Monday March 5 2018
Juve still the Scudetto kings

Juventus' last-gasp win at Lazio and Napoli's 4-2 defeat to Roma not only turned the title tide, but also dealt the Partenopei some harsh lessons, writes Emmet Gates.

The swivel was Messi-esque, the nutmeg that completely sold Luiz Felipe was marvellous and the newfound Christian Vieri-like strength was mesmerising. As Paulo Dybala’s scooped effort landed in the top corner of Lazio’s net, a collective groan could be heard around not just Italy, but indeed the world. Here they go again, typical Juve.

And they weren’t wrong, Saturday’s win in Rome was, indeed, typical Juve, in fact if there was ever a result that epitomised the very essence of Juve’s attitude to the stylistic virtues of the game, this was it. A performance that on the whole, scarcely merited a single point, but somehow they managed to collect all three. We’ve seen it countless times, over endless years.

Make no mistake about it, their performance was such that it would be overly generous to give any positives. Dybala’s goal was the only shot on target the Bianconeri managed in the game. Both teams were clearly feeling the affects of their exploits in the Coppa Italia. This, coupled with Juve’s line-up suggesting they had their minds on Tottenham Hotspur and Lazio’s refusal to attack the champions at any point during the game, led to a poor spectacle.

Yet when we look back on the season in May, it could be this weekend - this most tragic of weekends – that the pendulum swung towards Juve. The Dybala goal could prove to be the season’s defining moment.

That feeling was only reinforced when you consider what happened in Naples a few hours later. Napoli’s capitulation to Roma has resurfaced many who believe that Maurizio Sarri’s simply lack the mentality needed to win Serie A.

In the cold light of day, the 4-2 defeat was incredibly harsh. Lorenzo Insigne’s battle with Alisson was as thrilling to watch as it must’ve been frustrating for the forward, who was repeatedly denied by the Brazilian, far and away the best goalkeeper in the League this season.

What the result exposed again, however, was the Partenopei’s lack of squad depth. This is particularly pertinent, given their intoxicating yet physically demanding style of play. To steal and modify an infamous line from Alan Hansen: you’ll never win anything with Raul Albiol and Mario Rui in your starting XI.

Decent players they are, but neither inspire confidence in the most high profile of games. Albiol has never been viewed as an exceptional centre-back, less so now that he’s 32. He was at fault for Edin Dzeko’s beautifully-arched header in the first half, momentarily losing track of the Bosnian before getting hopelessly out-jumped for the goal that set Roma on their way.

Mario  meanwhile, was nothing short of disastrous, his insipid display encapsulated by his insane attempt at backheeling the ball from a Aleksandr Kolarov cross – in his own penalty box no less – into the path of Diego Perotti.

You can only camouflage such players for a period of time; eventually there will come a time when they get found out. Sarri famously doesn’t care for the transfer market, preferring instead to coach the players at his disposal. This may be a President’s dream, and it’s admirably romantic on Sarri’s part, but sometimes you just need an upgrade.

Juve, by contrast, rested Alex Sandro, Giorgio Chiellini and Douglas Costa - not to mention leaving Gonzalo Higuain at home - and returned from the capital with a win against a team who have already beat them twice. That in itself is a reminder not just of the level Napoli are up against, but a reminder that sustaining a title challenge goes beyond the starting XI. Of Napoli’s front three, only Insigne has missed a League game, with Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon playing in all 27. It’s mind-boggling, but that ultimately comes at a price and surely can’t continue.

How Napoli react to the Roma defeat will reveal more of their mindset as we creep towards the business end of the season. However, the computer hasn’t been kind to them; they travel north to play an Inter side who will have had their batteries recharged, with no game in two weeks.

If Juve, home to Udinese earlier in the day, win and Napoli slip up once more, that just might be the title race over. If indeed that’s the case, Dybala’s strike at the Olimpico will go down as the goal that changed a campaign, and with it, offering little hope of any team seemingly capable of breaking Juve’s hegemony in Serie A in the foreseeable future.

Have your say...
@Anonyous 11h52 PM: I've reported you because I've had enough of your childish manners (you're a child anyway). Whenever I reply to an article you insult me and you harass me, which is totally the definition of a troll. Anyway, you never comment on the subject at stakes, you only provoke and insult people. But hey, what can we hope of someone who hides behind the "Anonymous" moniker...Good riddance and grow up!
on the 6th March, 2018 at 8:06pm

Great, great, great win by Juventus against Lazio!
on the 6th March, 2018 at 2:18pm
well I hope Juve'll win the cudetto again
it's very ashamed to hear Sarri always complaining about the schedule.
After Juve-Atalanta match snowed off, Juve actually play after Napoli, not before because Juve still have 1 match in hand.
yet, I still can't believed Sarri once again complaining after the defeat on Roma.
And what Hamsik said that Juve always win in the later stage of a match is not normal, well guess what, that's a kind of nerve why Juve won 6 consecutive Scudetti and Napoli didn't
on the 6th March, 2018 at 12:02pm
The Scudetto race is by far not over. Napoli had won their last 10 games prior to their defeat to Roma!

