A bit of a mixed bag in Serie A, Week 9 : falls from grace, competition at the top of the table, the firing of a manager and the hospitalization of a shiny star. Let's get to it, shall we?
The race at the top of the table is a tight one: Juventus are top, with Udinese and Lazio just a point behind, and Milan lurking one more point beneath, in fourth. Although many still argue that the rossoneri are the presumptive title winners, another rash of injuries could see Milan falling back down. Meanwhile, a good run of form from Palermo or Napoli, or the continuation of the impressive play of Catania and Cagliari, could very well turn the table on its head. Or the top half of the table, anyway.
It's not just the results that make for captivating Serie A talk -- it's the continued shattering of the myth of the defensive, boring style of Italian play. Juve may have only scored twice against Inter on Saturday, but they certainly looked poised to score five or six. Lazio crushed Cagliari, 3-0, quite a change from this time last season, when Reja's team would defend a one-goal lead to the snooze-inducing end. And Udinese - Palermo may have ended 1-0, but the match was an end-to-end affair, with impressive saves from Samir Handanovic, Alexandros Tzorvas, and the woodwork.
Oh Inter, Inter, Inter. Nine games in and your scudetto run has ended. That takes talent, doesn't it? Especially for a team that so recently won not just the title, but the Coppa and the Champions League. Now, after a 2-1 loss to Juve in the Derby d'Italia, the nerazzurri are scrambling for answers. It's not just the fact that the team are a mere point above the relegation zone -- it's that they look absolutely devoid of solutions. Even the best efforts of Maicon and Wesley Sneijder can't hide the fact that the squad is aging, and that they're unable to defend anymore.
Meanwhile, Cesena gave head coach Marco Giampaolo a few weeks longer than Inter gave Gian Piero Gasperini, but after a 2-0 loss to Parma, Giampaolo was shown the door. The Seahorses have scored just three goals thus far in the campaign, leading to a mere three points from three draws. If bad things come in threes, surely it's time for a little good luck to smile on this side, which looked so promising on paper.
Upon seeing that, it's little wonder that the partenopei are under-performing in the league.
Antonio Cassano has been having a great season: involved in most Milan matches, scoring like mad in Italy's Euro qualification campaign, shrinking so much that his "specially made match shorts" were falling down around his ankles. Sure, he was still producing at least one spectacular miss per match, but the forward has been a joy to watch. Now, we're unsure when we'll next see him on the pitch. Fantantonio has been hospitalized with a mystery illness, and will need continued tests to determine what, exactly, the problem might be.