Serie A is not as good as it thinks it is
Serie A leaders AC Milan visit Juventus this weekend in one of the showcase matches of the Serie A season but hardly anyone is expecting a “good game”.
I can count on one hand the number of top class matches in Italy this term where excitement, technical proficiency and flair have won the day.
The rest of the season has been largely turgid and although Milan look like snapping up their first scudetto since 2004, their struggles in the Champions League show they are not a patch on some of the remarkable Rossoneri sides of the past.
Milan are shaky at fullback, currently have three ballwinners playing in midfield who struggle to find that defence-splitting past while upfront Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Alexandre Pato and Antonio Cassano are all very good but none are “great”.
Once mighty Juventus are enduring another horror season and look like finishing outside the Champions League places again. Their 1-0 win over champions Inter Milan last month should have reignited their campaign but they then went on to lose 2-0 to Lecce and Bologna.
That game against Inter underlined everything that is wrong with Serie A at the moment. Juve doggedly battled for a 1-0 home win but there was no guile on show at all from either side. It was attritional, like Serie A has always been, but the difference is that in the 1990s there was quality as well with the likes of George Weah and Roberto Baggio pulling the strings.
Last weekend’s top-of-the-table-clash between Milan and Napoli turned out to be a damp squib with the Rossoneri winning 3-0 and Napoli barely having a shot. The amount of misplaced passes especially in the first half was unreal. Yes it was raining but these are meant to be the very best players.
Despite Inter being European champions (thanks of course to a Portuguese coach and a side mainly made up of foreigners), Serie A’s troubles in Europe this term means Germany have taken their fourth Champions League qualifying spot from 2012/13.
Maybe Juve v Milan will surprise us and be a good game but with the hosts now led upfront by Alessandro Matri, a man who is costing 15.5 million euros but has not played for a modest Italy side yet, it makes you wonder where Italian soccer is heading.
Maybe Milan will reverse their 1-0 deficit when they travel to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last 16 second leg next week but few Rossoneri fans actually think they will, exposing the ragged confidence even of the Serie A leaders.
PHOTO: AC Milan’s Robinho (L) challenges Christian Maggio (C) and Paolo Cannavaro of Napoli during their Italian Serie A soccer match at San Siro stadium in Milan, February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini