Last, but by no means least, comes the return of Serie A, which is the final of Europe’s major leagues to return to action following the coronavirus suspension.
So what can we expect from the return of Italian football? Here are five things to keep an eye on.
#1 – Can Lazio Keep Up the Pace?
Of all the teams expected to keep pace with Juventus at the top of Serie A, Lazio wouldn’t have been the name on the lips of many Italian football pundits.
But at this advanced stage of the season, they find themselves just one point behind the reigning champions and with a better goal difference….they couldn’t, could they?
They are certainly solid enough defensively to challenge, and upon the resumption they will largely be injury-free – crucial ahead of the hectic run-in.
That said, there are some issues here. Just look at the importance of Ciro Immobile – his 27-goal haul represents 45% of Lazio’s whole tally. What happens if he gets injured/suspended?
The frontman and Luis Alberto have also combined to assist 32% of all the goals Lazio have scored….again, is that too high an output figure from just two players?
But this is football, and stranger things have happened….
#2 – Will Free Spirited Atalanta Throw a Spanner in the Works?
They have become the Serie A team supported by neutrals, have Atalanta, based upon their hugely enjoyable brand of football.
The Oribici have scored 70 goals this season – for context, that’s 20 more than Juventus and Inter Milan, and all told their 25 league games thus far have witnessed a staggering total of 104 goals.
On their day they are simply unplayable, and while Atalanta won’t win the title this season it’s worth noting that they still have to play Juve and Lazio – they, as much as anyone else, could have a huge bearing on the Serie A title race.
#3 – Can Torino Halt Their Slide?
For eight seasons now, Torino have been proudly plying their trade in Serie A.
This is one of Italian football’s oldest clubs, who from 1929 to 1996 almost exclusively played in the top-flight.
The hard times have come, however, and prior to the break in this particular season they were in derisory form – they lost six games in a row, including 0-7, 0-4 and 1-3 defeats at the hands of Atalanta, Lecce and Sampdoria respectively.
Torino still have to play Juve, Lazio, Inter and Roma this term, and if you are of a betting persuasion you can still get meaty odds on them being relegated.
#4 – Young Guns Hoping to Make Milan Great Again
Once the dominant force of Italian football, AC Milan are now well and truly in the doldrums.
They have scored just 28 goals this season – preposterously bad, and the situation is so dire they have had to re-sign the near 39-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Part of the problem is head coach Stefano Pioli, whose archaic tactics have made the Rossoneri almost unbearably boring to watch.
And yet, this is a squad containing Theo Hernandez, Hakan Calhanoglu, Suso, and Samu Castillejo are all exciting and all aged 26 and under – will Pioli set his young stars free in the final third of the season?
#5 – Can Ronaldo Keep On Being Ronaldo?
At the age of 35, Cristiano Ronaldo continues to record physical statistics that would make young men half his age blush.
But there will, surely, at some point be some slowing down from the Portuguese legend, and that will be very bad news indeed for Juventus.
He has contributed 42% of their goals this term – he is as important to them as Immobile is to Lazio, but he has the personality and the drive to almost single-handedly lead the Turin outfit to victory at times.
With Gonzalo Higuain injured, Ronaldo will take on even greater importance – any loss of form or physical intensity could prove disastrous.
Is there still time for a major plot twist in the Serie A title race?
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