo Palacio header was enough to get the Nerazzurri past Torino and, in the process, dent the Granata’s dreams of a top five finish. In Parma, Jonathan Biabiany and Ezequiel Schelotto won another key clash with fellow revelations Verona. For Lazio, however, their hopes of keeping close to the top were torpedoed by a home loss to Atalanta - Maxi Moralez getting the game’s only goal.
Comeback of the weekend came at the Stadio Marassi where Sampdoria gave Livorno a two goal lead before four second half strikes turned the game on its head. While the only team making significant progress in the lower reaches were Chievo who had a controversial late penalty to thank for their 2-1 triumph over Genoa. Catania had done no better than a draw with Cagliari on Saturday while the return of Eusebio Di Francesco to the Sassuolo bench produced only an insipid draw with equally drab Bologna.
Saturday evening saw another stuttering chapter in the Clarence Seedorf story at Milan. He can’t seem to get any consistency of results out of his side and, ahead of an impossible mission in the Champions League, they slumped in Udine. Toto’ Di Natale was their executioner with his 185th Serie A goal, overtaking a certain Gabriel Omar Batistuta in the all-time scorer’s chart. It has taken him about 60 more games to get there - but it is nonetheless the mark of an outstanding career.
The Rossoneri seem to have admitted defeat in the League and were fully focussed on trying to turn around their one goal disadvantage in Spain. “I asked the team to forget this game straight away,” said Seedorf. “If we dwell on it we can undermine our chances against Atletico. We are convinced we can win, Balotelli looked good.”
Nobody can blame him for being upbeat but his team face a huge challenge to make it any further in the Champions League. They have managed less than half the points of Juve in Serie A this season and that seems a pretty fair assessment of the gap between the sides this term. The Bianconeri, of course, are already out of Europe’s top competition but now they have their eyes firmly on a third consecutive Scudetto and, potentially, a continental final in their own ground. The table is already set for them in Turin - and they are clearly hungry to devour anything that gets in their way.