Juventus are the Kings of Serie A but the fight for Champions League places continues:

Juventus are kings of Italy for a fifth consecutive time. For many bianconeri fans, this one will go down as the sweetest for many years as once again, they proved too strong for the competition.

THE TURNING POINT FOR JUVENTUS

The Serie A season started in late August, for Juventus, it never really got going until October 28th 2015. A 1-0 defeat away at Sassuolo (their fourth of the campaign) left them cut adrift from the early pacesetters and in an astonishing post-match interview, legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had seen enough, delivering a tirade of criticism in the direction of his teammates as the club headed into crisis. Rather than divide the dressing-room however, the 38-year old’s words galvanised the rest of the squad and 24 wins from their next 25 league matches, including two personal records for the great man, ensured the title remained in Turin for another year.

 

BUFFON THE UNBEATABLE

In a glittering career, has Gianluigi Buffon ever had a better season domestically than 2015-16? Records have tumbled as the Italian number one proved to any doubters, that he is still one of the best in the business. 973 minutes unbeaten, including 10 consecutive clean-sheets, has re-written the Serie A record books and what is even more remarkable, is that in 2016 he has only conceded three, yes three, league goals. His last minute penalty save from Nikola Kalinic last weekend which gave his side the three points and as it turned out, the championship, epitomised his season. In a recent interview he declared that he will play at the top level for another two years before bowing out after appearing at a sixth World Cup finals in Russia where he would set yet another record.

 

FIVE-STAR PERFORMANCES

Juventus have become the fourth Italian side ( and the first one to do it twice) to win five consecutive league championships and there is nothing to suggest (especially on the betting exchanges) that this team can’t go on to win six in a row and set an all-time Italian record. Apart from the heroics of Buffon, the summer signing of Argentine striker Paulo Dybala proved to be a masterstroke; his 20 goals in all competitions so far in his first-season in Turin, has already surpassed legends such as David Trezeguet and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The sensational form of French midfielder Paul Pogba, who has come in to his own after the departure of Andrea Pirlo, has made him one of the most sought after players in Europe; and let’s not forget about the wonderful defensive work by Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli who, alongside Buffon, have made the Juventus goal almost impenetrable.

 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE REGRETS FOR ALLEGRI

Amidst all the celebrations, coach Max Allegri has one major regret from the past nine-months and that’s their exit to Bayern Munich in the Champions League at the round of 16. If not for a controversial refereeing decision in the first-half, the bianconeri could still be in the competition and it’s here that the Old Lady will focus all her attentions next season. With domestic dominance pretty much assured for the foreseeable future, Allegri knows his team must now kick-on and try to lift European club football’s biggest prize before they can be considered one of the greats. A summer of wheeling and dealing on the transfer market should ensure that Italian football’s most successful club are ready to show the rest of Europe that they mean business.

NAPOLI AND ROMA FIGHT IT OUT FOR SECOND SPOT

A 1-0 win for Roma over Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday has brought them to within two points of the vesuviani with just three games to go. Under new coach Luciano Spalletti, the side from the capital have only lost one of their last 16 Serie A matches and whilst a third placed finish would at least guarantee them a Champions League qualifying game, the Romans (and the best online betting sites) are now confident they can overhaul Napoli and claim the final automatic spot. A season that looked to be drifting into obscurity in the final weeks of Rudi Garcia’s reign now has a chance of another happy ending. Napoli on the other hand, seem to have run out of steam at just the wrong moment. At the start of 2016, they were the talk of the town in Serie A playing the best football in the country. February’s heart-breaking defeat in Turin against Juventus however, wrecked the confidence and ultimately wrecked their hopes of winning a first Italian league title since 1990. It would be foolish for people to aim criticisms at coach Maurizio Sarri after a wonderful first season at his hometown club, the big question now for the club from Campania, is can they hold on to second spot and can they hold on to star striker Gonzalo Higuain?

 

THE BEST OF THE REST

Currently in the midst of takeover talk, Inter Milan look like they will miss out on a Champions League spot for another season. It’s now almost four years since they last played in the competition and this is just not good enough for a club of their size and stature. A lack of goals has been the key throughout the entire campaign and despite not giving much away at one end, Roberto Mancini’s side has struggled to put anything away at the other. If, as suggested, current president Erick Thohir decides to sell his controlling stake in the club to the Suning Group from China, it will bring to a close an uncertain period in the history of one of Europe’s most famous clubs. Mancini stated at the weekend that they are “Two champion players short of being a great team” most observers will feel they are much further away than that.

FAREWELL TO THE GENTLEMAN OF VERONA

Where there’s glory there’s tragedy and in the city used as the setting by Shakespeare for Romeo & Juliet, the football team bids farewell to Serie A after a campaign that would leave the great playwright lost for words. Rock bottom for two thirds of the campaign, a home win against Milan on Monday wasn’t enough to keep the gialloblu in the top-flight, after relegation rivals Carpi won against Empoli later in the day. Serie B will not be a place veteran striker Luca Toni will want to spend his weekend’s next season and we expect an announcement from him regarding his future very soon.

Steve Mitchell @barafundler

 

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