Monday December 3 2018
Can Napoli save the Scudetto race?

Tonight's trip to Atalanta already has the feel of a must-win game for the Partenopei, writes Gaby McKay.

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.

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Have your say...
Why not to employ foreign referees? Inter-Napoli was disaster, I did not see these 2 (two) red cards against Napoli besides referee ego against ADL.
on the 27th December, 2018 at 2:09pm
The answer is: Can ADF save the Agnelli race?
on the 7th December, 2018 at 2:23pm
@Jono Roma didn't want to buy W. Szczesny after his 2 seasons as best keeper in Serie A on loan. Did Juve cheated buying Wojtek from Arsenal for $12M ?
on the 7th December, 2018 at 2:22pm
What race? Lol and the simple answer is No.
on the 5th December, 2018 at 8:20pm
@John Smith. It's not about the money. It's about the bureaucracy. In Italy nothing can get done easily. To build a stadium you need to own land (and getting land in Italy for a large project such as a stadium is a BIG deal), get approval from 10 different councils and departments and the Pope. We're talking about the original Latins, remember. Complain about everything and then say no to solutions. Maybe they can find a way to blame migrants for the lack of new stadiums? -5 Star Movement.
on the 5th December, 2018 at 8:13pm
The scudetto race IS done and dusted !

Unless Juve lose 4 games in a row while Napoli win 4 games in a row then it’ll be interesting.

Last seasons Napoli were incredible. Don’t think they’ll ever be that consistently great again. They truly deserved to win league... but stumbled at finish line.

Thing to watch is Juves run to CL final... and if Napoli can make it to next round.
on the 4th December, 2018 at 2:11am
There is no scudetto race, stop lying to yourselves.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 11:10pm
The league as a whole is stronger now tho. There r many promising young Italians n the coaches r still the best in the world. I've noticed more high quality stranieri r starting 2 choose Italy as a destination again 2. It's just 4 every Ronaldo there's a Bari. Italy is football 2 me tho. It's a way of life so if clubs can build better grounds n compete again then hopefully the fans will return n then not every club will only need a 40.000 ground. Forza Serie A.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 10:32pm
Still. Even in the 90's it wa Milan or Juve who'd come out on top but back then whoever won Serie A meant u wa arguably best team in world n there wa many clubs challenging like Napoli n Inter in late 80's n Parma, Sampdoria, Lazio, Fiorentina n Roma in 90's n early 2000's. If Milan n Inter can buy San Siro(Hope they don't dismantle it 2 much!) n if Roma, Napoli n Fiorentina can follow suit or build new stadia then Serie A can get back 2 where it belongs.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 10:24pm
Until the other Serie A clubs own their stadiums n are run better then I can't see anyone competing with Juve(bar maybe a fluke) Look at Roma. One of Juve's main challengers who have 2 sell key men every year! On the + side the more Italian teams do well in the CL then the more Serie A is recognized as a strong league. Inter look a bit 1 dimensional n Napoli always seem 2 juat fall short. I hope they get thro the CL group this time but history suggests they'll go out on GD or something!
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 10:12pm
This is the 2nd time in a row in this fixture that Inter have had refereeing "help" against Roma. They buy Nangolan inatead of keeping Zaniolo, pass on Cancelo and can't sign Modric their judgement is the worst. And apparently according to some Inter fan they only lost to Atalanta becauce Juve are corrupt.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 9:46pm
Inter cheat and still can't will.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 9:29pm
Roma lost Naingollan / Strootman / Alisson.
Napoli lost Ghoulam (injury) / Jorginho / Reina.

Juve got CR7.

Look at the squad depth. Look at the coaches. Look at the time the players have played together. Look at the leaders in the team. Apart from Ancelotti coaching Napoli, Juve are head and shoulders above the rest in every category.

Inter are the only other top 4 team that strengthened their position. It's not rocket science.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 8:00pm
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 7:30pm
It is fair to say that Juventus has invested heavily which positioned themselves as top team in Serie A with no club to match. If only the other clubs had invested the same then there would be others win the scudetto. management and good investment brings out good results, however, it would of been great for Juve, Azzurri and Italian football in general if Juventus had invested in Italian young talents. let us realize that the starting 11 majority of foreigners, that is shame on Juve.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 5:17pm
Seeing Inter's performance in league & CL it's laughable to hint they can challenge for the Scudetto.
Napoli failed to get a striker in summer & Milik isn't delivering. They dominate games but fail to put it to bed & in absence of true number 9 (like Italy) squander a lot of opportunities.
Even if Napoli can push Juve until final rounds, it's Juve's league to lose. Barring any mid-season crisis/injuries it's difficult to envision letting go Scudetto this season again.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 4:12pm
Juve cheat. They've been cheating for years, and that's how they win. When they're behind or tied, suddenly the calls start coming in and Juve gets phantom penalties and the other team takes a ridiculous red card.

Sadly, no team can beat Juve because no team in Serie A can bribe more than they can (and let's face it, most of the other teams in Serie A would rather lose than resort to bribery). Juve never win in Europe because they can't bribe their way to the top. Juve are the shame of Italy.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 3:36pm
Whatever is said here, in the end Serie A's strength can only be measured in Europe. If Juve is to be dismissed for failing to win UCL then so be it. That's THE objective this season and it's too late to raise doubts around Allegri.

Roma have disappointed against Madrid, but they've qualified, and not long ago beat Barca.
Napoli might qualify above Liverpool in a group with PSG.
Inter might qualify above Spurs.

They all must challenge champions, not just in Italy.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 3:34pm
A well written article. Juve have been pushed to the pin of their collars by Roma and Napoli over their dominant years, particuarly Napoli who have played some wonderful football. As a Juve supporter I think some of our own supporters need to acknowledge just how incredible a job Allegri has done. His confidence in his whole panel is almost unprecedented and this in itself breeds confident and winning players. His game and man management are exceptional. (Loved Saturday night BTW.)
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 3:13pm
This season is only so important. The important thing is for Napoli to get their own 45.000-50.000 seater arena. If Kalrsruhe can construct a 34.000 seater stadium for 75-80 mill, so can Napoli construct a 45.000-50.000 seater stadium for 100-150 mill.
This is not an absurd amount of money.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 2:40pm
They are trying to get Inter in the title race but even with favourable refereeing they seem to still be allergic to success.
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 2:30pm
I can only see Juve extending their lead at the top. While Napoli are a fantastic team to watch, they just don't have the know how/mental strength to see things through. They often to fail to put their opponents to the sword despite bossing them and creating numerous openings. Like Roma, they also seem to get punished for every lapse in defense. Atalanta will be a very difficult test for them tonight
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 2:13pm
The trip to Liverpool is more important now.

They have played well in the CL this season (best team in that group so far), so it'd be a shame to see them knocked out by a team that's lost 3 times already.

The teams in Italy aren't run well enough to challenge Juve. They hide behind excuses for the most part instead of dealing with their own issues first, especially their mismanagement.

Until that happens Serie A will be seen as an easy league for the champions
on the 3rd December, 2018 at 2:06pm

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