A season of coincidences:
While analyzing the standings after game week 19, one could find so many similarities with the 2010-11 season. Back then, AC Milan were leading the table at the halfway stage and were announced as the Winter champion. The same happened last week, as they have been declared as the Winter champion for this season despite the 3-0 defeat against Atalanta last week.
Another coincidence that may amuse us all would be the golden boot race. It was Zlatan Ibrahimović who won the golden boot for AC Milan in 2011. Today, even after a decade, he proves that he is still a world-class footballer. The 39-year-old has scored 12 goals so far and stands third in the golden boot race despite missing 8 games due to a calf injury and testing positive for Covid-19. Pundits argue that he still holds a good chance to snatch the golden boot right from under the nose of front runners – Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile.
AC Milan may be at the top of the table with 43 points, but just 9 points separate them from Lazio, who are 7th in the table. Serie A witnessed such an intense title race back in 2010-11, when Juventus last failed to win the Scudetto. With a game in hand, the Turin club is now 7 points behind the league leaders. Can they consolidate their position in the Serie A table and and make it 10 title triumphs in a row? Let’s analyze the teams one by one.
After their glorious run to win the league title in 2011, AC Milan has not quite been there in the picture since then. Their problems intensified as many of their superstars left. The club suffered from financial problems and managerial issues after 2015. The current management has bolstered the squad with timely additions of both young talents and experienced players. But it was the appointment of Stefano Pioli that turned out to be the real game-changer for the Rossoneri.
Pioli had a steady first season and this campaign, his side is setting the pace in Serie A. But they suffered defeats against Juventus and Atalanta in their last 4 games, which has reduced their lead significantly. When Zlatan Ibrahimovic was out injured, youngsters like Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez rose to the occasion and produced some match-winning performances. This resilience would be the trait that helps Pioli’s men on their road ahead.
The city rivals of AC Milan are breathing down their neck with just 2-points separating them. Antonio Conte’s side had a slow start to the season, but they have picked up the rhythm in between. With 45 goals scored so far, they are the best-attacking team in the league. Conte had incorporated a handful of players into his squad within the last two transfer windows and these recruitments have provided considerable depth. But a blot that the 18-times League champions should resolve should be their heavy reliance on Romelu Lukaku in netting and creating goals. If Inter are to go all the way, Lautaro Martinez has to live up to his reputation and start finding some consistency. On the positive side, Achraf Hakimi’s goal scoring form would be an easter egg for Conte.
Roma stand third in the table and are 6 points away from the top spot. They have been involved in some thrilling matches this season. The 3-3 draw against AC Milan and 4-3-win against Spezia are notable mentions. But Paulo Fonseca’s side were shambolic against the top 7 teams in the league. They were thrashed by Napoli, Atalanta and Lazio while Juventus, Inter and AC Milan managed to earn a point against them. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s blazing form is fueling Roma’s decent run. The Armenian has managed to score 8 goals and register 8 assists in the league so far.
The Old Lady were a bit shaky under the new manager Andrea Pirlo. Just like Inter, they had struggled in the early stage of the season. Juventus have lost just two matches so far. But they were held to draws by weaker sides like Benevento and Crotone. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo leads both the Juventus and league goal charts with 15 goals. Alvaro Morata has been impressive in his return to Turin as well. Although floundering a while to fit into their style of play, Federico Chiesa has now cemented his place in the first eleven. He has scored some amazing goals, which were crucial for the 36-time league champions.
Atalanta have extended their fairytale run from 2019 to this campaign. They have collected 36 points so far, which is their club-record tally after 19 games in the league. Napoli and Lazio are just 2 points behind Atalanta and Gattuso’s side have a game in hand. With face-to-face battles between the top 7 teams in the second half of the season coming up and giant slayers waiting in the bottom half of the table to cause upsets, the title may swing in any direction.