Italian Serie A Becoming A Three-Horse Race
With their win over Chievo Verona, Juventus have propelled themselves nine points above second place AS Roma, and that much closer to a third consecutive Serie A title. Yet, the Bianconeri are not alone at the top. Both Roma and SSC Napoli are withing shouting distance of the title holders, and with 14 games left in the season, anything can happen.
All three won on Sunday: the aforementioned 3-1 Juve win over Chievo, while Roma bested Sampdoria 3-0 and Napoli trumped Sassuolo 2-0. None of these fixtures were particularly challenging, but at this leg in the race, dropping points is not an option.
Neither Juventus nor Roma have lost more than one game, while Lupe have a game in hand over Juve and maintain the possibility of closing the gap to six points. This would be a surprisingly manageable distance to overcome given Juve’s complete dominance this season.
Not only has Roma played one less game than the league leaders, the capital-based club also will benefit from not playing in a European tournament this season, a luxury it will not have next year. Okay, I know that sounds strange. Both Juve and Napoli were knocked out of the Champions League, but as third-place sides, which means they will continue on in the Europa League. While any European football is nothing to scoff at, the Europa League is the less prestigious cousin of the two and the fixture pile-up, should either team progress far, will be a hindrance domestically.
If Roma are able to capitalize on this advantage, they could be able to make a late push for their first Serie A title since 2000-01. Their old guard of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are the core of the team, yet both are on the back end of their careers. It is hard to say how long either will be able to continue, and each would love to bring the title back to Rome before they hang up their boots.
Napoli are the dark horses, and despite having a slim chance, it would take a miracle for them to overcome Juve to reach the top. A more reasonable goal for them is to finish above Roma in order to claim automatic qualification into the Champions League next year. With players like Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, Napoli can make it happen; whether they will is another story.
As for Juventus, the northern Italian giants control their own destiny, and there is no other club so calm while under that sort of pressure. Week after week, they win and win convincingly. When it seems that they will get complacent, they come out an crush the opposition. As a team, they can rotate players without losing a step, and their two going on three-year dominance is a testament to their focus on the collective instead of the individual.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season shapes up. Can Juve make it a three-peat? Can Roma return the title to the nation’s capitol? Can Napoli reach the second spot in the table, or with a miracle, bring the club its first-ever league title?
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