Given that Juventus have won the Scudetto for the past seven seasons in a row, many outsiders have dismissed Serie A as a one team league.
Certainly if one looks only at the raw numbers the conclusion is pretty damning. Only BATE Borisov can boast more consecutive title wins, having just won the Belarusian title for the 13th year in a row. The team in Europe who can match the Bianconeri’s current run are Celtic, who have won the Scottish Premiership for the last seven seasons.
In truth though Juve’s remarkable run hasn’t been uncontested, with the Old Lady pushed hard in the majority of cases. They may have won the 2011-12 Scudetto unbeaten under Antonio Conte, but Milan finished just four points behind at the title was only decided in the penultimate round, when the Rossoneri lost to city rivals Inter.
Two seasons later Roma won their first 10 games of the season and finished with 85 points, only to be denied by a Juventus team which amassed 102, winning 33 of their 38 games.
Max Allegri’s side started poorly in 2015-16 and needed a ridiculous run of 25 wins in 26 games to be crowned champions once again. In the following season both Napoli and Roma achieved record points totals, with Juve needed 91 to win the Scudetto by four points.
The winning margin was the same last season, with the Bianconeri pushed even harder. Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli got 91 points, losing only three times all season and beating Allegri’s men in Turin. Again though the men from Turin were ruthless, taking the title by four points after dropping only 18 across the whole campaign.
To conclude from this that Serie A is easy for the Old Lady is to disrespect not only her challengers, but also the historic success which is being achieved in Turin. This season though, there may be some truth to those previously erroneous claims.
Juventus currently lead the league by 11 points, having dropped only two points from their opening 14 games. They’ve scored 31 goals in that time, the best record in the division, and conceded only eight - also the best in the top flight.
Inter’s draw with Roma last night means they travel to Turin on Friday with a double figure deficit, and anything but a win would surely eliminate Luciano Spalletti’s men from the Scudetto equation.
In that context, Napoli’s trip to Atalanta tonight already has the feeling of a must-win game. The Partenopei can reduce the gap to eight points if they win this game in hand, and with Frosinone to come on Saturday they’d be ideally place to take advantage of any Juve misstep in the Derby d’Italia.
Fail to win though and they’d also trail Juventus by double figures, and while there’s plenty of football left to be played it’s almost impossible to imagine such a winning machine would let that lead slip. Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina warned the league could be over in April, but it may realistically be over before the Christmas panettone.
Bergamo is a tough place to go for any team, and Carlo Ancelotti will not relish taking on the Orobici in a match with such pressure on it. Napoli haven’t even started badly, with just two draws and two defeats, one of which came in Turin. With Juve in this kind of form though, a good start isn’t enough.
Juventus have a tough December, while Napoli take on Frosinone, Cagliari and Spal after tonight’s game. But it already feels like win or bust in Bergamo.