By David Mosse
Serie A round 33 review
In a scene that has played out numerous times this season, Juventus was the much more dangerous side in Sunday’s showdown with AC Milan, but struggled to translate its superiority into goals. With Mirko Vucinic ineffective, Arturo Vidal finally broke the deadlock, converting a second-half penalty to give the Bianconeri a 1-0 victory, moving them closer to a second consecutive Scudetto.
The lack of an elite striker has been overcome in Italy thanks to the ability of Vidal, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba to chip in goals, but it proved the Old Lady’s undoing in Europe, and must be addressed if Juventus is to reach the same level as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The good news is a striker capable of filling that void may have just bitten his way to availability this summer.
As expected, the January move for Nicolas Anelka proved to be a complete waste of time, while Athletic Bilbao hitman Fernando Llorente, slated to join the club next season, doesn’t represent enough of an upgrade. Juventus has been linked with Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but general manager Giuseppe Marotta made it clear both players are far too expensive. Luis Suarez might not be.
Liverpool maintains the Uruguayan still has a future at the club, but a lengthy ban could result in Suarez himself demanding a move away from England. With Cavani flourishing at Napoli, and a host of other countrymen plying their trade in Serie A, Italy would seem to be a desirable destination for the 26-year old. Juventus defender Martin Caceres is a close friend and Suarez’s roommate on international duty.
Such a move does carry risk. Milan benefitted from the arrival of a Premier League malcontent right up until Mario Balotelli picked up a three-match ban for insulting a linesman, causing him to miss arguably the Rossoneri’s two most important matches of the campaign. Players like Suarez and Balotelli don’t necessarily change their stripes just by changing uniforms.
But Suarez would undoubtedly be happier in Italy where the footballing culture is much closer to that of a South American country, and the rewards on the field for both parties could be immense. He scored his 30th goal of the season in all competitions on Sunday against Chelsea, an incredible achievement considering the lack of service he receives on a rebuilding Liverpool side.
The Nacional product figures to be even more lethal with stronger talent around him, and would be granted a bigger stage to display his quality, having made just five Champions League appearances in his career. Acquiring Suarez is the sort of bold move Italian clubs will be forced to make in the coming years in order to remain relevant in Europe, given the financial restraints in place.
Another disastrous campaign for Serie A ended with Lazio’s Europa League elimination at the hands of Fenerbahce, and as the semifinals of the two UEFA club competitions kick off this week, Italian clubs and Suarez will both be on the sidelines. A Juventus move for the talented, but temperamental Uruguayan hitman might just be the only way to ensure next season is a different story.
Both Napoli and Fiorentina took advantage of Milan’s defeat with Walter Mazzarri’s side virtually assuring itself of second place and direct entry into next season’s Champions League thanks to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Cagliari. Cavani scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season, and Lorenzo Insigne bagged the winner deep in stoppage time, as Napoli moved seven points clear of the Rossoneri.
The Viola somehow squandered a three-goal lead at home against Torino, but substitute Romulo found the back of the net late in the second half to give Fiorentina a 4-3 win, moving Vincenzo Montella’s side to within one point of Milan for third place with five rounds remaining. Stevan Jovetic sat out once again with a muscular problem, while Adem Ljajic was back in the starting XI to lend his considerable quality.
Elsewhere this weekend, Roma was held to a shock 1-1 home draw by bottom of the table Pescara, as the Delfini ended a run of eight consecutive defeats. Alberto Gilardino continued his impressive campaign for Bologna, finding the back of the net in a 1-1 draw with Sampdoria, while Siena suffered a damaging 1-0 defeat to Chievo, which keeps the Tuscan side just barely above the relegation zone.
Some Other Thoughts:
*Inter Milan maintained its faint hopes of a place in the Champions League next season with a 1-0 home win over Parma thanks to a goal from Tommaso Rocchi who after going 14 months without scoring in Serie A has found the back of the net in two of the last three matches. The big news, however, was Massimo Moratti’s revelation after the match that Andrea Stramaccioni will be back next season.
The Nerazzurri are suffering through a terrible campaign, but Moratti is apparently convinced injuries have been the main culprit for their struggles. Stramaccioni, who took over on an interim basis in March 2012 before being named permanent boss last summer, has flashed the potential to be a top manager, even earning comparisons to Pep Guardiola. He will, however, be under the microscope in 2013-2014.
*Udinese notched a 1-0 home win over Lazio this past weekend and is suddenly very much in contention for a place in Europe next season, a remarkable achievement considering the Bianconeri made a dismal start to the campaign. The hero once again was Antonio Di Natale who for the second straight weekend scored with a sensational volley and is closing in on another 20-goal season.
*The future of Felipe Melo will be decided in the coming days, as Galatasaray faces an April 30 deadline to sign the midfielder outright for a pre-agreed fee of 6.5 million euros. The Brazilian has spent the past two seasons on loan in Turkey, and would likely have no place in the Juventus squad next season. The 29-year-old joined the Old Lady in the summer of 2009 and failed to live up to his price tag.