Can Serie A make a mark in the latter stages of Europe?
Over the last couple of years, Italy have lost their European coefficients to Germany, meaning instead of four Champions League teams, there’s now only three.
Due to Serie A clubs’ poor performances in the Europa League, the gap is widening between the two nations. However, over the last couple of seasons, there have been some Cinderella stories in both competitions from the home of calcio, like Napoli in 2011/12. Hence, why there’s the potential for a few sides to make an impact in the final stages of Europe.
In the Europa League, it appears that Inter will be waving goodbye after a 3-0 humbling against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. They haven’t been at their best, whether it’s been domestically or in continental football, plus with the pursuit of a top three spot at the top of the Nerazzurri’s priorities, success in the “second” tournament was never in the cards.
Napoli, who, at the moment, are second in Serie A, were embarrassed 5-0 by Czech side Viktoria Plzen in the round of 32, meaning Lazio are the only team left. The Biancocelesti finished top of Group J, which included Spurs, and eventually downed Borussia Monchengladbach 5-3 on aggregate in the first knockout stage. With a 2-0 lead going into the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico against Stuttgart, the Romans look set to be a quarter-finalist. With the likes of Libor Kozak and Sergio Floccari bagging the goals, the Biancocelesti could be Italy’s saviours in re-attaining the coefficients lost because of poor performances in the Europa League.
As for the Champions League, both AC Milan and Juventus are still alive. In fact, Juve are in the final eight and await their next opponents. Milan, on the other hand, still have to avoid defeat against Barcelona at the Camp Nou up 2-0 after a triumphant first leg. Without new signing Mario Balotelli in the squad (cup-tied with Manchester City in the group stage), they’ve done very well in beating who many called the odds-on favourites to win the tournament. However, In Catalonia, it’ll be a much different ball game. Barca will come out with everything they’ve got. Even if the Rossoneri fall to Los Cules, they’ll have done themselves proud considering the amount of turnover they’ve gone through since the summer.
Juventus have the relief of already qualifying for the quarters following a 5-0 thumping against Celtic over two legs. Having no European success since 1996, the Bianconeri are determined to assert themselves as a serious contender over the next couple of years. With a coach who detests losing, and is determined to win no matter who he plays, The Old Lady have a good caretaker in Antonio Conte. His management and tactical knowledge could be what Juve need to get them over the European hurdle they’ve failed to clear for the last 17 years.
At 9/1 odds, they’re a dark horse to win the Champions League, and that’s no exaggeration. They haven’t conceded a goal in five straight games, having only allowed four in eight matches. With that defensive organization, they’ll be very difficult to beat. Even if the Scudetto holders don’t go all the way, they’ll make it a challenge for anyone they face in the latter stages.