Why reigning champions Juventus will win Serie A again

Neutral fans of European football will be satisfied to see at least one of the top five major leagues will still have a title race in the New Year.

With Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona all way clear at the top of their respective leagues, just four points separate the top four in Italy and fourth place Roma still have a game in hand. Exciting stuff.

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However, even though Napoli are flying in an attacking sense under Maurizio Sarri and Inter are finally realising their potential under Luciano Spalletti, I still only see one winner in this four-way title race, Juventus, for the seventh consecutive season.

Exhibit A, Exhibit B and Exhibit C for this are Juventus’ recent matches against Napoli at the San Paolo, Inter at home and Roma also at home.

It was not just three clean sheets and seven points gained, it was taking three points off Napoli and Roma and two points off Inter, which at the end of the season will make a hell of a difference.

Not many teams in Europe would have been able to keep out irresistible Napoli frontline but for 90 minutes, Juventus stifled Napoli, restricting Lorenzo Insigne to pot shots from long-range, as well as isolating Dries Mertens who could not physically battle with Giorgio Chiellini and Mehdi Benatia throughout the game.

Gonzalo Higuain’s early goal on the break against his former club gave them the green light to sit back and frustrate Napoli which they resoundingly succeeded in doing.

Then after a trip to Piraeus and back to face Olympiakos that midweek, they played Inter eight days later in the league at the Allianz Stadium and only an inspired performance by Samir Handanovic prevented them from taking all three points.

Serie A top scorer Mauro Icardi was often a spectator himself as Juventus’ defensive game plan was clearly to keep the Inter captain quiet, which just like the week before against Napoli, they succeeded in as the game finished 0-0.

The final game before Christmas saw Juventus host Roma and again they walked away with a clean sheet and a well-earned victory, by one goal to nil.

Former Roma defender Medhi Benatia scored the only goal in a close encounter but a classic Juve display oozed class at both ends of the pitch.

Sarri, Spalletti and the promising Eusebio di Francesco in charge at Roma, all have their managerial qualities, but Massimiliano Allegri is a class above in his tactical nous.

He masterminded Juventus’ run to the Final of the Champions League last season in which they kept favourites Barcelona at bay for 180 minutes and has been integral in leading the Old Lady to the title every year since he took over in 2014.

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As well as having a top manager, they also have the best squad by far.

The other title contenders have top players in their side, but looking beyond their starting elevens, Juventus are far superior and with Napoli and Roma still in Europe post-christmas, they may struggle with fatigue and the calibre of players they use to rotate the squad may not be good enough to juggle two big competitions.

Should Inter lose Mauro Icardi or Ivan Perisic to injury, Eder would be the replacement who has struggled to impress when given game time at San Siro since moving from Sampdoria.

With Arkadiusz Milik on the treatment table again, Napoli have no backup attacker should one of their front three get injured or suspended and Roma only have an inexperienced Patrik Schick who may be talented and promising, but is not yet capable of leading the line week in week out of a title chasing side so keeping last season’s Capocannoniere Edin Dzeko fit will be a must.

Inter’s defeat at home to Udinese and then subsequent away loss at Sassuolo dealt their challenge a big blow and caused them to surrender top spot in the league so no more slips up can be afforded otherwise they will be left behind.

Those kinds of results have been common for Juventus’ title challengers in recent seasons and has seen them tail off in the latter stages and it will be a big ask for this season’s hopefuls to not do that again this time around.

Napoli are the winter champions for the season, but no medals and trophies are awarded in late December.

Consistency and focus is vital here on in for the Neapolitans if they want to dethrone the dominant force in Serie A.

The Author

Andrew Delaney

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