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The Battle for Second Place

The Battle for Second Place

The tale is almost a decade old as we march towards the midpoint of the Serie A 2018/19 season. Juventus are sitting pretty at the top of the table as usual and don’t look likely to relinquish any time soon.

Such is the dominance of the Bianconeri that bookmakers now offer outright winner odds without Juventus – essentially a battle for second place. If you want to place a bet on the winners of Serie A with or without Juventus in contention and need to compare betting sites then is the best place to do it.

But don’t be disheartened. There are plenty of potential suitors willing to take their throne but who is likely to mount the best challenge going forward this season and into the near future?

Napoli currently sit second place, mirroring last season’s finish. Last year’s campaign saw them come within a whisker of claiming their first title since 1990, only narrowly missing out at the last gasp.

Despite losing manager Maurizio Sarri to the lofty heights of the Premier League, the Napolitani don’t look like letting up anytime soon and arguably mount the best challenge to the breaking Juve’s grip on the Scudetto. They’ve certainly found a worthy replacement in Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti arrives back in Italy after a 9 year absence from Serie A, having won domestic titles in England, France, Spain and Germany, as well a third Champions League title with Real Madrid to add to his already impressive trophy cabinet.

Aside from the departure of midfield maestro Jorginho, Napoli have done well to keep their squad largely intact. Key players such as Marek Hamsik, Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne make the spine of a team that has mounted a serious challenge before. These players will prove vital going forward.

Ancelotti himself brings a wealth of experience to Gli Azzurri. Although they currently sit 8 points off the pace after 14 games, if he is given time and financial backing he will be able to help the southerners take that extra step that could see them to be the ones to knock the Juventus right off their perch.

Last season’s third place finishers Roma have also been knocking at the door. Admittedly, their impressive Champions League run to the semis took understandable and justifiable energy away from their Serie A campaign.

The 2016-17 season saw them come within a hair’s breadth of the title. Impressive 1-4 and 3-1 demolitions of Milan and Juventus respectively in the business end of the season gave them a glimpse of hope. It looked like they might be on their way to their first Scudetto since 2001 but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Coach and former player Eusebio Di Francesco has done a commendable job of raising Roma’s game since arriving from Piacenza in the summer of 2017. Though an ad hoc and largely disappointing start to the season has since seen his role at the club repeatedly placed in jeopardy.

Roma currently sit seventh in the table with just 20 points after 14 matches, putting them at a woeful half of Juve’s overall tally. A spate of unexpected defeats and disappointing draws have landed them in this position, but luckily for the Giallorossi, there’s plenty of time to turn their season around, and much to be positive about.

December presents a manageable set of fixtures against the likes of Cagliari, Sassuolo and Parma, the only discernible challenge being a trip to Turin to meet Juventus just before Christmas. If they can make it into the New Year with a decent haul of points, they’ll certainly be looking to challenge for a Champions League spot.

Their true strength if they’re going to break Juve’s hegemony is two-fold: remaining steadfast under the tutelage of Eusebio Di Francesco, and their belief in youth. The Romans put faith in the likes of Justin Kluivert and Nicolò Zaniolo this summer and it‘s beginning to pay off.

If Roma can find that perfect blend of youth and experience, while maintaining positive results they’ll become a force to be reckoned with in Serie A.

Roma’s most recent opponents Inter have come to represent the antithesis to the philosophy of belief in youth, preferring to spend big on tried and tested players. Although that tact itself could be changing.

Since the arrival of big money from China, Inter have splashed the cash in recent seasons but it’s come to little to no avail. The Nerazzurri haven’t added to their trophy cabinet since 2010 and only managed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in seven years last season.

The tide could be turning however. Last summer’s business saw Inter operate more shrewdly in the the transfer market. In fact, it comes as no surprise that Inter might be changing their approach. Big spending has yielded little in the way of results and as research by has found, they now sit way down the pecking order when it comes to finances accrued through sponsorship deals.

Aside from the arrival of 30 year old Radja Nainggolan from Roma, Inter have only spent big on 21 year old striker Lautaro Martínez recently arrived from Argentinian outfit Racing Club. This is complemented by the arrival of loanees Keita Baldé and Sime Vrsaljko, as well as free agent Stefan de Vrij, who are all claiming first team places from the off.

Inter currently occupy third spot with 29 points from 14 games, nipping at the heels of Napoli.  But before Inter can truly begin to mount a serious title challenge, they’ll have to overcome their biggest crux – inconsistency.

Their star player and captain Mauro Icardi is as usual firing on all cylinders, after claiming Capocannoniere with 29 goals last season. Inter can never seem to rack up a run of straight wins. It all looked to be going well with a seven game unbeaten run this time round, but unnecessary defeats in the midst have left them off the boil.

If they can find a backbone for the big games, but also churn out results week in week out they’ll find themselves transformed into a formidable opponent.

For the best Serie A betting tips, betting previews and a comprehensive Italian football expert betting guide then make sure to head to After Juventus might be steaming ahead this season but there’s plenty of quality teams lying in their wake. It won’t be long until Serie A sees a much needed shift the way they’re going.


Adam Grimshaw




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