Sunday January 12 2020
Passing the Scudetto tests

Inter and Lazio had difficult tasks ahead this weekend and Football Italia Chief Correspondent Richard Hall marks their exam papers.

When at school, your biggest exams are just before half-term and on your final day of education. The Serie A fixture list for 2019-20 seems to have created a similar situation.

We reach the midway mark of the season with a potentially pivotal weekend. Lazio were pushed all the way by struggling Napoli, eventually setting a new club record of 10 consecutive victories thanks to a David Ospina howler, with that man Ciro Immobile ready to pounce, as always. Rene Higuita would have looked on with pride as the Colombian goalkeeper inexplicably gave the ball away while trying to dribble the current Capocannoniere.

Hosting Atalanta at San Siro is arguably a far bigger test than Napoli nowadays, and it’s perhaps the first time we have seen Inter comprehensively out-played. Just days after Antonio Conte angrily rejected Fabio Capello’s suggestion they were a defend-and-counter team, the joint Serie A leaders spent the entire second half pinned into their own final third.

Many have been questioning the Aquile’s ability to sustain a title challenge. The obvious strength in depth of the squad has been the main element of contention, but as the games roll on, they continue to impress.

The jury is still out on whether Simone Inzaghi’s side could actually manage to limp on should they lose Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile or the influential Luis Alberto. So far, the signs are good and the fixture list a favourable one for Lazio. Apart from the Rome Derby, which is always unpredictable, they have Sampdoria, SPAL, Hellas Verona and Parma before the epic showdown with Inter on February 16.

Perhaps not enough is made of their defence, with only 17 goals conceded, only Inter have conceded fewer. They have the perfect mix at this moment in time and should be seen as genuine contenders. Against Napoli, they were far from perfect, but they got over the line.

Getting over the line has been Inter’s problem for some years now, but with Antonio Conte at the helm, they are many people’s favourites to win Serie A. They welcomed an Atalanta side that had hammered Milan 5-0 before the winter break and then destroyed Parma 5-0 just after it.

With 49 goals, Le Dea are the most prolific team in Italy and arguably the most entertaining to watch. Gian Piero Gasperini’s brand of free-flowing attractive football has won many admirers and Inter were certainly wary. The draw was perhaps the correct result, although many will point out that this could have been very different had Lautaro Martinez’s rugby tackle not evaded VAR.

The truth is, Inter did not play anywhere near the standards they have been doing in recent weeks and yet they defended against a very serious and capable side. Admittedly, Samir Handanovic’s penalty heroics were needed on Luis Muriel, but in any campaign, moments like this are essential.

Lecce, Cagliari and Udinese are winnable games coming up with the Milan Derby on February 9 being less of an obstacle than in previous years. That being said, The Derby Della Madonnina does not count for form or ability, it is always played as an occasion.

Juventus can become the sole Winter Champions with a victory away to Roma this evening, but there is also the far from impossible idea of a defeat giving Inter the Scudetto d’Inverno instead. After all, Maurizio Sarri has lost only two games on the Bianconeri bench and they were both against Lazio, so why not suffer at the Olimpico again?

The truly fascinating part of this fixture list is that it will be reversed for the final day of the season. Imagine where these sides will all be when they face off again with everything on the line? We’ll have Atalanta hosting Inter in the passionate atmosphere of the revamped Gewiss Stadium, Lazio at the Stadio San Paolo in what could by then be a head-to-head for Champions League places and Juventus taking on Roma in Turin. Can there be any bigger tests?

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Have your say...
It always pains me when I go on my rants because there (probably ;) ) are SOME cool, rational Inter, Juve, Milan fans.

Roma this year got outplayed by:
Lazio, Atalanta, Parma, Verona, Inter (though all your real chances only came from Roma LITERALLY MAKING YOU PASSES!).
I won't name Juve as that game could've easily finished differently --(3-2 for R, 3-1 for J...)

