Week 21 in Serie A started with a host of questions we hoped to have answered. Did the weekend's performances clarify any of these idle wonderings, or are we left with even more questions than when we began?
A One Man Team, But Which Juan Will Show For Roma Against Cagliari?
Prior to Roma's Saturday match against Cagliari, we asked if Juan, who'd made a muddle of things in the loss to Sampdoria and conceded a penalty in the Coppa Italia match against Lazio, would be the weakness that crippled Roma's climb up the table. But after Cagliari keeper Michael Agazzi dropped Juan's header at the feet of Simone Perrotta to allow Roma's second goal of the match, we have to admit that Juan was not a liability in Roma's easy 3-0 win over the Rossoblu. Easy is rarely the same as captivating, however, and for the first hour plus, the match was fairly dull. Only the double substitution of Jérémy Menez and Mirko Vučinić brought any spark to the Roma side. Roma might be in third but when your kits are the brightest thing on the field, you might want to consider getting over your arguments with certain players and giving more play to Menez and Mirko.
In other Saturday Serie A news, Parma beat Catania 2-0 to lift themselves six points clear of the relegation zone, and Palermo found an expected 1-0 win against Brescia to bring themselves even on points with Juventus.
Will Inter Continue To Be "Revitalized" Against Udinese, Or Can We Finally Put That Word To Bed?
Bless you, Udinese, for handing Inter Milan their first loss of Leonardo's reign. The come-from-behind victory in Udine will force journalists and bloggers everywhere to find a new word to describe Inter. While we can't go back to "struggling," much less "utterly dire," I suggest "team with clear weakness in the back that we overlooked when they were winning." It might not flow off the tongue as well as "revitalized", but it's certainly more accurate. Between poor coverage by Ivan Cordoba and poor positioning by Luca Castellazzi, Inter Milan might have their own questions to ask after the 3-1 loss to Udinese. Dejan Stanković gave Inter the early lead, but goals by Cristián Zapata, Antonio Di Natale, and Maurizio Domizzi gave brought about the win for the home side.
Just How Far Will Juventus Slide?
Sunday's match against Sampdoria won't tell us just how far Juventus will fall, but it can tell us that the Old Lady is certainly not on the ascendancy. After Armand Traoré mysteriously left the pitch in the first minute and Amauri spouted blood from his nose, causing him to elbow Stefano Lucchini and send him off the pitch, things really died down in match, enough so that neutrals were left yelling, "End! End!" As sadly predicted earlier in the week, this match produced no goals, and very little action. The poor officiating (again, noted by neutrals) and lack of ability to string more than a few passes together contributed to a dull encounter. At some point, you'd think it would be easier if Juventus simply stopped giving its fans any hope whatsoever, and faded out to start again next season.
Is Napoli A True Contender For Next Year's Champions League?
Prior to the Sunday kickoff, I mentioned that if Napoli couldn't win against last-place Bari, perhaps there was reason to believe that their title challenge wasn't a genuine one. But despite poor refereeing (sense a theme, here?) and an announcer who firmly believed that Marek Hamšík was the focal point of a Napoli attack, whilst pronouncing Cavani as "Cav-ee-on-ee", the partenopei found the win that propelled them into second place. Bari were poor and their desperation showed in their constant hacking at the feet of the visiting players, finally resulting in a free kick for Edinson Cavani. Ezequiel Lavezzi burst through the Bari defense to stick the ball in the net and give Napoli the lead. The Bari hack plan backfired once again 24 minutes before the end, with Alessandro Parisi picking up his second yellow and a sending off. Bari disintegrated and Napoli time kicked, with Lavezzi and Cavani combining again in the 87th minute, Cavani putting the ball in the net this time around. Napoli are legitimate title contenders, but we may have to wait until the end of the season before anyone acknowledges it.
In other Sunday match day news, Lazio hit a stumbling block against Bologna, taking the lead in the fifth minute before a brace by Mario Di Vaio and an extra by Gastón Ramírez gave the hosts the 3-1 lead. With wins by Roma and Napoli, Lazio slips down to fourth. Elsewhere, Chievo Verona and Genoa ground out a 0-0 draw that leaves little to mention, with just three shots on target in the entire match.
Will Cesena's Bad Luck Finally Turn?
No. No it will not. History repeated itself this week for Cesena as they saw a Maximiliano Pellegrino own goal in the 45th minute give AC Milan the lead. In case you didn't recall, it was a Pellegrino own goal that gave Roma the win at Cesena last week, and the defender just might be a bigger liability than Roma's Juan. After the halftime whistle, the fight seemed to have gone out of Cesena, who did little more than sit back and defend for the second half. Milan wrapped up another unconvincing victory with a last-minute goal by Zlatan Ibrahimović, who seems intent on surpassing Samuel Eto'o, Edinson Cavani and Antonio Di Natale to lead the league in goals.