As the Italian rounds continue to pile up towards Christmas, some big results continue to pile through with Juventus continuing their fantastic start to the season.

A Mario Mandzukic header was enough for Juventus to defeat a gallant Roma outfit who struggled to deal with the Bianconeri from the outset. Fiorentina were able to secure their first away win of the season with their defeat of Milan at the San Siro which continues to pile pressure on Gennaro Gattuso. Lazio got back on the winners list with an impressive win at home while Chievo held Inter on the road. Finally, Sampdoria’s late blitz away at Empoli saw them move into sixth and close in on fourth place heading into Christmas.

Juventus shrug off Giallorossi in tight encounter

The result may have looked close between two of Italian football’s old rivals but the story on the field was completely different.

Max Allegri’s charges saw off Roma without much of a challenge but would have been rueing a plethora of missed opportunities which could have seen a much more lopsided result. Roma goal-keeper, Robin Olsen had one of his better games for the club making a range of saves to keep his side in the game but couldn’t do much to counter Mandzukic’s first-half header. Juve showed their clear superiority over Roma in the midfield battle and were able to continue creating chances for Mandzukic and co but their lack of cutting edge plus Olsen’s brilliance was enough to make the result look respectable.

For the Giallorossi, it is back to the drawing board as their only chance came from a Bryan Cristante header which was well saved. However, the pressure on their manager, Eusebio Di Francesco is still yet to dissipate as they sit tenth heading into Christmas but remarkably only four points off fourth. Clashes against Sassuolo and Parma before the end of 2018 will more than likely paint the picture and whether Di Francesco will have a job in 2019.

A loss for Milan, another game edging closer to the exit for Gattuso

The writing on the wall of the Milan locker-room has never been clearer for Gennaro Gattuso and the evidence was right in front of him upon the final whistle on Saturday afternoon.

A loss at home against a side who haven’t won a game on the road could very well put Gattuso in a position where he needs at the maximum six points from six to survive beyond the new year. The tally of games without a goal in the league has now reached three and the problem is not in the quality on the park – it is a mix of not being able to get the best out of the players he has in his weakest part on the pitch.

Now, Milan went into the game without four of their best midfielders and were forced to play with Davide Calabria (a natural full-back) in the midfield three as stalwart, Riccardo Montolivo continues to be disrespected and rotted away on the pine. Furthermore, Milan’s only natural central midfielder the started, Jose Mauri was substituted for Diego Laxalt forcing Milan to go to a 4-4-2 and fielding a midfield duo of Calabria and Hakan Cahlanoglu which completely exposed Milan’s frailties in the middle of the park.

From this moment on, the game was lost as Federico Chiesa slammed home the winner but the big problem comes down to Milan not taking their chances when the game was there to be won. Also, the sheer lack of tactical awareness from their manager to make an extremely questionable substitution which completely backfired.

With games against Frosinone and SPAL to come, Milan need to win these two to stay in touch with Lazio and co but also to keep their manager in charge beyond the new year.

Lazio find cutting edge

After weeks of missing chances to close out games and take chances – it seems the Biancocelesti have found their touch in front of goal.

A decisive 3-1 victory at home over Cagliari was a massive step in the right direction as Simone Inzaghi’s men imposed their will with a blistering start and impressive second-half over a very pecky Sardenian outfit. The likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and co linked up brilliantly throughout the game and showed the attacking fluidity which we had seen but this time with the results to benefit from it. The goals were not necessarily pretty but they were needed to get the confidence back in this outfit which are now back inside the top four heading into Christmas.

However, defensively they showed signs of frailty as Cagliari almost pulled a couple goals back but were unable to take their chances when needed in order to take something from the game.

For Lazio they need to continue this form heading into winnable games against Bologna and Torino as they look to steer clear of the logjam beneath them.

Inter miss chance to kick clear

The Nerazzurri are starting to show signs of what has plagued them for seasons as their blistering start to the season has once again taken a massive blow.

Inter who had the game won with minutes to go blew a lead to a side who is still yet to win a game in the Serie A campaign and also missed a major opportunity to get a gap on Milan and Lazio. Their attack missed plenty of chances throughout the game to seal the points early and failed to beat Stefano Sorrentino as their opponents frustrated Inter right until the final whistle. Chievo who have improved out of sight since Domenico Di Carlo took over as head coach showed their resilience which saw them take points from Lazio and Napoli already.

A win was not a far-off possibility for Chievo as they could have scored a couple more late in the game but Sergio Pellissier’s bundled home equaliser has done enough to stir a side which needs wins and soon. For Inter, it is pressure on Luciano Spaletti once again as they face a huge clash against Napoli in the days to come which could be season defining for the Nerazzurri.

Sampdoria leave it late to close in on fourth

The Doria continue to stay alive in the race for the Champions League places with an incredible victory over Empoli late.

After falling behind early, the resurgence from this Sampdoria outfit was impressive on two occasions as they faced a late equaliser from the home-side which put their comeback on hold. However, the brilliance of Gianluca Carpari who came off the bench to score two late goals has kept Marco Giampaolo’s men right in the race for a position inside the top four. With Lazio in stuttering form and Milan and Roma continuously falling off the pace – Sampdoria have found their way right in the mix for a chance at stealing a place among Europe’s elite.

A side to continuously looking out for as they show signs of a real contender heading into the midway point of the season.

Nick D’Urbano