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.
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow