The Premier League title race is the most exciting in years with three teams still in the mix but events in Italy are just as compelling with the same equation playing out there.
Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan still top the table but they have seen a nine-point lead all but disappear after they lost 2-1 to AS Roma last weekend with their conquerors now sitting just one point behind.
Roma, of course, are managed by a certain Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho’s predecessor as Chelsea manager. The two have never seen eye-to-eye and they have been involved in many bouts of verbal jousting both when the Portuguese was the king of Stamford Bridge and during their time together in Italy.
So it is safe to say that the Giallorossi’s boss was rather pleased with Saturday’s result at the Stadio Olimpico and the look on his face at the final whistle was reminiscent of his expression when Chelsea knocked Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage in 2004.
Roma certainly have the momentum while Inter are visibly stuttering but AC Milan are still circling the two.
The Rossoneri though have shot themselves in the foot in recent weeks, securing just two points from their last three matches. But despite their recent woes Leonardo’s side sit just three points off their city rivals in third place and with seven matches still remaining in the season there is still plenty of time to close the gap.
The three protagonists’ fixtures over Easter should be a relative formality with Inter hosting Bologna, Roma travelling to Bari and Milan hopping to Sardinia to take on Cagliari. Inter then go to Fiorentina where they will have to negotiate the partisan atmosphere of the Stadio Artemio Franchi
But the following weekend, on April 18-19, sees three matches of enormous magnitude that really should sort the men from the boys.
On the Saturday, Inter Milan face Juventus in the fixture that has traditionally been seen as the biggest of the season and is even dubbed the ‘Derby of Italy’. It is the equivalent of Manchester United v Liverpool – two historically successful teams from different cities but with a mutual dislike for each other – and it is equally as compelling.
The following day in the capital, Lazio take on Roma in one of the fiercest derbies in Europe. Lazio have more than pride to play for as they sit just above the Serie A trapdoor but their players and supporters need little extra motivation to get themselves in the mood to take on their most hated rivals. Roma can expect a hot reception but if they keep their heads they should prevail.
Meanwhile, Milan have a tricky looking match away at mercurial Sampdoria. The Genoa side are capable of both wonderful and woeful performances meaning the seven-time European Cup winners must be on their toes.
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