I know, it’s tempting. Juventus ALWAYS win Serie A. And with eight games to go, they’re seven points clear at the top of the table. Game over?
Perhaps. But we need another week before we know for sure.
AC Milan fully deserved the three points on Saturday night after blowing away a lacklustre Lazio.
In the end, the score could’ve been even more comfortable than 3-0 – already their biggest winning margin away to the Romans for 11 years – if Theo Hernandez had finished off one of his two gilt-edged chances.
But there’s no getting away from the caveats. The Biancocelesti have been off the pace since their return, but they’ve also had to contend with worse selection issues than Juventus above them or Inter below them.
Their injury list has included or still includes Senad Lulic, Luiz Felipe, Stefan Radu, Lucas Leiva, Danilo Cataldi, Adam Marusic, Bobby Adekanye, Raul Moro and Joaquin Correa, while the absence of Ciro Immobile and Felipe Caicedo through suspension against Milan left Simone Inzaghi with no option but to move Luis Alberto forward into attack.
The strain put on an already small squad has meant that those playing week in week out, like Alberto, Manuel Lazzari, Francesco Acerbi and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, are already visibly tiring from the effort of playing games every three days.
But despite these issues, the capital club are not dead and buried quite yet.
Lazio have taken two wins and two defeats from their four games since the restart, beating Fiorentina and Torino and losing to Atalanta and Milan.
It hasn’t been the easiest return to action, but things now ease off a little with less taxing, but equally important, games coming up over the next 10 days against Lecce, Sassuolo and Udinese, before their clash with Juventus in Turin on 20 July.
The Old Lady haven’t convinced everyone with their style of football under Maurizio Sarri, but you can’t argue about four wins from their last four matches against Bologna, Lecce, Genoa and Torino.
But that isn’t exactly a hugely demanding set of opponents, which is why the next week promises to be what decides whether or not we will have a Scudetto race at the end of the season.
Over the next seven days, the Italian champions will face two of only three other sides to have picked up at least three wins from their first four games back: Milan and Atalanta.
The Rossoneri have the chance to be kingmakers in this Serie A season, having started brightly following the break, despite a slip-up with a draw at SPAL.
They host Juve on Tuesday evening before Atalanta, who have won all four of their post-break games and scored 12 goals in the process, travel to Turin next Saturday.
Sarri’s side managed to brush away the lesser sides in the league with relative ease, but when they came up against opponents with greater firepower – Milan in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and Napoli in the final – they could only muster two stalemates. We will soon find out what this Juve side are really made of.
All it will take for the title race to be blown open once again is for the Bianconeri to drop points in one of these matches, and Lazio to do what is expected of them against Lecce and Sassuolo as their injury list clears and their strikers return from suspension.
If Inzaghi’s side can even cut the gap to five points by the time they travel to Turin, that will be enough for the fixture to rightfully be billed as a Scudetto decider. It’s not out of the question.
Let’s not forget, Lazio have already defeated La Vecchia Signora twice this season, once in Serie A and once in the Supercoppa, and will head north with the conviction they can make it a hat-trick.
Inter may well have a say too, as they can move to within a point of the Biancocelesti with victory over Bologna on Sunday. The prospect of a three-way title battle isn’t lost just yet.
It’s easy to come to hasty conclusions at the moment, because as football fans we’re programmed to. It’s July, which means we expect the football we’re watching to be climactic. All around us, champions are being crowned and leagues completed.
But, as strange as it seems, there are still eight rounds left in Serie A. That is 21 percent of the season. Let that sink in for a minute.
There is still time for things to change, although not much. Over the next week, Milan and Atalanta will have the biggest say of anyone as to how far the title race will run this year – Juve fans might want to keep the champagne on ice for now.