Despite there being another matchday before the end of 2017, Serie A tradition says we have reached the midway point the season, and that will come as music to the ears of Marek Hamsik’s Napoli, who top the table after 18 games and just one defeat. The most recent round of fixtures also threatened to shape the title race, with Inter and Roma falling off the pace and Juventus emerging as the Partenopei’s likeliest rivals.
A lack of serious investment last summer led to many writing off Napoli’s ability to compete, but eight straight wins quickly silenced the critics. Points dropped to Inter and Juve, as well as an early Champions League exit, renewed those doubts, yet victories in their previous two matches see them perched at the summit. It’s testament to the southerners keeping their best players and Maurizio Sarri continuing to get the most out of them.
In second place are Juve, who have taken their time in finding their feet. The Bianconeri’s transfer activity before the start of the season reflected a side looking to adopt a more expansive style of play, and despite a few missteps, they seem to be getting there. Max Allegri’s men are Serie A’s top scorers with 45 goals, and their defence is also finally recovering from the loss of Leonardo Bonucci after registering eight consecutive clean sheets.
As recently as two weeks ago, however, it was Inter who were leading the way. Luciano Spalletti’s well-drilled Nerazzurri have been more functional than fancy, but that didn’t stop them from looking impenetrable as they went 16 matches unbeaten, until back-to-back defeats sent them back down to earth. Their lack of squad depth appears to have caught up with them, but with January just around the corner, some shrewd business should see the Beneamata stay in the mix.
Roma may be seven points adrift of Napoli, but they still have a game in hand on the Partenopei and are emerging as Serie A’s most innovative side, with Eusebio Di Francesco breathing new life into the Giallorossi after the departures of Spalletti and Francesco Totti. The Lupi’s only losses this season have come against the three teams above them, suggesting they don’t yet have what it takes to mount a serious title challenge, but the top four is certainly within their grasp.
That can also be said for Lazio, Roma’s city rivals, who won nine of their 11 League games between August and October but have been weighed down by Europa League commitments – and that age-old accusation of refereeing conspiracies, which Coach Simone Inzaghi felt had penalised his side for four weeks running. Nonetheless, a 4-0 victory over Crotone on Saturday saw them return to form after a derby defeat sparked a run of just five points from a possible 15.
With only nine points separating Napoli at the top and Lazio in fifth place, Serie A can claim to having one of Europe’s most exciting and competitive title races this season. Hopefully the best is yet to come.