To the casual Serie A fan, or someone totally ignorant to the world of calcio, Juventus’ speedy rise back to the top of the table may seem miraculous.
But in reality the signs have been there for a few years now.
As the top-flight and European revenue began to build up again (they only went down for one year after all), they were able to continue to purchase new talent while holding on to the key pieces that made them champions (deserving or not) in the first place.
They’ve got some solid young foreigners in Arturo Vidal, Marcelo Estigarribia, and Eljero Elia.
And Juventus will always, always be able to attract top Italian talent and the collection they’ve assembled is among the most versatile in the country, especially in the midfield.
However, none of this means they aren’t capable of miracles.
Take club legend and talisman Alessandro Del Piero, who this week used his voice to awaken a 12-year old girl from a two week coma.
The parents of the young Juventus tifosa reached out to the captain, who provided a voice message professing his support and well wishes.
She was alert and asking for ice cream within hours.
So there you have it. There really is magic in Serie A.
Eat your heart out Tim Tebow.
Lazio already survived a shock from Cesena on Thursday, scoring 3 goals in ten wild minutes early in the second to save their blushes at home at the Stadio Olimpico.
Let’s hope there’s some excitement left over for this weekend’s (+ Monday) matches.
Saturday, February 11
Udinese v. AC Milan – Milan could use a little magic right now themselves. Allegri will really have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to take Udinese out this Saturday.
The Zebrette will still be smarting from last weekend’s defeat at the hands of Fiorentina. Di Natale will be without his most potent partner Floro Flores, but Milan’s injured and disqualified list reads like a top tier Serie A side in itself.
He has his detractors, but Ibra will certainly be missed after earning a ban for a weak slap on Napoli’s Aronica last week, and I just don’t know if the small, speedy duo of Robinho and El Shaarawy will be able to crack a solid and healthy Udinese defense.
I’ve never called Milan to lose in all of my soccer blogging, and won’t start now, but I’d rejoice at a share of the spoils from this one.
1-1 at the final whistle in Udine.
Cagliari v. Palermo – Palermo are unbeaten in 4 matches in Serie A and with Miccoli hitting a hot run of form they’ve proven to have an offense that can hit quick and often.
But Cagliari are tough to beat at home in Sardinia and won’t be giving up 4 or 5 goals like some of the Rosanero’s most recent opposition.
In fact it’s the Palermo defense I worry about in this one. Cagliari have found goals hard to come by but with an often comedic defense coming to town, it may be the week for a Sardinian breakout.
I expect a sloppy, open, and quite entertaining affair but can’t pick between these two either.
2-2 at the whistle, with one side equalizing late on.
Sunday, February 12
Sunday might not look enticing, but the results will be no less important for most of these sides still jockeying for position further down the table.
Atalanta v. Lecce – Lecce have shown real mettle the last month or so and Atalanta really need to stop the rot as they slide ever closer to the drop zone.
There’s no doubt the hoe side have been better all year, but with a point swinger like this one that could really factor in the relegation discussion later on, it’s anyone’s game.
German Denis has cooled off considerably for La Dea and one moment of brilliance, likely from Lecce’s inspirational Uruguyan captain Guillermo Giacomazzi, will decide it in the Apulians’ favor.
0-1 to Lecce.
Catania v. Genoa – Genoa’s strength has been defense since I can remember, but when you’re still starting Kakha Kaladze at center back you shouldn’t be surprised when your backline is one of the worst in the league.
Even in surprising back to back wins over Napoli and Lazio they never looked like keeping a clean sheet.
Catania are certainly no attacking powerhouse, but Lodi and Bergessio will be able to find a way through between them.
2-1 for the Elefanti.
Internazionale v. Novara – Novara pulled one of the shocks of the season when they took out the Nerazzurri 3-1 at home on matchday 3.
Ranieri has largely avoided the pitfalls of his predecessor (though there have been some hiccups, namely Lecce) and I just don’t think a repeat of the early season is in store here.
Still, without Samuel or Maicon in the back, you never know.
3-1, Inter reverse their earlier fortunes.
Parma v. Fiorentina – Two average sides meet for an average match. It really depends on which side can get its scorers some decent service.
Neither Giovinco nor Jovetic (despite the latter’s two converted penalties last week) have been quite themselves lately but a leaky Parma defense should leave La Viola’s Montolivo plenty of room to create something for the young Montenegrin.
1-2 to the visitors.
Bologna v. Juventus – I still think Juve will lose eventually this year. But not this week. ‘Nuff said.
0-2, Matri on target.
Monday, February 13
Napoli v. Chievo Verona – Napoli better kick it into gear before Spartak London come a-calling on the 21st.
They are perfectly healthy, but won’t have Cannavaro due to suspension. I consider him the glue at the back, so Chievo’s wily vets will get their chances.
But if the Azzurri can find their counterattacking form it could still be a long day for the Flying Donkeys.
Hard to pick Napoli since it’s bitten be so many times this season, but the talent will have to speak for itself at some point.
2-1 for the hosts, Pellissier providing an early scare.
Siena v. AS Roma – A long weekend of calcio wraps up with Serie A’s most frustrating side visiting lowly Siena.
With a trouncing of Inter sandwiched between labored performances away to Cagliari and Catania recently, one never knows what to expect from the Giallorossi.
Siena are surprisingly tight at the back for a promoted side, but Roma really do have many ways to hurt you, especially from the midfield.
And 20-year old Fabio Borini continues to make his name, even getting mentioned as a possibility for Prandelli’s national side after his brace in the Inter rout.
Luis Enrique has proved adept at playing the hot hand, and the youngster will find a way to reward him once again on Monday.
0-2 to the Romans.