A title decider? In gameweek eight? Really?
Usually, it’s much too early to be labelling fixtures as relegation six-pointers or title deciders, however when Napoli and Milan meet on Sunday night both sets of players will see it as a real opportunity to set their stall out as the Scudetto favourites.
Of course, there are other teams with title aspirations this season. Roma and Sassuolo have started the season well, and sit fourth and second respectively, while you can never really write off Juventus or Inter – despite both teams struggling at the start of the season. But, for now at least, Milan and Napoli seem the most likely to go the distance.
With the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo at the helm, Juventus have struggled to convert draws into wins this season – having drawn four of their opening seven league games. One of these draws came away from home to Crotone, who sit bottom of the pile having accumulated just two points all season.
That’s not good.
And while having Cristiano Ronaldo and co. on the books means they will challenge for the title, that challenge may not be as successful as it has been in previous years.
Inter find themselves in a similar situation to Juventus. Bizarrely for an Antonio Conte side, leaking goals seems to be the issue, as they have the second worst defensive record in the top eight this season.
In 2017, Conte finished the season with Chelsea having conceded only 33 goals on their way to winning the Premier League. His Inter side are currently a third of the way to matching that total after only seven games.
No, that’s not good either.
Of course, Romelu Lukaku provides one of the most potent attacking threats in the world at the moment, but while defensive issues continue for Conte, it’s hard to imagine that Inter can score enough to keep up with Napoli and their inner city rivals Milan – having already actually lost to Milan this season.
As for the other aforementioned challengers – Roma and Sassuolo – it’s hard to imagine that they will keep up their current form, as they lack any real strength in depth. One injury to a Jeremie Boga or an Edin Dzeko and the title tilt would probably be over in an instant.
Therefore, Sunday night’s encounter is actually between the current two most likely Scudetto winners.
Elsewhere, their current top of the table rivals all face home ties that they’ll be expected to win, apart from Sassuolo whose attacking prowess should be enough to see them triumphant as they travel to Hellas Verona. With this in mind, both coaches will be keen to ensure they stay above other challengers as the heat increases in Serie A.
As the importance of the tie can’t be overstated, the managers will be feeling the pressure to come away with a result and not let form slip in a title race that, for the moment, seems theirs to lose. While it is too early to call the result of the season already, this tie can really set the tone for the coming months.
As the usual challengers have shown signs of slipping up somewhat, Napoli and Milan will feel as ready as ever to get their hands on the Scudetto. The Rossaneri haven’t won the title since 2011, while I Partenopei haven’t been crowned champions since 1990.
There’s no doubt the door is wide open in the race for the Serie A title, and it’s being kept open by the feet of Juventus and Inter. Sunday night’s tie could decide who bursts through and ends Juventus’ decade of dominance.
It really is an early season title decider.