The weekend just gone provided fans of Serie A with a lot of intriguing fixtures, and these fixtures did not disappoint as they provided us with a wonderful and eventful weekend of action.
With two gameweeks of calcio having taken place since the festive break, I’m pleased to say that we are not short of talking points this week on the Italian peninsula.
With that in mind, here are five things we learned in Serie A this week. I should probably preface this by saying that a lot of these points are centred around the Derby Della Capitale between Roma and Lazio, but I will stop short of apologising for that, it was a fascinating game and deserves all the recognition it receives.
No Totti, no selfie, no party
You don’t have to be a devoted Serie A follower to be aware of the greatness of Francesco Totti. The 38-year-old appears to be ageless this season and his performance and antics in the Derby Della Capitale on Sunday afternoon would have you doubting the legitimacy of his birth cert.
The Giallorossi found themselves 2-0 behind, in what was their home fixture against bitter city rivals Lazio before Totti took centre stage. The Roma captain pulled his side back into it soon into the second half as he got on the end of a sublime defence-splitting pass from Kevin Strootman.
It was just after the hour mark, however, that Il Capitano wrote the headlines, and then provided the photo to accompany them.
A Jose Holebas cross from the left would have been a challenge for the most athletic and acrobatic of footballers to get on the end of, never mind a veteran striker like Totti. Roma’s number 10 threw himself through the air, in a near slide-tackling pose, and dispatched a stunning volley back across Federico Marchetti’s goal to level the scores at 2-2.
As amazing as the goal was, it was what followed that had everybody talking. Totti leaped over the advertising boards and ran towards the Curva Sud, which houses Roma’s ultras, granted, there nothing unusual there. As he celebrates he is then mobbed by just about every member of Roma playing staff in the stadium, including the substitutes.
As the celebrations disperse and Totti heads back to the pitch he is handed a phone, and looks to be sending a text – okay, now something a bit different is happening. He proceeds to hold the phone up, and take a selfie of himself with the Curva in the background.
Whatever your opinion on selfies before the weekend, they are now cool. End of.
Roma’s mental fortitude evident once more
This has been a recurring theme so far this season, but Roma seem to have the right mentality to mount a serious challenge for the Scudetto, if not the clinical ability that primary rivals Juventus have in abundance.
Rudi Garcia has instilled a belief in his side that they are always capable of grinding out a result, and they do not know when they are beaten.
They have an admirable perseverance and manage to scrape out results even when their performance levels do not necessarily warrant a point, never mind three.
Examples of this already this season are plentiful, with the best of these arguably being their last gasp comeback to earn a point having been 2-0 behind to Sassuolo in December.
Their performance in the 4-2 victory over Inter earlier this season epitomises what the Giallorossi are all about and is almost their season in microcosm.
Other examples that spring to mind are their 2-1 victory away to Atalanta, despite falling behind early on and their 1-0 victory away to high-flying Genoa, in which midfielder Radja Nainggolan scored a superb volley to clinch the points.
A concern for Garcia might be that too often it takes a setback to get his side playing, and this is something that could cost them, especially given their relative lack of goalscoring ability and the temporary loss of Gervinho to the African Cup of Nations.
Brazil’s next star, Felipe Anderson?
Felipe Anderson joined Lazio from Santos for a fee of around €8 million at the beginning of last season, and failed to make any sort of impact in his debut season.
This year, however, is a whole different story for the Brazilian.
Anderson has been directly involved in each of Lazio’s last seven goals. What’s more, in his last five games, the Brazilian has scored five goals and assisted another five in the process.
Signed for what now appears to be a bargain, Anderson has been the Biancocelesti’s star player of late and looked as though he was going to be a decisive figure once again in the Derby as he provided a gorgeous dinked assist for Stefano Mauri’s opener, before adding a goal himself.
The attacking-midfielder possesses frightening pace which allows him to drift past defenders with ease and his ability to use both feet with equal effectiveness means he is almost impossible to stop when on form.
Juventus overcome their San Paolo curse
If ever you wondered why Juventus had won the last three Scudetti, watch their 3-1 victory over Napoli on Sunday and you will immediately understand.
Having seen Roma drop points earlier in the day to Lazio, this victory allowed Juve to reestablish a three-point lead over their nearest rivals at the summit of the Serie A table.
Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo has been somewhat of a bogey ground for the Old Lady since the turn of the millennium, and they had not won there in Serie A in fourteen years.
That was until Sunday evening when Paul Pogba and co. exorcised their Supercoppa Italiana demons and clinched an impressive 3-1 win.
All the signs before kick-off seemed to point toward another possible upset. It was an emotional day in Naples as they paid tribute to Neapolitan singer Pino Daniele who passed away earlier in the week.
The San Paolo was lit by lighters and mobile phones as the teams came out to a Daniele song and it looked as though Napoli were up for the fight.
A delightful Paul Pogba volley gave the Bianconeri the lead in the first half, before Miguel Britos equalised for the Partenopei, only to have their hopes of another upset dashed by Martin Caceres and Arturo Vidal, who wrapped up the points in the dying minutes.
The game was not without its controversy, and Napoli will feel they wrongly had a goal ruled out after the referee deemed Kalibou Koulibaly to have fouled Gianluigi Buffon, as well as Caceres’ goal having a hint of offside about it.
It’s getting hard to see who can stop Juventus, and the March meeting between Italy’s top two just become a more and more mouth-watering prospect by the week.
Inter pack a punch under Roberto Mancini
No, I am not referring to the crazy Pablo Osvaldo and Mauro Icardi incident, in which the former almost punched the latter for not passing the ball to him, an incident that appears to have confirmed the end of Osvaldo’s time at the San Siro, well, for the Nerazzurri at least.
After a slow start under the guidance of Mancini, things now appear to be falling into place a bit and Inter have finally climbed into the top half of the table. Sunday’s 3-1 defeat of Genoa presents Mancini with arguably Inter’s best performance of the season.
It looked to be all fun and games for Inter in this one, even when Mancini himself was knocked to the ground by a stray Marco Andreolli clearance which caught the new coach in the face.
Mancini, rather surprisingly, took the incident quite well as he laughed and jokingly gestured that Andreolli was going to be substituted while he got back to his feet.
On the pitch, Nemanja Vidic scored at the right end as Inter claim what could prove to be a huge three points for them, and they will surely look to use this as a platform on which to build the rest of their season.
Inter fans will no doubt be happy to see their side not just set up to avoid defeat, and actually taking games to their opposition, which was something of a rarity under Walter Mazzarri.
This result, along with the shock signing of Xherdan Shaqiri, Inter fans might actually have reason to be a little optimistic for the remainder of their season.
While in other seasons a victory over Genoa might well be par for the course, this season the Grifone have been performing above all expectations and even looked to be among the fight for the final Champions League place, along with their Genoese rivals Sampdoria.
Next week is sure to bring some more interesting points of conversation, with the highlights being Roma’s trip to this season’s surprise package Palermo and Lazio and Napoli face off at the Stadio Olimpico.