--Now you do Inter!
How many times did you deserved draw yet got a win??
Cagliari outplayed INTER, not Roma. We killed them!
on the 14th January, 2020 at 7:10pm
@USofTotti, what’s your problem with conte’s inter?
Inter fans are feeling good with where we are at the moment. Conte has improved our players tremendously. Scudetto is difficult but within reach. Shouldn’t you be more concerned about your club first?
Unlike atalanta, roma were very lucky to get draw in meazza, only 1 half chance all game. Got outplayed in all their matches against top 6, including cagliari & parma.
You should be jealous of lazio, bright future ahead w/o being a supermarket.
on the 14th January, 2020 at 12:37am
Atalanta’s WB & CBs were much more involved in building up the play. Might not be that good in their defending skills, but they have smooth passing skills to keep the possession & maintain the momentum in their favor. The usual tactic of early pressure from the strikers to force mistake just didn’t work.
This is where we missed skriniar, barella, & asamoah who posses better passing skills.
Conte should’ve taken more risks in the 2nd half, bring in politano for gagli/biraghi, not for lautaro.
on the 14th January, 2020 at 12:09am
Inter were lacked the initiative to change momentum of the game. This is the 2nd game inter got outplayed after losing to Juve. After watching the replay, it should’ve been penalty for atalanta & yellow for lautaro. If the score was 1-1 at half time perhaps we would’ve more urgency to attack in 2nd half, and produce much better performance. But atalanta deserve full credit, they manage to stay as the top teams, not just 1 season wonder. They also outplayed both Lazio & Juve but didn’t win.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 11:49pm
@ AC Milan Fan

I'll do you one better
--Every objective Serie A fan wants ATALANTA to win it :).

(Now, don't reply with Parma as I'll counter with Sinisa's Bologna!)

Seriously, I was refering to Inter VS Juve.

A team everyone hates because of their power...
Always poaching talents from other Serie A teams...
Getting Superstars for FREE...
Scared refs affraid to whistle against them...
Winning 8 years in a row...

YET STILL, 95 % agree, better them than Inter.
This speaks volumes! :(
on the 13th January, 2020 at 11:20pm
@U.S. of Totti. Sorry, every objective fan wants Lazio to win the Scudetto.

@Anonymous. If you're dig is against "Yanks" in general, I'd refer you to record setting Liverpool, also owned by Yanks. Let's see what happens in the end, but if they win the EPL with record points without losing a game and retain the CL they may go down as one the greatest sides in Euro football history thanks to Yanks with less "slush" money than the saintly Arabs and Russians England seems to love.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 8:36pm
Right now
deserve CL places.

But we're only at half of the season!
Roma can still get there, especially with 2-3 January purchases.
And if some of our injured players return...
(You & Conte have no idea what TRUE injury crisis looks like, my friend.)

May the best team win & best teams get to CL places.
(Unlike 2 years ago when, in last game of the season with ref's help, Inter STOLE Lazio's place!)
on the 13th January, 2020 at 7:09pm
Anonym, no other Inter fan talks about Palomino's red.
I wonder why?

I wrote minutes next to "incidents" so that you & others can check how BIASED you are.
Again, for me NONE OF THESE ARE REDS...
But players need to be more careful; if ref is corrupt or "strict" he can give a red for that.

So, what is the difference between Palomono & Barella's tackle (in Napoli game)? Was that also a red?

