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Monday October 22 2012
Moments of truth

It was another great weekend for Juventus as Serie A 2012-13 starts to take its shape. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up the Week 8 action.

If that was the weekend of truth, it delivered some mixed verdicts. The sentence was pleasing for Juventini, painful for Napoletani and downright excruciating for Milanisti. And, while there might still be time to earn a reprieve, it looks like the chances of overturning some early impressions are running out.

The top of the table clash on Saturday evening was like a lovely antipasto for Bianconero fans before what they hope will be a main course of yet another Scudetto. In a tense but largely fairly fought affair, Napoli’s title dreams were not destroyed but they did take a bit of a blow. With only Fiorentina having held Juve to a draw so far, it is fair to ask who can halt Antonio Conte’s men?

The Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted how the Turin giants’ victory was typical of their campaign so far. It took a corner to snap a seemingly unbreakable deadlock through a Martin Caceres header. Nearly half of La Vecchia Signora’s Serie A goals this season so far – nine out of 19 – have come from set pieces. But then, if you’ve got Andrea Pirlo in your side, why not flaunt it?

“Seven wins in eight games, the best attack and the best defence,” said assistant boss Angelo Alessio, back on the bench after getting his betting scandal ban reduced. “The figures are pretty clear – we are a great side and brilliantly organised. When we got our second goal I pointed up to the box where Conte was sitting – he is our Coach and I wanted him to know we are all with him.”

He also had warm words for second goalscorer – Manchester United fans look away now – Paul Pogba. “He is a player with a great future,” beamed Alessio. “He can play in a number of positions.” The youngster has had an impressive impact, but suggestions that he might be the top player Juventus lack felt like getting a grappa before your starter arrives – a little premature, perhaps.

For his part, Walter Mazzarri was in typical contrary Tuscan form. He seems intent on saying exactly the opposite of what is expected after every Napoli match this season. When they win, he is critical and when they lose, he is delighted. His Press conferences have become an extended exercise in oxymoron.

“We were on top and I thought Juve had run out of steam,” he said. “They are outstanding at set-pieces, Pirlo puts them where he likes. At that stage the only way for them to get a goal was from a corner. Other than that I don’t remember any great shots for Morgan De Sanctis to save and we hit the woodwork with Edinson Cavani.”

Behind the bold facade, however, he will know there is still work to be done. The moment of “distraction” which allowed the Bianconeri to take the lead is the kind the Partenopei have to cut out if they want to win a third championship. Juventus have made a hallmark of their attention to detail and it is up to their rivals to follow suit.

Napoli’s slip-up allowed an impressive Lazio side to narrow the gap thanks to the latest humiliation for Milan. The capital club were three goals to the good – one of them an absolute gem from Antonio Candreva – before the Rossoneri reacted. The single bright spot was the continued sparkling form of Stephan El Shaarawy, among the goals again.

Adriano Galliani ordered the squad to its pre-match training camp early for the key Champions League clash with Malaga and that will continue in the build-up to the League game with Genoa. The theory behind such actions is that they help the players focus on important matches. However, it is hard to avoid the feeling of an element of punishment in the decision.

“It is only natural that if a team isn’t getting results the Coach is called into question,” admitted Max Allegri. “We have seven points after eight games, we need to move back up the League table, we need to start getting some points. But I do think that recently we have played better than our results suggest.”

The cruellest in Milan have hinted that the only reason he remains in his job is financial. With the Rossoneri now a club more parsimonious than profligate, they say they simply cannot afford to show him the door. The days of paying two Coaches are a more distant memory than Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s trademark scowl when a teammate failed to pass him the ball.

There are no such glum looks at Lazio. The Eagles are flying high and if it was not such a curse, you might well dub them the next anti-Juve. Certainly, they are looking down on most of the rest of the League from the same sort of angle as sporting director Igli Tare looks at President Claudio Lotito in the VIP box. They are as slick as Vlad Petkovic’s impeccable Italian.

One side which won’t be fazed by any talk of being a title rival to the Bianconeri are Inter. Andrea Stramaccioni said their weekend win over Catania was their best performance so far. Even if, and their Coach admitted as much, their visitors were unlucky not to get a penalty which could have brought them back into the game. “It wouldn’t be clever to look at the League table now,” insisted Strama. “We are an improving side, but compared with the three teams above us we are the team which has changed the most.”

Something which has not altered is the entertainment value of a Zdenek Zeman side. Trailing 2-0 early in Genoa, his Giallorossi stormed back to record a thrilling win which threw them up the table. If their Coach wanted an answer from excluded stars Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo, he got it in style. Dull moments with this Roma side are as rare as defeats are for Juventus these days.

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Have your say...
@AP, sorry mate must disagree with you on your points. Allegri is a great coach who was as recently as last year been hailed as the next Pep Guardiola. Let's not forget that his team has lost a lot over the summer & the players that are left are simply not stepping up, Everyone knows the potential that this team has but the true leaders need to step up, once they figure that out & they get their identity the organization/motivation will arrive & they will be among the top clubs in Serie A again
on the 23rd October, 2012 at 4:26am
@AP

Mexes sucks so hard it's not even funny... If he played we'd already be in B.
on the 23rd October, 2012 at 3:31am
What gets me really angry about Milan is that their squad is so much better than this. It is filled with internationals like Montolivo, De Jong, Abate, Mexes Nocerino, Emmanuelson, and most recently El Shaarawy (who has put in some amazing performances). This is not a team that should be in 15th! At least 5th would make more sense. The only explanation is that Allegri is not organizing or motivating the team correctly. Therefore, Allegri should be sacked.
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 9:01pm
I think the only teams that will be able to compete with Juve this year is Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma, Lazio and Inter but I think Roma are defensively to weak to win Serie A, Inter need more time to gel and Lazio will run out of steam, Fiorentina and Napoli will be competing with Juventus to right at the end of the season and Juventus will also be competing in Europe so that will work in the other teams favor. FORZA JUVE
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 6:29pm
who said juventus ever compete? how can a mediocre squad win so much? we know the answer by looking at history
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 5:59pm
Mazzarri has to understand this is football and not tennis. You don't get 3 points for hitting the woodwork, being on top for long periods of time or having majority of the posession. What matters, at this level, and what differentiates winners from losers, is the attention to detail and tactical know how. Juve simply wore Napoli down and got their goals and until you admit to it then you will never be great coach
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 4:12pm
I dont think many people agree with Cassano, Juve has always been a prestigious club who hire professionals on and OFF the pitch. Cassano has never ever in his entire life fit the bill. In Italy they say 'you must be juve material ' which is what this means and Antonio is not. He Jelly.
Juve are determined to win at all costs, thanks to Contes infused mentality. No team in Serie A will match them. Inter, for all that they are doing are still Inter which is why they wont compete. Forza Juve!
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 3:42pm
Another week- another win, resting players is a must but Conte & Co. know a lot more than I. By the way Napoli, did you find anything in those tunnels? We love you Haters! Forza Juve Sempre
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 3:03pm
Juve simply drove on regardless of being short of two oof their best players in Buffon and Vucinic.Their lies the problem for other protagonists should Napoli be deprived of two of their best such as Cavani and Pandev the wheels will simply come off.Juve have sufficient quality in strength to cope with injuries and suspensions,do the others?We saw Caceres and Pogba come forward and make the difference.I don`t agree with Cassano they are not just soldiers but warriors for their team cause.
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 2:50pm
HAHA!! If Inter are the only team that can dethrone us this Scudetto will be wrapped up by the end of January.y
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 2:48pm
Personally, I feel that (in a way) losing 3-2 is quite galling, more so than losing 3-0. It just looks all the more like Milan could have done better in that game. I think Abate has a very good point when he says they shouldn't have to go 3-0 down before having that kind of a reaction.
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 2:28pm
Hey milanista,
Padre Pirlo has performed yet another miracle this weekend after leaving the Hell of Milan. Obviously, giving away your playmaker to a rival and then selling off decisive players has had an impact on the quality of the team. Good luck staying in A. Must admit, I'd rather it be Inter struggling that badly.
This article is just telling it as it is. Juve are unbeatable. Other teams have to play the perfect game to keep pace when Juve are in 2nd gear.
Forza Juve!
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 12:55pm
I love how Rinaldi simply brushes Inter aside because of a penalty not called? How many times in Italian soccer are there calls not made or calls made that shouldn't be? Fact of the matter is Lazio ALWAYS flop .. let me repeat .. Lazio ALWAYS flop. We all saw what Napoli are truly made of this weekend, and mind you the same thing happened last year with them. Therefore if there is any other team out there that can dethrone Juve, it is Inter.
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 12:19pm
Lazio will run out steam long before the end of the season. Its a 3 horse race between Juve, Inter and Napoli but Juves European commitments will test their squad and give the others a chance especially if they don't start resting Pirlo more(he's overdue an long injury). Milan will be lucky to finish in the top 8.
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 11:15am
ah ha! I knew it was time for the mandatory pro-Juve weekly blog!
on the 22nd October, 2012 at 10:24am

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