Sunday January 19 2020
The value of winning ugly

The Scudetto is ultimately decided by weekends like this, explains Giancarlo Rinaldi, as Juventus grind, Inter grumble and Lazio go wild.

It’s hard not to feel nostalgic, sometimes, for the old Sundays of Serie A. Every game kicked off in the afternoon and across a couple of hours of intense emotions, the league table shuffled around before reaching its final conclusion. Nowadays, we count ourselves lucky if the fixtures are spread over only two days and drag on from just lunchtime to bedtime on its showcase day. And, in the end, Juventus end up on top just the same.

The empty seats at the Allianz Stadium - or whatever they are calling it today - told their own story. This was not a classic weekend of top division fixtures in Italy. Sometimes, however, it is these more humdrum days that will decide the Scudetto story.

If Lazio had done their bit on Saturday to keep us interested, all eyes were on Lecce on Sunday afternoon to see if Inter could also keep up the pressure on the Bianconeri. It is these not particularly glamorous but absolutely vital clashes that pave the way for title glory. It will have worried Antonio Conte that his side could not deliver on this occasion.

The battle was lost, perhaps, but the war can still be won. It will rely upon his team learning the lessons that were delivered at the Via del Mare. When you take a lead - if you want to be champions - you can’t let it slip when one of the lesser lights has made you work so hard for it. That message was only underlined a few hours later - it felt like more - when Maurizio Sarri’s side trotted out in front of their own fans.

It wasn’t epic against Parma, but they got the job done and, of course, their superstar was at the very heart of it. Since people have started to question Cristiano Ronaldo’s contribution in Turin, he has begun to answer them with goal upon goal upon goal. Once more he has looked like the overage boy allowed to play against the Under 14s when he takes to the field in Serie A.

Roberto D’Aversa’s side - who are having a good season - only had the flicker of an Andreas Cornelius goal to trouble them with. Otherwise, the outcome was about as unpredictable as the cheesy finale of another episode of Death in Paradise.

These are matters of habit, of course, and nobody in Italy is more used to domestic triumph than La Vecchia Signora. The club embroiderer has probably got that Scudetto stitched to next season’s kit by around about October at the latest. You only have to watch Federico Bernardeschi keep nice and warm on the bench every week to understand how enormous the chasm of clout is between Juve and the rest. He would likely be a starter - and potentially a star - in at least half of the rest of the teams in the division, if not more. Instead, he has played the full 90 minutes in just a couple of Serie A games so far this season.

Maybe Inter were distracted by all the chat of who was about to arrive in the January transfer window, but this would be a grave error on their behalf. Of course their squad needs to be strengthened in order to challenge the Bianconeri’s dominance, but they have a side which should be capable of dealing with Lecce already. They have made great progress this term, but that will be of little consolation to their supporters if it does not deliver a serious bid for the title or some other trophy this season.

On the other side of the city, there was celebration at least as Milan delivered a last-gasp victory over Udinese to continue their progress up the league. Take it how you will that a lunchtime triumph over one of the division’s lowlier sides was the source of such delight to the Rossoneri. It still felt, to most outsiders at least, like a bit of a sticking plaster over wider problems at a club that should be a giant of the Italian game.

Elsewhere, only Roma could grab the three points on Sunday to put themselves right back into the Champions League discussion with every other fixture ending in a draw. And Mario Balotelli’s tempestuous return to the division unfolded with a red card in the clash with Cagliari. Some things, like Juve’s dominance and Ronaldo’s eye for goal, will never change.

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Have your say...
Somebody give Giancarlo a strong coffee and a big hug. Thats some fairly depressing stuff there lad.
The gap is only 4 points with 3 teams in great form and all in strong contention. Things could be a lot worse, The Premier league is a real disaster zone. Its so week this year that Liverpool (although rather good) are on course to win it by 25 - 30 points!
Ps, you can call it simply Juventus Stadium if you like or 'home' if you actually sneakily deep down, do love Juve a tiny little bit?
on the 24th January, 2020 at 11:28am

Yes i feel the same with you. Pjanic will never become a good regista (im kinda sick with this stupid/overrated role). He is no Pirlo but he is a top attacking midfielder with accurate short pass on his feet. He should the one who links up attack as mezz'ala from left side with Ronaldo, not Matuidi.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 8:25pm
When Sarri decides to put his own mark on Juve and play Pjanic further up the pitch then there will be no more winning ugly. You can see when he decides to play the passes vertically and connect with the forwards he can be deadly. At Juve, they waist his talents having him worry about defensive duties. I don't know what he's doing at Juve if they continue using him like this.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 6:49pm
@Pinturicchio: you are 100 % absolutely spot-on about Conte ! and you can add Quagliarella and Diego Costa to the list of strikers he has bullied out.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 4:58pm
It is only the very naive who thought Juventus would not win the championship. Inter are still to a great extent, a work in progress who are improving greatly. Lets just enjoy the season by not being over negative about the younger players. Inter are a club craving stability for 10+ years, I do not believe Conte brings stability but Suning does, and when you look at the talented young squad you have to feel optimistic.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 3:49pm
@Scottazzurri please whenever you have any other crackpot fantasies you absolutely must post them. Please share them, they are ridiculously entertaining, please don't keep them to yourself, it would be a crime.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 11:57am
Losers started blaming Conte, LOL. Without him, Inter would not be in The top 4. Why bought Young?Yes, Marrota is an idiot, Conte is an idiot and so is Zhang. They don’t want to buy top players. If u r not happy, why not donate all your assets to the club and then sulk?
on the 20th January, 2020 at 10:18am
Juventas midfield looking horrible. Rabiot preferred position is dm or in the left side. The coach kept playing him in the right to upsetting another player as well; rodrigo! Pjanic can't control the tempo all the time in dm position; he is no pirlo! Defence is not upto tempo. A 4-4-2 diamond formation from me to settle the Juve a well structered unit. Szczesny danillo de ligt chiellini/bonucci/demirai sandro ramsey(-) matuidi(_) rabiot(-) pjanic(tq) ronaldo dyabala.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 8:41am

If you've followed Conte's managerial career with even a little interest, you'd know he's not the guy who can handle personalities greater than himself. He thrives in situations where he can arrive as the Messiah, fix a broken bone, nurture a decaying plant. He can't, however, make a fully-fledged tree bear fruits again...

That's why Conte prefers fighters/soldiers than heroes/stars. That's why he bullied Del Piero out of Juventus, and why he wasn't chosen to manage CR7.

on the 20th January, 2020 at 8:30am
It is only the very naive who thought Juventus would not win the championship. Inter are still to a great extent, a work in progress who are improving greatly. Lets just enjoy the season by not being over negative about the younger players. Inter are a club craving stability for 10+ years, I do not believe Conte brings stability but Suning does, and when you look at the talented young squad you have to feel optimistic.
on the 20th January, 2020 at 6:03am
on the 20th January, 2020 at 4:07am
What an appallingly written article and such a pessimistic view. It is you and people like you that demean our league and pretend we are always "catching up". The Premier League lost a Champions League place while we gained one, who needs to catch up? Probably you!
on the 20th January, 2020 at 2:59am
Giancarlo, it saddened me a little, when I realised Inter were actually purchasing a clapped out useless piece of junk that was last seen in Manchester.

Maybe Signor Conte really has bianconeri stripes on his heart, as it seems his signings for Il Biscione seem to reinforce the notion that he is sabotaging them. Almost like he is a Juve agent.

Once upon a time, SerieA would rival LaLiga or thePremierLeague, now it is languishing and playing catch up.
on the 19th January, 2020 at 11:40pm

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