Monday December 18 2017
What we learned from Week 17

Another exciting weekend of Serie A action saw Inter lose for the first time this season, making the race even tighter at the top.

There are now just four points separating the top four, with Roma still holding a game in hand against Sampdoria.

Here’s what we learned from this weekend’s Serie A action.

A bad omen for Inter?

In isolation, Inter’s 3-1 defeat at home to Udinese isn’t exactly a disaster.

This is the first time the Nerazzurri have been defeated under Luciano Spalletti, and they remain just two points off the top of Serie A.

Had you offered Interisti that scenario at the start of the season, they’d surely have taken it.

However, those very same fans will have been concerned by the loss to the Zebrette - there’s a reason they call them ‘Pazza Inter’.

Historically, a defeat of this magnitude has often led to a crisis of confidence.

Take the 2015-16 season, where the Beneamata were top at Christmas, and had only to beat Sassuolo at home to be crowned winter champions.

However, a last-minute Domenico Berardi penalty saw them go down 1-0 at San Siro, and they won just one of their next six.

Eventually Roberto Mancini’s side missed out on Champions League football altogether, finishing 13 points behind third-place Roma.

Spalletti’s Inter have looked a different proposition so far this season, and how they respond to this setback will tell us how much the Nerazzurri really have changed.

Marek Hamsik is back

Before the weekend we noted that any talk of a Napoli crisis was hugely exaggerated, but that there had been cracks in their formidable attack.

Maurizio Sarri’s side responded in style against Torino though, and were 3-0 up within half an hour.

Marek Hamsik finally matched Diego Maradona’s goalscoring record, and if the Slovakian can recapture the form of last season he’ll add another weapon to the Partenopei’s formidable arsenal.

With the game put to bed after half an hour, 61 per cent possession and a comfortable win, this was the Napoli we all expect.

Juventus are looking ominous

Juve have often made comparatively slow starts in recent seasons, before kicking into gear over the winter months to surge away from the chasing pack.

The thing is, the Bianconeri didn’t even start particularly slowly this season, winning 10 of their first 12 games, it’s just that Napoli and Inter were setting a terrifying pace.

There were issues in Turin though, as while Max Allegri’s side were scoring at a rate of knots, the defence upon which they have built their dynasty was looking uncharacteristically shaky.

Since a 3-2 to loss to Sampdoria on November 19 though, the Old Lady has kept six clean sheets in a row in all competitions.

This weekend brought a routine 3-0 win at Bologna, which isn’t exactly a statement result, but the form Juve are showing will concern the other Scudetto contenders.

Has Sampdoria’s bubble burst?

Sampdoria started the season in brilliant form under Marco Giampaolo, but the Blucerchiati are in free fall.

Since beating Juventus in November, Giampaolo’s side have lost three of the next four, drawing with Cagliari in the other one.

This weekend saw them go down 1-0 at home to Sassuolo, with the Neroverdi also missing a penalty.

Add a 3-2 loss to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia and 2017 risks ending on a sour note for Samp.

With a trip to Napoli to come next week, Sampdoria need to get back to their best - and soon.

Milan’s problems aren’t just superficial

Milan have serious problems this season, and they can’t all be solved by the motivational skills of Gennaro Gattuso.

A 3-0 loss to Verona saw Andrea Caracciolo open the scoring with a header from a corner - the ninth set piece goal the Rossoneri have scored this season.

In seven Serie A matches this season the Diavolo have fallen behind, and each of those matches ended in defeat.

Even more worryingly, a €200m summer spending spree doesn’t appear to have improved Milan at all.

The Rossoneri are nine points worse off than they were at this stage last season, and a point worse off than the 2014-15 season - when they finished 10th.

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