Tuesday December 17 2013
Lightning Juventus streak clear

They might not be able to progress in Europe, but they are still too strong for Serie A. Giancarlo Rinaldi reports on how Juve moved clear in another tempestuous round of matches. 

It was a long weekend that seemed to increase its intensity like a rumble of thunder. It started almost imperceptibly with a low-key goalless clash between Catania and Verona but built to a cracking crescendo across Sunday and Monday.  When the storm had settled it was Juventus, as always, who seemed to emerge unscathed.

There is a bit of the big fish in a small pond syndrome here as the Bianconeri can crush opponents at will on the domestic front but fail to do so in Europe. That is not such a new phenomenon for the club as it used to happen fairly regularly back in the 1970s. Antonio Conte's side is throttling the life out of Serie A again this year but they need something to click on their continental campaigns if they are to do themselves justice on a more important stage.

They took out their disappointment at Champions League elimination with a suitably ruthless dispatching of Sassuolo in a game shifted to Sunday after Juve's unwanted icy extension to their stay in Turkey. Carlos Tevez - who hasn't scored in Europe's top competition in something like 5,000 years (I may have exaggerated a little) - was the main executioner with a tremendous hat-trick. Nonetheless, it is hard not to agree with Angelo Di Livio when he says this version of the Turin giants is not - for the time being at least - comparable with the one he played for.

Regardless of that fact, they remain in total control of the Serie A scene. Events even played out in their favour in a gripping and sometimes grouchy Monday night battle at the San Siro. Closest rivals Roma were held to a draw by a Milan side which finally showed some of the spirit their fans have accused them of lacking in recent times. The return of Francesco Totti to action from the substitutes’ bench was a major tonic for the Giallorossi, but not enough to give them the three points they craved.

Twice the visitors took the lead - through Mattia Destro and a Kevin Strootman penalty - but twice they were hauled back thanks to goals from such unlikely sources as Cristian Zapata and Sulley Muntari. It was as much about guts as guile for Max Allegri’s men and they showed a stomach for the fight which has seemed missing in many past encounters. Maybe being the only Italian side in the last 16 of the Champions League has finally convinced them they are not quite as poor a side as everyone keeps telling them they are.

On Sunday night, Napoli emerged victorious from another goal feast which seems to have become standard fare in Italy this season. Walter Mazzarri and Rafa Benitez were facing their managerial past when Inter visited the San Paolo. It was the Spaniard who left smiling while the Tuscan spat his fury - as he always seems to do in defeat - at a match which he felt his team dominated but left empty handed.

There was some justification to his claims but this Neapolitan side is ruthless in taking its chances and the Nerazzurri defence is becoming more generous than Santa. The Partenopei have the kind of finishers any team would envy and only another penalty save from Samir Handanovic from Goran Pandev kept the scoreline to just 4-2. A by-the-book but match-spoiling red card for Ricky Alvarez for handball when there was just a goal between the sides all but decided the game.

That defeat for Inter allowed Fiorentina to sneak up to fourth spot with a sumptuous success over woeful Bologna. Josip Ilicic started efforts to justify his hefty transfer fee with the opener followed by beauties from Borja Valero and Giuseppe Rossi. The Derby of the Appenines was all downhill for the Viola after that.

Elsewhere, Miro Klose eased the pressure on Vlad Petkovic with a double to give Lazio victory over Livorno. Torino sneaked further up the table with an away win over Udinese and the Sinisa Mihajlovic effect continued to produce results for Samp with a vital win over Chievo in the lower reaches. Parma and Cagliari and Genoa and Atalanta shared the spoils in their matches to make another little step each towards survival.

There are now just three games left before Serie A hits its halfway point and it would be easy to jump to conclusions at both ends of the table. Catania could already be consigned to Serie B and we could start stitching another Scudetto onto Juve’s shirts. But that ignores the fact that there is still plenty of action to take place in what is proving a riotous season for goalmouth action. And, of course, the new year kicks off with the little matter of the Bianconeri going toe-to-toe with Roma in a match no Calcio connoisseur can afford to miss.

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Have your say...
Maldini's Heir, Monty just hasn't been the same since he came back from injury late last season, away to Siena. Up to that point, he had been superb. Could it beconfidence, fitness, or Allegri fielding him several positions? For me, he is at his best when playing in front of the defence. Unfortunately for him, Allegri prefers playing NDJ in this position.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 1:12pm
I was so cheering for Milan to win their game, but given they scored 2 open play goals to Roma's single open play goal, they did win. :-) Juve began this season with new players, with a lot of growing pains, and I think a little "winners fatigue." I'm not happy about the way they went out of the CL, but I know next season will be much better.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 12:32pm
Untill the other clubs get new stadiums Juve will continue to dominate.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:35am
so what?
juve is by far the best team in italy. the one to blame for the CL exit is conte, and only conte by holding on to his 532 system. 2 reasons it works in serie a: 1) serie a barely's got fast wingers to double/ attack the back three. 2) juves individuell class allows them to win with almost every formation. why doesent it work in the CL: 1) teams are equally good, no advantage through individuell skill. 2) fast wingers like ribery, bale, ronaldo mess up the back three. u read conte?
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:34am
Monty carried on his poor form and Balo was visibly frustrated with the ineptitude around him. It still frustrates that Milan could've offloaded Allegri to Roma over the summer but instead Roma got Garcia. What he has done with that side and a few key signings (they spent 13m on Benatia we spent 11m on Matri) is remarkable. Lets hope Milan can rally themselves for the derby but like most games these days I do not fancy our chances.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:20am
In the league, Juve are so solid & consistent. The defeat against Fiorentina was a freak result. Roma have paid the price for not making the the most of their numerous chances (whilst being 1 goal up), & keep allowing their opponents back into the game. A win for Juve, in January vs Roma, could see the title already wrapped up. This will be disappointing for those that want to see the title fight going to the wire. Roma need to be more clinical & have to hope the EL will disrupt Juve's rhythm.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:19am
Roma were such a tighter unit and moved the ball so much better. Milan were slow with and without the ball. It really is shocking. One positive is that Bonera is not that bad since he's been back and Mexes is finally out of the team (although still collecting a massive pay check on the bench). The team was so much better with 2 up front. Its a shame that the goals keep coming from Muntari because he's actually pretty poor otherwise and should not be playing alongside De Jong.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:17am
The upcoming Juve v Roma game is going to be fascinating. Now that Juve are effectively out of Europe I'd consider them favourites to make it 3 in a row but Roma were really good last night and quite unlucky. Milan were their usual terrible selves but with a bit of luck. It has to be a concern when Matt Holland is pointing out the tactical flaws in Allegri's formation: the one that leaves a massive gap between midfield and defence and leaves them exposed on the counter attack.
on the 17th December, 2013 at 11:15am
As juve fan I have to admit that we're not yet ready for the UCL. But also we're not lucky in this year's CL because in all the six games we played, we dominated our oponent and create so many scoring chances. So, juve was very unlucky to play europa leaguae. And when it comes to seria A, we've 90% chance of lifting it again where as the remaing 10% goes to Roma and Napoli. As 4 the europa final going to take place at our arena, it'll be a great achievement to be among the finalist. Forza juve!!
on the 17th December, 2013 at 10:53am

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