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Saturday August 1 2020
Best of the rest

Going into the final round, Inter, Atalanta and Lazio could all take second place, as Vijay Rahaman outlines their credentials for that silver medal.

This weekend sees this long season come to an end and one of the matters still to be determined is the race for second place. Currently Inter hold a one-point advantage on Atalanta and Lazio, but two of those three go head-to-head in Bergamo tonight, while the Biancocelesti visit Napoli. Not a bad way to end the season…

The question is, which of these three actually deserve to have the title of ‘Best of the rest?’

All have one time or another flirted with the idea of a real Scudetto battle with champions Juventus, but as has been the case so often in recent years, their light flickered, but did not burn bright enough.

Of them, it can be argued that Lazio have been the most disappointing in terms of the title tilt. Until the stoppage of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Le Aquile were dreaming of a first league title for 20 years. They were in fine form, playing an exciting brand of quick counter-attacking football and were just a point behind the Bianconeri.

In addition to which, they had beaten the Piedmont club on both occasions that they met this year, including in the Supercoppa Italiana, by a 3-1 margin each time. They clearly showed they had the ability, tactical nous and mental toughness to handle the juggernaut that is Juve. It might be simplistic to just say that they simply folded after the resumption of play, but ultimately that's what occurred.

They can be proud however of the fact that after years of dropping off the pace in the second half of the season, that they at least made it back to the Champions League for the first time in 13 years.

Of the three teams, Inter had changed the most last summer. They brought in Antonio Conte to ironically try and break the dominance of La Vecchia Signora, which the Lecce native himself started in 2012. A host of new and expensive recruits to the playing staff brought a renewed sense of taking that next step after years of growth under former manager Luciano Spalletti. Ultimately, they flattered to deceive.

It is quite telling however, that Conte himself said that "second place was the first of the losers, and ultimately meaningless." What motivation does that give to his charges as they prepare to face the best attack in the country? With a Europa League fixture against Getafe in just four days’ time, is it even worth it for il Biscione to care about beating the Bergamaschi and guarantee finishing second?

Conte was brought in to win trophies. The club were unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League group stage, lost to eventual winners Napoli in the Coppa Italia semi-finals. The idea of actually winning a first European trophy for a decade must be a huge motivation, especially for Conte, whose credentials as a manager in continental play is low. All the talk of Sandro Tonali and Leo Messi (as far-fetched as that is) can be put on hold.

Inter’s final test is a head-to-head with Atalanta, the club that has been defying belief in recent years. Following their qualification for the Champions League and subsequent progression at least to the last eight, they confirmed it was no fluke by making it into the top four again. Their all-out attacking football based on incessant pressing, quick passing and the penchant for the spectacular has thrilled fans around the world.

In contrast to Conte, Gian Piero Gasperini has built up the idea of finishing runners up, stating "it would be prestigious." Make no mistake about it, Atalanta are enjoying mixing it with the big boys both in Italy and in Europe. Making it into Europe's most prestigious competition in consecutive campaigns is a source of pride in itself and considering their wage bill and general stature in football history, finishing behind the Bianconeri would be another giant growth step.

Considering they face a rusty PSG in 11 days’ time, the clash with Inter will present an ideal opportunity to prepare. Gasp can use the match to decide who replaces first choice Josip Ilicic in the line-up, after the Slovenian returned home to deal with a personal matter. As we've seen though, no matter the competition, whether it's home or away and regardless of the match situation, Atalanta only know one way to play, so fully expect them to go all out to try and beat Inter and leapfrog them into the second position.

All three of Inter, Atalanta and Lazio have compelling arguments as to why they should and deserve to finish second, but ultimately, the medium to long term ambitions are what will matter in the end.

