The return of fans to Italian football cannot come soon enough in what is shaping up to be the most exciting title race in the past decade. The surprise emergence of A.C Milan as Serie A leaders under the guidance of manager Stefano Pioli and influence of the ever green Zlatan Ibrahimovic has caught European footballs attention during the first part of the season in Italy.
Across the city the Nerazzurri continue to build under Antonio Conte’s management and will hope to build on last season’s impressive second placed finish to Champions Juventus.
Meanwhile, there have been plenty of changes at reigning champions Juventus with the appointment of club legend Andrea Pirlo as manager, a surprise appointment after Maurizio Sarri’s departure last summer. The Bianconeri struggled in the early stages of the season under novice manager Andrea Pirlo but have found form over the past few weeks before the Italian winter break. The emergence of A.C Milan this season alongside the ever improving Inter Milan has provided some much needed competition to Serie A as the “The Old Lady” chase their 10th successive league title.
The Rossoneri remain the only unbeaten team in Europe winning an impressive 11 and drawing 4 in 15 matches in Serie A. Manager Stefano Pioli has implemented his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation which usually consists of: (Donnarumma, Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez, Tonali, Kessie, Rebic, Calhanoglu, Diaz, Ibrahimovic). Keeper Gigi Donnarumma has impressed again this season and has kept a respectable 4 clean sheets and only conceded 16 league goals so far this season. Manager Pioli will be pleased with his Milan side’s defensive progress with them boasting the fourth best defensive record in SerieA so far this season. Captain Alessio Romagnoli has formed a strong partnership in central defence with Denmark international Simon Kjaer which will be vital during the second half of the season.
French left back Theo Hernandez has impressed with his attacking ability and has scored an impressive 4 league goals so far this season. Ivorian Franck Kessie has formed a productive partnership with young Italian prospect Sandro Tonali in the centre of the park. The Rossonerifought of plenty of competition to bring the highly coveted youngster to the club from Brescia and he has all the attributes for a successful career with Milan.
Meanwhile, perhaps the best piece of business in recent years was the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the club on a free transfer. The Swedish legend has proved age is just a number scoring a remarkable 10 league goals in 6 appearances in Serie A so far this season. He has been struggling with a calf injury which has limited his availability during the first part of the season but Pioli will be hoping he can fire the Rossoneri to their first league title in 10 years in 2021. A.C Milan face Juventus this week in what promises to be a massive game in the Serie A title race.
Across the city Antonio Conte is quietly building a title challenging team and looks to build on a fantastic first season at the club where Inter finished runners up to Champions Juventus. The Nerazzurri are trailing their arch rivals by one point sitting in second place after an impressive first half of the season. Antonio Conte’s side have been exceptional going forward this season and have scored the most goals in Serie A netting an impressive 40 goals so far in the league.
Antonio Conte has implemented his favoured 3-5-2 formation this season consisting of: (Handanovic, Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni, Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young, Lukaku, Martinez). There is mounting pressure on Antonio Conte to deliver a first Serie A title since 2010 with him spending an eye watering £260 million on players since his arrival to the club in 2019. Conte’s erratic behaviour over the summer on player recruitment almost resulted in Chairman Steven Zhang sacking him.
However, they both put their differences aside to work together for another season in order to deliver the Nerazurri a Serie A title. Antonio Conte will be concerned by his side’s vulnerability at the back and habit of conceding soft goals which has been apparent so far this season in the league. Captain and keeper Samir Handanovic has conceded 19 league goals and kept 3 clean sheets in 15 league games this season. The big Slovenian has proved to be one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Italian football since his arrival to the league with Udinese back in 2004. Handanovic impressed in Conte’s debut season keeping an impressive 16 clean sheets in all competitions as Inter finished runners up in the league and Europa league.
The defensive trio of Skriniar, de Vrij and Bastoni form the backbone of Conte’s side and have improved throughout the season. Moroccan right full back Achraf Hakimi has impressed at right wing back since his £40 million arrival in the summer from Real Madrid last summer. Hakimi has developed into a goal scoring threat under Conte’s guidance and has scored 5 goals in 13 league games so far this season. The Nerazurri have plenty of options in midfield with Conte predominantly playing his first choice options of Barella, Brozovic and new arrival Arturo Vidal as his midfield three.
Arturo Vidal was Antonio Conte’s first choice signing in the summer transfer window and has proved to be an excellent addition to the Inter engine room. The Nerazzurri have an embarrassment of riches in attack with Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Lautaro Martinez and have already scored an impressive 40 league goals this season. The big Belgian Lukaku has continued his red hot form in front of goal this season scoring 12 goals in 14 league appearances whilst Martinez has continued to improve in front of goal with 9 goals so far this season. Inter boss Antonio Conte will hope Lukaku, Martinez and Sanchez can keep firing the Nerazzurri up the table as they try to keep pace with leaders AC Milan.
The Serie A title race is heating up going into 2021 and proves to be the most competitive league in recent years. The emergence of both Milan clubs from the darkness is refreshing to see as they both fight to end Juventus decade long dominance in Italy. This year will hopefully see the return to a new normality post COVID-19 and the return of fans to football grounds across the world. Hopefully by May the vaccine will be in place and the Scudetto may return to Milan for the first time in 10 years. This question is; will it be the Rossoneri or the Nerazzurri lifting the Scudetto at the end of the season?