first_imgJuventus 15Cagliari12-129 Crotone’s players celebrate after beating Fiorentina. Photograph: Albano Angilletta/AP 14Genoa12-69 Twitter The debate about how many clubs should compete in Serie A never really went away. Italian football’s top division has expanded and contracted many times in almost 90 years of existence. At its smallest, it has contained only 16 teams, and at its largest, an awkward 21.Right now, we are back at 20 but there has been a growing clamour to reduce that figure. The Italian Football Federation’s own president, Carlo Tavecchio, has repeatedly stated his belief that 18 teams would be “perfect”. On the evidence of this season so far, you could make a case for more swingeing cuts.Serie A’s top five teams might even be taking matters into their own hands, as they establish what has effectively become a closed mini-league. Napoli, Inter, Juventus, Lazio and Roma have played 53 games between them and won 44 of those. But if you exclude matches against one another, then they have dropped only six points combined. 8AC Milan11016 Gonzalo Higuaín celebrates after scoring against Milan. Photograph: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images Twitter 5Roma101224 Pinterest Share on Messenger Facebook Serie A European club football Sportblog PosTeamPGDPts Share on Pinterest 18Sassuolo11-138 blogposts 19Verona10-166 Share on WhatsApp 3Lazio111928 7Fiorentina11616 9Torino11-216 10Atalanta12115 12Bologna11-314 11Chievo11-515 6Sampdoria111123 17SPAL11-108 13Udinese11-412 Topics Share via Email Read more • They might not quite have the quality to hang in the chase for Champions League places, but Sampdoria are having a remarkable season on their own terms. After thrashing Chievo, they have now won five home games in a row for the first time since 1991.• A timely win for Torino, even if team president Urbano Cairo insists he had never considered firing Sinisa Mihajlovic, a prospect widely mooted in the papers leading up to the weekend.• Bologna might have lost to Roma on Saturday, but that didn’t stop Federico Di Francesco – son to the Giallorossi’s manager, Eusebio – showing off in front of his dad.Results: Milan 0-2 Juventus, Roma 1-0 Bologna, Benevento 1-5 Lazio, Crotone 2-1 Fiorentina, Napoli 3-1 Sassuolo, Sampdoria 4-1 Chievo, Spal 1-0 Genoa, Udinese 2-1 Atalanta, Torino 2-1 Cagliari. Monday: Verona v Internazionale. 20Benevento11-250 His second goal, when it came, was even better. This time Kwadwo Asamoah provided the assist, with Dybala dummying the ball as it came across from the left-hand side. Higuaín dropped a shoulder to gain a yard on the nearest defender, and drilled his shot in off the near-post.He was the difference between the teams. Milan had chances to equalise at 1-0: Nikola Kalinic first failing to get his toe to a Fabio Borini cross with the goal gaping, then later hitting the bar from six yards. The Rossoneri had more shots than Juventus, and a greater number from inside the penalty area as well. But for the fourth consecutive game at San Siro, they failed to score.That is not something Juventus struggled with. In the previous week alone, they had stuck 10 goals past Udinese and Spal. Higuaín’s form in the early part of this season, though, had been the subject of great scrutiny. He was dropped from Juve’s starting XI for the derby win over Torino in September, and the subsequent Champions League game against Olympiakos.Call it a piece of canny man-management by Massimiliano Allegri. Higuaín came off the bench to break the deadlock against the Greek side and, although he only scored once in the next four games, performances were markedly improved. Gigi Buffon suggested after the rout of Udinese that Allegri should put footage of Higuaín on a 24-hour loop at Juventus’s Vinovo training complex so everyone could see what it meant to put yourself at the service of the team.The Argentinian has now scored 101 goals in Serie A, joining Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the only players in the past 20 years to hit centuries in two of Europe’s top five leagues. But where his goals-to-games ratio remains similar in Turin to what it had been in Naples, he is making more tackles and winning possession with greater regularity than ever before. “Gonzalo is a world class player,” said the Milan manager, Vincenzo Montella. “He invented two goals on his own, and not everyone has that luxury.”Indeed not. It is perhaps no coincidence that every other team in that group of five atop Serie A can boast at least one player who has scored more goals than Higuaín so far. But he is not Juve’s most prolific forward, either, with five fewer strikes than Dybala. Milan were undone by a one-man show this weekend, but it is the champions’ depth that should strike fear into their rivals the most.Talking points• If the top five are pulling away, then at least there are still surprises to be had in the group below. Spal’s victory over Genoa might have raised eyebrows if the latter had not been so shabby until now. More surprising was Crotone’s win over Fiorentina, who had been riding high after three consecutive wins. The latter side were presumptuous – and these are things that can happen with a young side – but credit is due to Crotone as well, and in particular manager Davide Nicola, who continues to do excellent work despite having lost his only reliable goalscorer, Diego Falcinelli, in the wake of last year’s miracle escape. Share on Facebook Pinterest 2Juventus112328 Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Italian football needs more than a public reading to bring meaningful change Facebook 1Napoli112431 None of this is normal. Napoli had never won their first eight games of a Serie A campaign before doing so this year. Lazio’s 28 points, nine wins, 31 goals scored and +19 goal difference are all club records with 11 matches played. If Inter beat Verona on Monday, they will be one point better off than José Mourinho’s treble-winning side at the equivalent stage.Such achievements are made possible in part by the paucity of teams at the lower end of the division. The Benevento side who were thrashed 5-1 by Lazio on Sunday have now failed to take a single point from 11 games. Their goal difference sits already at -25.Yet the furious pace atop Serie A might also stem from an awareness there exists no margin for error. To knock Juventus off their perch after six consecutive Scudetti will require something close to perfection. The 87 points that Roma gathered last season were also a club record, but they still finished four behind the Bianconeri.And Juventus, despite sitting third, are themselves a point better off than they were at the corresponding point last year. Their 2-0 win over Milan on Saturday was the headline result from another weekend without any upsets at the top of the table.The Rossoneri were supposed to be among the frontrunners this season but instead had been cut adrift already after defeats by Lazio, Roma, Inter and Sampdoria. There was little in their early-season form to suggest that they could beat Juventus, but the atmosphere crackled all the same as Milan’s supporters unveiled a vast Halloween-themed coreografía before kick-off at San Siro – mocking these opponents for repeated European Cup final failures.Their team, too, would play up to the occasion. Milan were not masterful, but they were combative and quick to the ball. They tried to take the game to Juventus and seemed early on to be succeeding. Unfortunately, aggression and possession don’t always count for an awful lot when you’re up against a team with a striker such as Gonzalo Higuaín.The Argentinian broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute with his first shot of the game. He made it look easy, even though it wasn’t, receiving a pass from Paulo Dybala on the edge of the box and taking one touch to move past his marker before drilling the ball into the bottom corner. There are few strikers, even at this level, who can generate such power with such modest backlift. 4Inter Milan101326 16Crotone11-139 Reuse this contentlast_img

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