Race For The Scudetto 2010/2011: Can A Less Glamourous Side Take It?
Juventus, Internazionale and Milan are the most decorated clubs in Italian football history with 62 Scudetti between. They are the favourites to top the table every season, including this one. However, come May 22, 2011 it will not be one of them that lift the trophy. At the holiday break Napoli, Lazio, Roma and Palermo are all within striking distance.
Milan are front runners at the moment with 36 points but with five clubs all within nine points and still twenty-one games remaining that lead is far from safe. An aging squad with questionable fullbacks and a Champions League schedule to deal with in the New Year Milan will have to pull out every secret in the Milan lab to keep up their current pace.
Napoli have ridden their talisman, Marek Hamsik, over the past two seasons. This season however Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani were brought in to relieve the offensive pressure that had been placed on the Slovakian and that is exactly what they have done.
Cavani has continued his World Cup form this season and with ten goals at the break, is only four off of matching his career high. What must not be overlooked in Naples is Coach Walter Mazzarri. From unique formations such as the 3-3-1-3 and player tactics like taking Cavani, who was typically deployed wide while at Palermo and seen the potential inside threat.
Dates with Inter and Juventus to start 2011 could determine whether the focus shifts to continental success and a February tie with Villarreal in the Europa League or domestic success and their first title since 1989-90 and Diego Maradona.
Youth has been the key to a 6th place position at Christmas in Palermo. 21 year old Javier Pastore and soon to be 23 year old Josip Ilicic have taken the scoring reins from Fabrizio Miccoli who shouldered the load last season. The emergence of these players have allowed for others to find space going forward and brought defenses to their knees.
Palermo have found the back of the net 29 times this season tied with Milan and only three behind Juventus for the league lead. However, Palermo have given up the most goals of anyone in a European place this season. A January transfer for a defender could see Delio Rossi’s squad contend to the bitter end.
Lazio have been the most consistent threat this season with Stefano Mauri and Sergio Floccari leading the way. Since defeating Inter 3-1 on December 3rd Lazio have made a habit of conceding. If not for an 88th minute own goal against Udinese Lazio would be looking at just four points in December. For Lazio to be in the Scudetto conversation in five months they will have to get back to the defensive form they showed for much of this season.
On the other side of Rome Claudio Ranieri has his men in Milan’s rear-view mirror. Things never seem easy for “The Tinkerman” either. From a dust up with Francesco Totti to having three different keepers start a match Roma have managed to keep themselves relevant. After seven goals a shrewd buy for Marco Borriello has looked like a moment of brilliance. Combined with the maturation of Jeremy Menez and the ability to hold onto Philip Mexes amidst transfer speculation and Roma has all the tools to do what they couldn’t last season.
The last two decades both got off to surprising starts. Little Sampdoria were crowned champions in the 1990-91 season to kick off the 90’s and the Roman clubs S.S. Lazio and AS Roma went back to back to ring in the new millennium. This season has all the potential to follow suit with a non-traditional champion.