I'm a Juventus fan so I was thrilled with the way things turned out last weekend, and I remember thinking in that split-second after Dybala put the ball in the goal that it could well have been the defining moment of this campaign.

But the way Napoli are notching up points, they could well beat Juve by more than a couple of points this year. I for one am really enjoying this season =)
on the 6th March, 2018 at 11:41am
A title challenge is most welcome but not from a team that gets knocked out of every other competition on purpose in order to focus on Serie A. Send in Inter, Milan, Roma or Lazio, at least they wont disgrace us in Europe like Napoli did. They don't deserve the title, they deserve to be forgotten as never has beens. Where were all the Juve haters 8 years ago when we were coming 7th? Tall poppy much?
on the 6th March, 2018 at 11:30am
There's still a long way to go. It was always a tough ask but Napoli have to keep believing! They r a great side but not squad. They needed 2 or 3 real quality signings even before Milik's injury! I was a bit disappointed with em in the EL but they play such beautiful football that I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They can't keep foregoing all other comps every year just so they can challenge Juves strong squad in the league but it'd b some achievement if they could win it!
on the 6th March, 2018 at 9:53am
or queens?
on the 6th March, 2018 at 6:01am
Basically La Joya won the league
on the 6th March, 2018 at 6:01am
Alright, so I looked it up.

Juve played before Napoli: 12 times.

Napoli played before Juve: 11 times.

2 rounds they played at the same time.
1 round played vs each other.

Yet, Sarri moans "I said weeks ago that playing after Juve every time was not normal".

I was surprised how I gradually lost all respect for him. Specially after the way he treated Europe.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 4:31am
"A title challenge goes beyond the starting XI".

Tell that to the romantics that say rotation is not needed.
Someone here mentioned Giaccherini, and I absolutely agree with that. Callejon looked horrible vs Roma. Is Sarri telling us that he couldn't have benifited from Giaccherini? "He deosn't fit the system".. Well, make him fit. That's what a good manager does.

Instead, he keeps whining about the schedule, even Hamsik's agent is singing the same tune. Probably thought Hamsik was finally gonna win something so he can market him in England and get a few bucks. Pathetic.

How can you win when your camp is making silly excuses all the time?

I said it before and I say it now, see you all in May.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 3:47am
Sarri should go to a team whose owner has more brains then DeLaurentiis. I don't know wtf he's doing at Napoli other then ruining his career.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 2:10am
Napoli is undeserving of the scudetto in any case, due to their.... lack of heart, grit, guts whatever your adjective, in the European competitions. Giving up against Leipzig was a disgrace. Its their managements problem if they think they lack team rotation whatsoever... certainly Giacherini could have spelled Callejon or others for some some point in the campaign. Sarri is lacking smarts in squad management.
on the 6th March, 2018 at 12:21am
Of course Juve are the scudetto kings, it's the only competition they are able to win. Anyway, the Italian Serie A is turning into a joke because there's no competition whatsoever.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 10:14pm
When the race was between 4 teams (maybe 5 with Lazio), the last rival I expected to stay up this long was Napoli.

We had our rough patch already, and obviously things can still go wrong for us afterwards (miss Pipita).
It's only Napoli's 2nd loss, but it's also Mr no rotations. This may have broken the camel's back.
After making good progress for a while, Roma suddenly couldn't get results. Maybe it's EDF's inexperience in a big team.
As for Icardi FC... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
on the 5th March, 2018 at 9:34pm
I don't know what to expect of our match against Spurs. If it's a loss, I doubt we have to wait for summer to realise who'll be on the market. I refused to believe Dybala's dramatic goal against Lazio, and hopefully I'll be as happy on Wednesday night.

Napoli choked first and it's the reaction that will decide if they can still go the distance. Despite that, if their words are to be taken at face value I think their mentality don't show positive signs for them.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 9:23pm
There is a long way to go yet but my fingers are crossed Juve pull it off. What a team, what a city! Forza Juve!!
on the 5th March, 2018 at 9:16pm
There is a video on YT showing all the napoli fans who were already at the San Paolo, while the Juve game was finishing. They're all celebrating our draw and then they all see the Dybala goal pop up on their The other video is Napolitano news broadcaster hugging and kissing people,thinking Juve were going to draw. Then the Dybala goal happened.
on the 5th March, 2018 at 6:59pm
Yes, Juve are, still the Scudetto kings!Lazio played very defensive at HOME, and while Juve were their normal boring selves, they still at least tried to attack at times,and deserve their win....Napoli on the other hand.....JUST THREW AWAY THE SCUDETTO!I think their players were watching the game and thought Juve were going to drop points,probably celebrated slightly,and when Dybala scored,their heads dropped...Having said that,they took the led and should have managed the game,but FAILED!
on the 5th March, 2018 at 6:31pm
We have to play Atalanta first on the 14th March. If we can win that game, we'll go 2 points clear and be in the driving seat. Forza Juve finoalafine!!
on the 5th March, 2018 at 6:23pm

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