Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Serie A: January Review

The winter break has eaten much of January for Serie A sides with the season only resuming on the 19th January but we did see two rounds of league games with plenty of excellent football, quality goals and another manager waving goodbye to his job.

Juventus have pretty much picked up where they left off in 2018 by collecting 2 wins out of 2 in January sealing victories over Chievo and Lazio. Max Allegri's team have also seen their lead at the top increase to 11 points after Napoli dropped points in a goalless draw with AC Milan at the San Siro. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to deliver even in a new league with the Portuguese talisman already on 17 league goals this season and despite a slow start by his standards, he has firmly found his groove in Serie A and it would take a massive shock for Juventus not to be lifting an 8th consecutive Serie A title in May. Napoli will try to run them close but Ancelotti's men failed to collect maximum points in January albeit they did play Lazio and AC Milan. Napoli beat Lazio but couldn't snatch a win at the San Siro and begin February 11 points behind but 8 points clear of 3rd Inter Milan who have had a very poor start to 2019 with Luciano Spalletti's team collecting just a single point in their opening 2 games of the new year. They've also failed to score a goal in 2019 having drew 0-0 with Sassuolo and lost 1-0 to Torino. They are beginning to fall away from Napoli in their quest to be best of the rest. Spalletti will demand improvement going into February as the league intensifies as well Inter's first games in the Europa League knockout phases.

The battle for 4th and possibly 3rd is going to be a real battle this season with anyone in the top half of the table potentially looking at sneaking a Champions League spot. AC Milan currently occupy 4th spot on 35 points but Roma, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Lazio, Fiorentina, Torino and even bottom half sides Sassuolo and Parma are within touching distance. To put into perspective Sassuolo in 11th are just 6 points behind AC Milan in 4th so you can see just how tight a battle for European football will be during the second half of the season. Its interesting to note that none of the sides including AC Milan won both league games in January. In fact the only side who didn't pick up at least a victory is Lazio with Simone Inzaghi's side losing both their games. Majority of the sides collected a win and a draw with the exceptions being Lazio, Parma and Torino with the latter two collecting 3 points. So exciting times lie ahead in Serie A with 10 sides battling for a place in Europe next season. Some sides will be disappointed but from a Serie A fan perspective this could be one of the most exciting battles this season with the title seemingly heading to Turin once again.

However, the new year hasn't brought something different for some clubs and Bologna certainly fit this agenda. Following a humiliating 4-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Frosinone, Filippo Inzaghi was sacked after just 2 league wins in charge. Their form is pretty shocking with the club winless in 14 league games and it was a matter of when and not if the club was going to make the call to dismiss Inzaghi. The legendary striker struggled to get Bologna going and he leaves with the club in the relegation and just 14 points amassed so far this season. His replacement is an experienced Serie A manager in Sinisa Mihaljovic who is tasked with ensuring Bologna stay in Serie A. The Serb has managed the likes of AC Milan and Torino in the past so is fully aware of the task ahead. However, his first game in charge is a tough trip to the San Siro to face Inter Milan. Goals have been a major issue for Bologna all season and Mihaljovic needs to get an attack which has scored just 16 league goals all season. While their defence has faired no better conceding 34 goals with only fellow strugglers Empoli, Chievo, Frosinone and mid-table Genoa have conceded more. So Mihaljovic has plenty to do but will be confident he can save Bologna and it would be a dream start if they could shock the San Siro.

So Serie A has started brightly in 2019 but there will be plenty to come in February as the second half of the campaign really clicks into gear. There are plenty of tasty games to come on the opening February weekend including a relegation scrap between Empoli and Chievo, Napoli vs Sampdoria, Roma vs AC Milan and The Romano- Ciociaro Derby between Frosinone and Lazio. The rest of February isn't bad either with games including Fiorentina vs Napoli, Sassuolo vs Juventus, The Lombardy Derby between Atalanta and AC Milan, Inter vs Sampdoria, Another Romano- Ciociaro Derby this time between Frosinone and Roma, Parma vs Napoli and Fiorentina vs Inter. So plenty of football to come as Serie A firmly announces its return from the winter break.

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