Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Tigani On March - 23 - 2012

Back to normal in Italy’s Serie A

Tuesday night’s Coppa Italia match between Milan and Juventus was a fantastic advert for the Italian game. This season’s two best teams by some distance, eights point to be exact, played out an entertaining draw at Juventus’s new and impressive stadium.

There were goals, two splendid ones at that, and the two strongest sets of players in the Serie A on display. Off the field guiding their troops forward were two coaches who represent the best of a new generation of Italian coaches, Max Allegri and Antonio Conte.

But, aside from the great spectacle it was, the game highlighted how times have changed in Italy, or, rather how they have reverted to how they once were, at least in one way.

In the years preceding the 2006 scandal that shook the Italian game and completely altered its landscape, Milan and Juventus dominated.

During the period from 1992 to 2004, the Bianconeri and the Rossoneri claimed five and six Scudetti, respectively. For those who consider Juventus’ 2005 and 2006 scudetti as legitimate, make that seven for them. Only twice did Italy’s highest domestic honour slip from their grasp when at the turn of the century the balance of power temporarily shifted south to Rome for two years.

On eight occasions up until and including the 2004-05 season, Juventus and Milan finished in the top two places in the Serie A. It was a period of great success for both clubs. It is also regarded as one of the finest periods in Italian football, a time when its teams were feared across the Europe.

Of course, this all changed following the Calciopoli scandal of 2006. Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were all docked 30 points and were forced to start the following season with further point reductions. Juventus were harshly demoted to Serie B and were also made to start their bid to return to the top flight on negative nine points.

What followed was an era dominated by Inter, who managed to emerge from the furore unscathed. Awarded the Scudetto that was stripped from Juventus in 2006, the Nerazzurri went on to claim another four consecutive league titles to make it five in a row, an achievement that had not been accomplished in 75 years in the Serie A.

The high point for Inter in this post-calciopoli era came in 2010 when they won the Champions League. Much to the dismay of Massimo Moratti, the man responsible for the triumph in Madrid – Jose Mourinho – opted to stay on in the Spanish capital to take over at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Since then, a rotating door of coaches has seen no less than four different appointments on the Inter bench in less than two seasons. The result of such instability coupled with an over-reliance on the class of 2010 has been calamitous performances on the pitch. Given their set of circumstances, it seems that it may be sometime before the Nerazzurri recover.

Inter’s demise has coincided with the return of the Old Lady back to the higher echelons of the Serie A. Having led for much of the way this season, Conte’s men are still only four points behind Milan and remain very much in the race for the title, which would be their first since 2003 if one disregards their 2005 and 2006 successes that were revoked. Having edged past Milan in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday night this week, they are still on course for a double.

With Juventus and Milan again leading the way in Italy, it is back to how they were six years ago – and before that. It a changing of the guard, it is back to the old one.

This weekend Juventus and Milan could distance themselves further from the chasing pack when they entertain Inter and Roma, respectively. With the Old Lady’s impeccable form at home this season – she is still undefeated after fifteen matches – it is hard to see an Inter team that has been in freefall of late coming out with anything. Likewise, Roma have endured an inconsistent campaign and their record on the road has been especially poor so Milan will be the favourites in this contest.

With wins expected for Milan and Juventus, their stranglehold on the Serie A will be maintained while they tussle with each other for the Scudetto. Inter, meanwhile, are back to where they were pre-2006, directionless and with a new coach every time the weather changes. It really is just like old times.

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