This might be El Clasico weekend in Spain but you wouldn’t be able to sell that to the Italians. Just like La Liga, the Italian Serie A too batters itself into a Christmas and New Year hibernation after this weekend’s round of matches but for Italy, this is Derby della Madonnina weekend.
Yes, it’s Internazionale versus AC Milan, or rather in affectionate terms, Inter Milan verus AC Milan and the fashion capital of the world (well, to the Italians at least) Milan will be ripped apart into two distinctly opposite halves. On one side there will be the Inter fans clad in blue and black colors while on the other side of the divide there will be the Milan fanatics clothed in red and black. Milan could be entirely dressed in mourning black by the end of the weekend should they fail to register a win at the San Siro.
For Milan are a ridiculously unassailable 22-point behind cross-city rivals and league leaders Inter. Although they’ve 3 games in hand and have only just lifted the 2007 Club Would Cup, there’s no running away from the fact that the Rossoneri’s title hopes have already withered to ashes. Milan are still going strong in the UEFA Champions League but just like last season, they lost the plot in the Serie A right from the word go. The other hand, after a somewhat indifferent start, Inter have picked up pace and picked up points.
The Nerazurri are the only side among the Big Five leagues in Europe to be still unbeaten in the domestic championship. Inter have 40 points from 16 Serie A matches, have won their last 5 matches and have scored 35 goals and concede just 8. Roberto Mancini’s side is the favorite to win the Milan derby but as the cliché has it, when there’s a derby at stake, the book flies out of the window leaving its dirty underwear behind.
But unlike last season, Inter are not running away with the Scudetto this time around although like last season, AS Roma are their nearest challengers. This season Roma have added depth to their exquisite side by signing the likes of Juan, Ludovic Giuly and Cicinho and have scored 31 goals in the league so far. Roma have lost just 1 match this season and are 7 points behind Inter in second. The Giallorossi play mid table Sampdoria at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. But Sampdoria aren’t going to be easy pushovers—they have won 3 of their last 5 away matches and are chasing a UEFA Cup spot.
Juventus are third in the table, just 1 point behind Roma. The Old Lady of Turin were anticipated by many to be struggling for even a UEFA Champions League spot but Claudio Ranieri’s team are now serious title contenders. Juve play fifth from bottom Siena at home this weekend. Juve have lost just 2 matches in the league so far this season and have won 9. Juve have also scored 33 goals with 12 of them bearing the signature of David Trezaguet. Fourth place Udinese are 4 points behind Juve and are expected to dominate Empoli, who with 14 points are third from bottom.
Any slip-up from Udinese at home and Fiorentina could move into the Champions League places. Cesare Prandelli’s side are virtually out of the title race and have 25 points from 16 matches so far and welcome rock bottom Cagliari at home. Cagliari are at the foot of the table with 10 points so far this season. Palermo in sixth host underachieving Lazio on Sunday.
Promoted side Napoli are going pretty strong in the Serie A and are with a shout for a UEFA Cup spot. Napoli have won 3 of their last 5 home matches and are 7th in he table. The Azzurris welcome lowly placed Torino at Stadio San Paolo.
Newcomers Genoa are struggling in 16th with 16 points from as many games and welcome modest Parma on Saturday. Only goal difference separates Livorno from the dropzone and they would certainly like to win against Atalanta at home this weekend to spend Christmas and New Year basking in optimism. Reggina too would like to do the same but with just 10 points and an unenviable 19th position in the league table, the Amaranto wouldn’t be expecting too much when mid-table Sicilian side Catania pay them a visit on Sunday.