Corriere dello Sport (Alberto Polverosi) Napoli won with another fantastic brace from Mertens and now the race for second place has opened up again, but the race for the title is now almost certainly over after yesterday’s game. Roma will fall 10 points behind Juve, if the reigning champions win in Udine. While the league table might now be a bit more of a cause for concern, as are the 3 consecutive defeats at the Olimpico in 3 different competitions, more pressing for Spalletti are some bitter reflections on his team’s mistakes (as well as his own), on the declining physical condition of his team and on their inability to react to things going wrong, both from one game to the next and within the 90 minutes themselves.
Il Tempo (Alessandro Austini) There is belief, and there needs to be like never before. Roma are sat just 1 point behind Juventus, though this should be multiplied by 4 given that the Bianconeri should easily win their game in hand against Crotone on 8th February. Even so, that gap is hardly big enough for fans to stop dreaming. It has been a very open title race so far and will continue to be if Roma and Juventus continue to perform on the pitch, where they have been winning all their home games but dropping a few points on the road. The difference, leaving the match they played against each other to one side, is those wretched draws the Giallorossi got at Cagliari and Empoli – the 4 points they dropped in those games have given Allegri a sense of security. But Spalletti’s hopes remain intact: as well as the recent positive signs he can also look back at recent seasons with interest. If we limit ourselves to the last decade, Roma have never been so close to the top of the table after 21 games, from the 11 point gap in 2006/07 to Mancini’s Inter, when Spalletti himself was in charge and the league was getting used to the after-effects of Calciopoli, to the 12 point deficit to Napoli last season: the club’s lowest point came after their defeat in the Juventus Stadium on matchday 21 but was the prelude to the Giallorossi’s remarkable resurgence back up the Serie A table to make up 10 points on Sarri’s side, who in the meantime had been overtaken by Juventus.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Fabio Bianchi) Things were set in stone. It shouldn’t have been possible for them to change. But now the old cliché of Italian teams setting themselves up primarily not to concede goals has finally been turned on its head. Scoring is, finally, at the forefront of our league’s top sides. It’s the most obvious thing of all to say that to win you have to score goals. To score goals, teams need lots of attackers – and good ones. 20 years ago, the system changed to 3 points for a win, and this helped enormously. But recent seasons have shown a surge of goalscorers, particularly this season. We’re just past the halfway mark of the season, and you can clearly see that this scudetto race will be a race like few others.
Il Tempo (Alessandro Austini) Juventus-Sassuolo, 2-0 after 10 minutes and 3-1 at full time. The Bianconeri were 2-0 up in just 8 minutes in Juventus-Sampdoria before going on to win 4-1. These are just the most recent examples of their current dominance at the Juventus Stadium, where the Old Lady have now won 22 times in a row and 105 of the 136 games played overall since the stadium was inaugurated in 2011. In Serie A. Because in Europe, it’s very much a different story: this season, they have drawn both matches in the Champions League against Sevilla and Lyon.
There was once a brotherhood between Roma and Napoli supporters that was the envy of Italy. It existed as a form of solidarity between the two sets of fans as their respective clubs tried to break the power of the northern clubs, and it gave birth to the Derby del Sole, sometimes known as the Derby del Sud, which hit its heyday during the 1970s and early 1980s. Then, unfortunately, that relationship was fractured and shattered by a series of events, building up to a tragic nadir in 2014. Roma-Napoli now is no longer the true Derby del Sole. For nearly the last 30 years, the fixture has been marred by tensions, clashes and violence on coaches, at train stations, even at police stations, leading up to the death of Ciro Esposito at the hands of Roma ultra Daniele De Santis two years ago. Just this summer, a 20 year old Roman was stabbed and hospitalised in Naples for having a Roma tattoo on his arm on display in the city centre. A deep and mutual mistrust has spread throughout both sets of fans, leading to these violent clashes, and now the game is one of Italy’s most high risk games with away fans often banned from attending. How did it come to this?
Everything already seemed to be decided: Juventus would win the scudetto, Juventus B would finish second and everyone else would compete for third. To judge from everything that has been said during the transfer window and pre-season, it would seem impossible for Serie A to finish any other way, because the Italian champions’ signings seem – on paper – only to have increased the gap with everyone else. And that’s not just referring to Higuain: it’s a question of their squad, their mentality, how used they are to winning. But are we really that sure that this season will be a monologue all about Juventus?