Tuesday December 19 2017
Serie A’s Christmas cracker

Serie A enters the Christmas period with the title race on a knife-edge. Andrew Tuft looks at the situation for Napoli, Juventus, Inter and Roma…

Serie A approaches Christmas with the table delicately poised. Napoli, perhaps surprisingly, lead the way, with Juventus and Inter both within a game of the Partenopei and Roma not much further behind. The standings mean Saturday’s Juve-Roma fixture could be one of the most pivotal games of the season.

One or both of Juve and Roma will drop points and Napoli or Inter could be the real winners. The former host Sampdoria, far from a straightforward game itself, while Inter go to Sassuolo and will feel confident about taking a victory, though probably not as confident as they did before they were routed at home by Udinese. But Juventus are now predicted by some sources at 7/5 to win Serie A as they trail Napoli and could be even longer by Christmas Day.

The winter break this year doesn’t come until January 6 so the winter champions won’t be crowned until early 2018, but any psychological advantage Napoli can gain over Juventus will be welcomed at the San Paolo. Likewise, should the Old Lady return to the summit in time for Christmas then they will feel more positive about their situation. Everyone knows the table will twist and turn throughout the season but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle losing top spot.

Indeed, even if Juventus do beat Roma on the same weekend Napoli drop points against Samp, it could all change again on December 30, when Napoli are at Crotone and Juve go to Verona. Inter host Lazio that weekend while Roma are visited by Sassuolo. In such a tight title race, with four teams genuinely in contention with almost half the season played, each weekend brings a new dynamic.

Few could have predicted Inter would lose at home to Udinese this past Saturday. It was always unlikely that the Nerazzurri would go the season unbeaten so they had to lose some time, and in hindsight it was always going to be when it was least expected. Udinese, who have lost more than they have won this season, not drawn a single game and hadn’t beaten Inter in three years, shocked the San Siro. Napoli, Juve or Roma could all fall victim to something similar at almost any time.

It’s arguably in games pitting the Scudetto hopefuls against the Serie A also-rans where the title will be decided - just look at Juventus’ win over Napoli back in early December. Juve went to Naples, entered a disciplined performance and came away with the victory, but a few weeks later are still in second place. All Juve - and the rest of the chasing pack - can do is keep winning their games and hope Napoli slip up. Then the roles will be reversed and the pressure on someone else.
No team in recent Serie A history has handled that pressure better than Juventus - you don’t win six straight Scudetti if you can’t stand the heat. But this is a new situation for Juve, and for Napoli too. Roma, meanwhile, can lodge themselves firmly in the title race if they win in Turin this weekend, while Inter, having been embarrassed just a few days ago, could wake up on December 25 in the best possible position. It’s all to play for, and will be for a while.

Have your say...
@Anonymous, because the season is still long and napoli & inter are the form team this season. So, roma might found them fourth this season. Thats all!
on the 20th December, 2017 at 4:46am
I think Napoli will win the title. They got eliminated from the Champions League, so now their main focus is Serie A. Europa league shouldn't be too hard for them, and Coppa Italia shouldn't impact them enough for them to lose or draw too many games.
Juventus and Roma have a little harder road for each other, especially Juventus. Juve have to deal with Spurs in the CL, the same team that beat Real Madrid this year.
Inter have a chance, but I doubt they will win Serie A with today's squad.
on the 19th December, 2017 at 10:59pm

Why exclude Roma? They have a game in hand which if they win are 1 point behind Napoli (at the moment). I agree with the article's premise that there are 4 teams with a legitimate shot at the scudetto. Inter without European obligations and a good manager will have their say. Juventus even at their worst are the team to beat. Napoli playing exquisite soccer. Very exciting title race...
on the 19th December, 2017 at 10:58pm
i think its pretty clear even now in coming january, title is in between the trio - juve, napoli, inter. Juventas at the moment not so sharp but looking steady gradually as always. Napoli have to show what juve doing now. As for inter, bring on damn pastore and no one else which will provide one simpld gap inter evidently missing. Then show that this unit want it more, as luck favors the brave...
on the 19th December, 2017 at 8:37pm

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