By Daniel Lucci.
One victory, three points, is all that separates the first and third in Serie A and just one point is the difference between first and second.
Inter Milan who are currently in third place sit two points behind second-place Lazio and Lazio sit only one point behind Serie A leaders Juventus, who are holding on for dear life at the top.
This Serie A campaign has been one of the most thrilling, unpredictable seasons in recent history and it looks like this title race will go right down to the wire, but since all three teams have had different types of seasons, all making it to the top end of the table in different ways, it is extremely difficult to see how this one will end up.
Antonio Conte’s Inter flew out of the gates at the start of the season, winning six straight games until eventually losing a close match 2-1 to Juventus on matchday 7.
Since the winter break, Inter have stumbled slightly in Serie A, collecting three wins, three draws and one loss.
Conte demands near perfection each game and if Inter want to continue to challenge for the title this season they will need to find their form from the beginning of the season.
New winter signings Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses will still need time to adapt to Serie A but all can be pivotal in Inter’s push to glory. Both Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are among the top 10 scorers in Serie A. Lukaku has scored 17, while Martinez has netted 11 and Conte will need much more of the same from his dynamic duo going forward.
Furthermore, the Nerazzurri will be hoping their first-choice goalkeeper Samir Handanovic returns from his hand injury as soon as possible. Daniele Padelli, the second choice keeper, has not played much during his time at Inter and it has been evident. Not only has Handanovic been one of the top Serie A goalkeepers for the past several years, but the captain’s backup is not nearly good enough to help Inter in their pursuit of glory.
Lazio, on the other hand, have been the opposite of Inter. They started the season a little slow, collecting three wins, two draws and two losses in their first seven matches.
Since the winter break, though they have been completely lights-out, collecting six wins, two draws and not losing once in Serie A.
They have undoubtedly been the hottest team in Italy and are proving they are finally the real deal this season, going on to prove many people wrong.
The key to success for the Biancocelesti is rather simple — keep giving the ball to Ciro Immobile! The Italian currently leads Serie A in goals with 26 in 24 matches. The striker is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, and if he continues to score at this rate it will be very difficult for any team to stop him or Lazio.
The central midfield trio of Lucas Leiva, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto are also extremely important to their success and form and are arguably the best midfield in Serie A.
Lucas is the holding midfielder that is able to do all the defensive duties and make the simple play. Milinkovic-Savic is a wonderful young talented box-to-box midfielder and as many noticed during the Inter match, he at times is unstoppable. Lastly, the Serie A assist leader, Luis Alberto, is able to provide that crucial pass to get things going in the offensive zone.
Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi has these three playing at their absolute peak, and if they are able to finish the season like this it could be their year.
Finally, the leaders, Juventus. Aiming for thein ninth consecutive title, the Bianconeri have been extremely inconsistent, to put it nicely, but somehow find themselves at the top of the table.
Maurizio Sarri has seemingly struggled to get the best out of this team and with big Champions League fixtures upcoming, this part of the season will be make or break for the reigning champions.
If there was a perfect time for Juventus to find their form and confidence, it would be now.
With crucial matches coming up they will not be able to sleepwalk their way through fixtures and expect to emerge victorious.
For the first time in many years, they have serious competition and will need to play to their full potential in order to come out on top.
One thing that may bring some excitement back to the club is the return of their captain and leader, Giorgio Chiellini. Having missed most of the season due to a serious knee injury, Chiellini is slowly making his return and this could be the positive boost Juve need to get back to their best.
Not only can this be crucial to Juventus’ season, but it will also be a huge boost for Italy for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament.
The amount of experience and leadership Chiellini brings to a team cannot be replicated and it was clear how much Juve missed him this season.
Superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala will have to carry the majority of the weight when it comes to scoring goals.
If they are able to continue to put the ball in the back of the net as they have for many years, it would be hard to argue in the case against Juventus being victorious once again.
There is one condition that may be able to give Lazio the upper hand over their rivals. This is the fact that Juventus and Inter are involved in European competitions.
This will make it tougher on Juventus and Inter as their players might not be as fresh for each match and this could give Lazio a slight advantage when it comes to squad fitness.
Between Juventus’ busy schedule, poor midfield, their inconsistent play and injuries, it would not be shocking if they managed to slip up, eventually leading to their end of Serie A dominance.
Inter’s equally busy schedule coupled with their up and down form could see them drop points and see them fall short.
Lazio seem to have everything going for them right now: an easier schedule, an unstoppable goalscorer, the best midfield in the league and team chemistry at an all time high.
This season may be their best chance to win the Serie A title and if they can continue this form for the rest of the campaign it would be hard to say any other team deserved to win the title more than the Biancocelesti.
We already know they have Jürgen Klopp’s support as he was quoted saying, “I am cheering for Lazio to win the title.”
Jurgen Klopp when asked if Inter or Juve will win Serie A:
“Our Lucas Leiva is involved in the fight with Lazio, and Ciro Immobile is my former player. I go for Lazio. Sorry Maurizio, sorry Antonio.” pic.twitter.com/WOLMZ1fOFf
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) February 17, 2020
Even with Klopp’s support, it is always difficult to bet against proven winners like Giorgio Chiellini, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antonio Conte, but this could potentially be Lazio’s best opportunity to win the Serie A title for the first time since 2000.
The tight, intense battle for Serie A glory is on in full force and looks like it is going right down to the wire making the Italian league one of the most intriguing and exciting competitions on the continent.