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It’s the most exciting Serie A title race in years with Inter Milan, AC Milan and AS Roma all in the running with just nine games remaining. Just like most other European leagues, it could all go to the last day.
Inter ran away with the league in the last three years and Italians moaned about about the lack of competition.
Now there is suddenly a proper fight for the scudetto but the new complaint is that the quality has dropped off and that’s why the top three are falling over each other not to win it.
Inter drew 1-1 with Palermo at the weekend, the sixth time they’ve failed to win in seven league outings, but Milan wasted the chance to go top for the first time this season with a 1-1 draw at home to Napoli. Roma were being held 2-2 by lowly Udinese before prevailing 4-2.
There will be plenty of time to pick apart Chelsea’s latest Champions League failure, but for now the question on many a fan’s lips on the way out of Stamford Bridge must have been simply, “How did we ever let Jose Mourinho go?”
Mourinho is still Captain of the Bridge, it seems.
The coach’s decision to play such an attacking line-up seemed to surprise Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti never really found a way to deal with such an audacious strategy.
Sunday’s Milan derby had just about everything.
Red cards, controversies, a missed penalty, great play, Jose Mourinho his usual outlandish self and a another stunning Inter Milan performance (plus unused Inter substitute Marco Materazzi bizarrely walking around at full-time wearing a face mask of Silvio Berlusconi.)
For the leaders to beat their main title rivals 2-0 with nine men is just another example of the remarkable grit of Mourinho’s side.
Under pressure Juventus boss Ciro Ferrara has come out fighting after a fourth defeat in five matches but it may not be enough for another first-time coach to save his job.
“One of my friends, one of the few I have at the moment, said to me, ‘you are like Rocky’. I am full of punches and blood but I say to my opponent, I am not hurt, punch harder because you are not hurting me,” Ferrara said in the wake of a 3-0 home defeat by AC Milan.
There’s a big difference for reporters like me between covering AC Milan and Inter Milan at their shared San Siro stadium.
For Milan games in the Champions League, the press get a lovely buffet spread before kickoff. Hot pasta, salad, maybe even some nice chicken and good Chianti.
Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal got an early Christmas present. He gets to keep his job until at least after the festive season is over following Bayern’s 4-1 crushing of Juventus in Italy to advance to the Champions League knockout stage.
Two weeks ago the Dutchman, who took over in July, looked to be on his way out with Bayern needing two wins in the remaining Champions League matches to advance, while languishing in seventh place in the Bundesliga.
Going into the last round of Champions League group games, Italy was the only nation with a chance of having all four entrants in the last 16.
The Italians were getting quite excited about this, especially as they have the Germans on their tail in the fight to keep the four berths in future seasons, but Tuesday’s woeful performance by Juventus in a 4-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich ended Serie A hopes of a clean sweep.
Juventus have been fined 20,000 euros rather than receive a stadium ban for an offensive chant their fans sing about Inter Milan’s black striker Mario Balotelli.
As songs go, it is pretty insulting. “Se saltelli, muore Balotelli” (If you jump up and down, Balotelli will die).
Resurgent AC Milan host Real Madrid in the Champions League later having beaten the Galacticos 3-2 at the Bernabeu two weeks ago.
Meanwhile Inter Milan are seven points clear in Serie A after just 11 games. All would seem to be rosy in one of Europe’s greatest soccer cities, but in reality Italian football is in the doldrums.