About Lautaro's pen
--Irrati, designator for that game's VAR, got SUSPENDED!!!
Do you understand???
on the 13th January, 2020 at 6:54pm
As much as Laturo should of been called for a PK, Atalanta had their chance late in the game and was stopped. Exciting game to watch, this season will go down to the wire.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 4:05pm
Ha Ha Ha, head ref said Inter were favoured by the ref. Martinez should have been hang,drawn and quartered. No other tackle rated a mention so Anonymouses theory that it wasn't penalty becauce an Atalanta player should have a red card before hand doesn't fly. Nice try but "computer says NO". Valliant effort but better luck next time old chumps.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 1:02pm
@ Toby - Get a grip. Everything goes in cycles, style of football..etc..not the future. Coaches are in place 1 or 2 years and gone. Last I checked, games are won by the side who put the ball in the net the most times. The fact is the future is $$$$ and the future has been here for 40 years! Clubs that can spend EUR 100m + on a player and EUR 50m on wages - Man City, P$G - this is how you win. Buying the best players available - That is the past, the present and the future my friend.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 6:03am
@ USA Botti - .But Inter have only lost to Juventus in Seria A this season - so what are you rambling on about? Atalanta are a very good side, good coach etc. Roma will not make CL this season and the yanks will use the club as their slush fund as they done at Man Utd.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 5:58am
@ United States of Botti - The guy d Laturo before Laturo fouled him. The ref therefore allowed to continue. Get over it. What has the timing got to do with it? It was a red all day long. The media are not saying Atalanta will win the league that is difference. Comparisons are not fair this season. All Juventus rivals have been hanstrung by 10 years of corrupt Platinis Farcical Fair Play. There is no way they can compete on the same level. Ref gave a penalty for a clear dive, hope the guy walks
on the 13th January, 2020 at 5:55am
What deserves a a penalty more, someone grabbing a players ankle in a goal scoring moment or a player unintentionally keeping the ball in play with a hand? And you still have one-eye Inter fans complaining about refs being imperfect.
on the 13th January, 2020 at 4:49am
Following on. Conte was complaining that Atalanta has had four years to gel. True! But how many of Gasperini's players would he take to Inter? My bet is ZERO.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 6:48pm
As much as I like that Serie A is more interesting than in a long time - Antonio Conte's brand of football is not the future. Its not 2012 anymore. Next year all teams will have an antidote to the fast turn-arounds and Lukaku-targetting. They need to win this year, or Conte need to change, because they are playing a game that does not promote creativity and speed. Of course they will always grind their points, but its not a long term winning philosophy. Look and learn at what Gasperini has done.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 6:46pm
What are you implying? That Inter was unlucky & should have won yesterday??

Ref and luck saved YOU.
It wasn't other way around!

And Conte again complained.
Yeah, you drew because you don't have 50+ superstar players on bench, poor Inter...

How may options does Atalanta have?
Roma? Lazio?
Did you play Juve yesterday???

--It just shows how likable your coach & your fans are!!!
on the 12th January, 2020 at 6:42pm
OMG Anonymous,

For those who don't know what Anonym is talking about; Palomino's yellow happened in 42nd minute... RIGHT AFTER ATALANTA WAS DENIED A CRYSTAL CLEAR PENALTY!!!

That wasn't a red!

Now Anonym, go watch Napoli-Inter game.
81st minute Sensi elbowing Allan.
61st minute Barella, as you put it, "attempting to injure" Allan.
By your math these two should have been reds as well, no?
Allan was also injured prior!
on the 12th January, 2020 at 6:26pm
If you won games by the hitting the wood work, Napoli would be on top of the ladder.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 4:34pm
Soft penalties for Lazio, when and where? Just yesterday there was this incident which went unnoticed, Lazio has received penalties because of their style of play, movement from players such as Correa and Immobile and it's certainly not down to luck. Red cards for Cistana and Cuadrado? Both were clear as well. So let's not try to explain this historic series of victories by complaining about their luck.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 3:43pm
Injury time winners might be seen as luck or as a consequence of having a team that never gives up and fights until the final whistle. In Lazio's case it is very much the second of the two. The fact that an unheralded striker like Caicedo can make an impact late on is not down to luck but down to his desire to give his all for the team in any number of minutes that he gets on the pitch. The squad is united and seem to be able to win when playing well or not as well which shows their spirit.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 3:04pm
....and many will point that Palamonia should have got a straight red in the 1st half for the tackle from behind that could have left Sensi out for 6 months. Laturo's fould should have been a penalty and the poor sod Bastoni acosted, such obvious agony, all that rolling around I hope he recovers for the start of next season.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 2:46pm
It is an interesting season. But, Juventus are going to win the championship, this is just as true today as it was at the start of the season. They have last season's squad, including possibly the EUR 110m GOAT. Judging other clubs how they compete with Juventus is not fair this season as teams need time to gell. Lazio and Atalanta have had this time and we can see the results. Roma and Napoli will need time and Inter's Seria A season so far has been fantastic, only one loss.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 2:35pm
Lady luck has never ever been so kind as she has been for Lazio this season.
It is said they were unlucky vs Inter and Roma (true), but they forget that have been lucky week in week out for months now (no injuries, soft penalties, red cards for opponent, howlers from opponents, multiple injury time winners).
Once that luck runs out, the Lazio eagle will most certainly land back on earth with both feet, as this amount of luck is unsustainable.
on the 12th January, 2020 at 2:11pm

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