Sunday January 7 2018
What we learned in Week 20

Serie A heads for a two week winter break, with Juventus and Napoli putting further distance between themselves and the chasing pack.

The top two sides both won before heading for their mid-season break, and it now looks like a two-horse Scudetto race.

There was a surprise win for Benevento, as the Stregoni won their second Serie A match in a row, giving themselves a glimmer of survival hope.

Here’s what we learned in Week 20.

Inter need a centre-back

The failure to recruit a centre-back this summer was always going to come back to haunt Inter at some stage, and the Nerazzurri can be thankful the issue reared its head in January.

The Beneamata started the season with Joao Miranda, Andrea Ranocchia, Milan Skriniar and youngster Zinho Vanheusden as their only central defenders, having failed to get either Eliaquim Mangala or Shkodran Mustafi.

When Vanheusden suffered a cruciate ligament injury in September, Coach Luciano Spalletti was down to the bare bones and that was laid out in stark reality against Fiorentina.

With Miranda out with a calf injury, Ranocchia started alongside Skriniar but the Italian had to go off on 73 minutes after trying to play through a rib injury

That left Inter with Davide Santon at centre-back, and it was no surprise when the Viola equalised to make it 1-1.

The Nerazzurri’s Financial Fair Play constrictions are well known, but they really need to bring in another centre-back before the window closes.

Sassuolo aren’t out of danger

Ahead of the weekend we identified Sassuolo’s trip to Genoa as a key match, and the Neroverdi’s 1-0 defeat has them looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation zone.

The Grifone are now level on points with Beppe Iachini’s side, who are just six points above the relegation zone.

Fortunately for the Emilians, Spal, Crotone, Cagliari and Verona all lost, but they can’t afford to relax in the second half of the season.

Roma are in crisis

After a brilliant start to the season which saw them top their Champions League group, Roma were very much in Scudetto contention.

After securing European progression with a 1-0 win over Qarabag though, the capital club have won just one of their next six across all competitions.

Saturday’s defeat to 10-man Atalanta was arguably the worst result of that run, and it saw the Lupi fall out of the top four.

They do still have a game in hand away at Sampdoria, but all of a sudden Eusebio Di Francesco’s situation isn’t looking quite so rosy.

They face Inter after the winter break, in what is now a must-win game for both teams.

Lazio are the real deal

Ok, it was only Spal. And sure, they did concede twice. But Lazio are continuing to show they deserve to be taken seriously under Simone Inzaghi.

While the 11 point gap to league leading Napoli - Juventus are 10 points ahead - is surely insurmountable, the Aquile are just two points behind Inter and they have a game in hand.

Luis Alberto’s inspired performance in Ferrara and Ciro Immobile’s four goals showed just how devastating the Biancocelesti’s attack can be, and they’ve now scored more goals than anyone in the league bar Juve.

With 19 games still to play, Lazio will be confident of securing a Champions League place come the end of the season.

Glimmer of hope for Benevento

Benevento will almost certainly be relegated. They’ve managed just seven points from 20 games, which is a dreadful return by anyone’s standard.

That their status is now “almost certain” to go down though is testament to a fine win over Sampdoria this weekend.

Having secured their first-ever Serie A victory in Week 19, the Streghe came from behind to win at the Stadio Ciro Vigorito in a result which is sure to have been a coupon-buster across Europe.

Benevento are still eight points from safety - and remember that gap is one more than their points total - but there is the faintest glimmer of hope in Campania.

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