At the half-way point in the current Serie A season, can anybody stop Juventus from claiming their fourth title in a row?
With the league leaders collecting maximum points from 11 games, they are well on course to win another Scudetto. AC Milan however, have managed to keep pace and are still just three points behind.
The two sides met back in October, Juventus overcame that test with a 1-0 away win. The only goal of the game came from the penalty spot, scored by the league’s top scorer, Cristiana Girelli.
Before that defeat to Juventus, Milan had opened the season with three straight wins, including a 5-0 win at San Marino with Natasha Dowie scoring twice in that game.
After the disappointment of their only loss in the league they bounced back with a 3-0 win at Empoli followed by a 4-1 win in the Milan derby. Dowie bagged another two goals in that game.
In the latest round of matches AC Milan kept up their winning streak with a 1-0 away win at Verona. Natasha Dowie getting the only goal of the game at the midway point of the first-half.
Girelli’s PenaltiesEmbed from Getty Images
Despite Juventus recording some big wins, including three 4-0 victories in a row against Fiorentina, Bari and Sassuolo, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Empoli gave them a scare on day two of the season when they travelled to Turin.
The visitors took a 2-1 lead before Girelli put Juventus back in front. But five minutes from time, Empoli also scored a penalty to level the tie. It took another Girelli penalty in added time to take all three points.
They also went behind to Florentia San Gimignano in November when Florin Wagner put the home side ahead just before half-time. Arianna Caruso then levelled the game just after halftime, but another Girelli spot-kick gave Juventus the win.
Their next league game was with bottom of the table Napoli, who also gave them a battle. The home side went ahead in the first-half through French midfielder Sarah Huchet. But Juventus found an equaliser thanks to Brazilian Maria Alves. With only eight minutes left on the clock, a Cristiana Girelli penalty gave Juventus the win.
Their latest win was 3-0 away to Inter Milan. After a scoreless first half, they again needed a Girelli penalty to break the deadlock before killing off the game.
Sassuolo currently sit in third place, with eight wins from 11 games and have an eight point cushion over Empoli and Fiorentina. On the first day of the season they had to come from behind to rescue a point at home to Roma, but then recorded five wins on the trot.
That run was brought to an abrupt end when they travelled to take on Juventus, going down 4-0 with all four goals coming in the second half. Sassuolo bounced back the foowing week scoring four themselves, a 4-1 home win against Verona. Their only other league defeat came at the hands of second placed Milan in December.
One to watchEmbed from Getty Images
One of the new stars this season also came from Sassuolo. Maltese Haley Bugeja made her club debut in September in the 3-1 win over Napoli at the age of 16. She scored two goals in that first appearance and hasn’t stopped there, with six goals from nine games to her name.
Fiorentina, having qualified for the Champions League for the last four seasons, would have expected to be challenging at the top of the table. Instead they find themselves in fifth spot, level on points with Empoli.
Their season started well too, with three wins in a row including a 4-0 opening day win over Inter. They then hit a rough patch with three straight defeats, including a 4-0 loss to rivals Juventus.
Already a goal down inside the first five minutes, things got even worse less than 10 minutes later when Louise Quinn was sent off. Since then they have only managed another two wins in the league, also suffering a 1-0 loss to Milan. With a thirteen point gap, it’s difficult to see them getting that Champions League spot, although they are still in this season’s competition.
The Mighty QuinnEmbed from Getty Images
Louise Quinn has really impressed at the back, whilst being almost ever present in the Viola defence she has shown the danger she poses up front from set-pieces.
She already has three goals to her name, her first goal for the club coming when she opened the scoring after eight minutes in a 2-0 win at Bari in November.
San Marino along with Napoli were the two clubs promoted from Serie B, and Napoli look to be in real danger of dropping back down. With only one point to show for their efforts thus far, which came in a scoreless draw with San Marino who are seven points ahead of them in the safety zone.
Bari are the other club in real relegation trouble, their only three points came on the opening day of the season, a 1-0 win over Napoli. Since then it’s been 10 defeats in a row.
There is plenty to look forward to in the second-half of the season, and with the top two set to meet again in early March, AC Milan will be looking to keep their run going to maintain pressure on the leaders. They also know that any slip up could be punished by a chasing Sassuolo side who will not give up easily on a first ever Champions League place.
Can Juventus hold their nerve? Will Cristiana Girelli keep knocking in those goals, and penalties? With 11 rounds still to play, anything can happen.
Serie A League Table
- Cristiana Girelli (Juventus) – 12 goals
- Daniela Sabatino (Fiorentina) – 9 goals
- Valentina Giacinti (AC Milan) – 8 goals
- Kamila Dubcová (Sassuolo) – 8 goals
- Valeria Pirone (Sassuolo) – 7 goals
- Annamaria Senturini (Roma) – 7 goals