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Have your say...
The next year will be the year of Lazio if they radically changed themselves into it. Keep your style okay but why parted with felipe anderson; he was huge influencer, fan favourite and a pacey winger. Buy depay then atleast and make statement signing. Immobile need a lethal partner other than super-sub caicedo. And leiva needs a by stand to hold with.
on the 7th August, 2020 at 4:42am
Honestly out of the top 4 as much as i love Juve, didnt think they deserved it this year. they where consistent enough through the league and didnt go through the bad patch of form the others teams did ( on that note they deserved it) but they made it off individual brilliance. Atalanta Lazio and Inter all played better football.
Not sure about Sarri yet ( i'll like to see him another year) but maybe with players more suited to this play style ( hopefully Arthur will be his jorginho.
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 3:52am
Conte is likely to leave after the latest outburst and that's for the better. Inter only finished 2nd because Lazio and Atalanta didn't have enough depth to maintain their level while playing every 3 days, otherwise they would have finished 4th.
His tactics are outdated and his personal style is too aggressive, sending awesome players out packing or deciding to not play them, like Eriksen.
He needs to go so Inter can get a better coach that can the best out of this players.
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 1:46am
Sunning has deep pockets and Conte likes to spend it. Lazio and Atalanta have been inspirimg but can they compete financially?
Milan has realized that they can be a competetive club but will Elliot management spend for more talent: Yet to be determined. Roma's owner must decide just how much he wants to spend in Italy to succeed, while Napoli waits in the wings building a young exciting team: ie Osimhen.
Regardless it should be a great new season and Juve cannot sit on its laurels.
on the 2nd August, 2020 at 3:52pm
How Serie A table would look without "Italian penalties"? It's a disgrace for football world.
footballcritic.com/news/comparing-ronaldos-penalty-total-to-other-serie-a-capocannoniere-winners/1117
sportsfinding.com/this-is-how-the-golden-boot-classification-would-go-without-penalties/52662/
on the 2nd August, 2020 at 12:01pm
The directorial and managerotial are the crossed-one. Headmaster decides how he will take his academy onwards and he provides supports for the rest. And teacher do the opposite, his sole focus is on agenda of the students not the out side of the brackets. We are always a main rival of Juventas and we are mile ahead of the rest. Milan will join the party when they're ready. Juve a dominating one, Milan the technical one and Inter : tactics&mathodology. Spalletti a small mentality.end.
on the 2nd August, 2020 at 9:33am
Sorry - Atalanta were the most deserving of 2nd/ Lazio knocked themselves out of 2 competitions including the EL (yes the EL) so they could concentrate on the league. The didnt foresee to pandemic shutdown which would result in them having to play twice a week ...the best laid schemes of mice and men....will the do the same in the CL? Wonderful for the Italian co-efficient to have clubs not trying in the CL.
on the 2nd August, 2020 at 7:51am
Agreed w/ Coppainfaccia71. Lazio were excellent. The pandemic and lack of squad depth worked against them but they matched up well against Juve in all games (unlike Inter). I'm very happy with Inter's progress esp. the new management attitude. If they can get a new stadium they can continue their path sustainably and challenge for years to come. For this season, best of the rest was clearly Lazio. Atlanta win most entertaining. Forza Inter.
on the 1st August, 2020 at 5:32pm
Lazio have clearly been best of the rest. They've picked up a trophy, beaten Juve convincingly twice and would be top if it wasnt for the Lockdown. Also no one has mentioned at Juve, Inter and Atalanta all built squads this season to compete in the Champions League, so had more depth when games were squeezed in this latter part of the season.
on the 1st August, 2020 at 12:33pm
People also need to remember it’s Contes FIRST SEASON, even Pep didn’t start winning with City until the second season.

Inter I feel will be a force next year, now with a strong back room, great manager, good funding and an already developing and great squad.

And yes, second place is for losers. His trying to install a winning mentality so I agree with this too!

Forza Inter!!
on the 1st August, 2020 at 12:30pm
Some may think this year for Inter and conte has been a flop but people need to look at it like this:

1. It’s the highest position/points tally Inter have finished in many years now.
2. They have lost fewer games than any other team in the league with the 2nd best goal difference.
3. They are evidently playing better football this year even after the radical changes to the team and shipping out some of our best players in Icardi, Perisic and Nainggolan.
on the 1st August, 2020 at 12:26pm
Some may think this year for Inter and conte has been a flop but people need to look at it like this:

1. It’s the highest position/points tally Inter have finished in many years now.
2. They have lost fewer games than any other team in the league with the 2nd best goal difference.
3. They are evidently playing better football this year even after the radical changes to the team and shipping out some of our best players in Icardi, Perisic and Nainggolan.
on the 1st August, 2020 at 12:25pm

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