Saturday 3 August, 1.00pm
Dave Farrar predicts Lazio will upset Juventus and Inter in the truncated Scudetto race, there's bad news for Udinese, while Atalanta could relish the new Champions League format...
"Strength in depth will still be useful, but less important in two months than it would be in nine, and that of course brings Lazio's brilliant first XI (or 14, to be more accurate), so dazzling throughout the season, but maybe starting to fade a little, right into the picture."
For a while it looked as if this remarkable Serie A season would forever remain a tantalisingly unfinished memory, but now we have a resumption, and a plan to finish the season, and for that - fans or no fans - we must be thankful.
Juventus remain favourites to win a ninth consecutive title, and while I wouldn't back them at [1.45], they are absolutely the likeliest winners. They've creaked this season, and looked like the ageing squad that they undoubtedly are, but their performance against Inter in their last game before the lockdown was imperious and impressive, and showed us that Juve's ability to win the clutch games remains unaltered.
They have a key match on Monday of next week, away at Bologna, as do their closest challengers Lazio, who travel to Bergamo on Wednesday to face Atalanta. Either or both of the top two could slip up, and with fixtures coming in quick succession, momentum from game to game is going to decide the title.
Lazio's absence from European competition is no longer an advantage for them, as League and Europe will now be separated, and Juve have arguably the easier run in, with the game between the two on July 20 looking absolutely key. That's in Turin, and if Juve can win another of those clutch games, then they may give themselves an unassailable advantage.
Inter - nine points back but with a game in hand - are not yet out of it, and they have a less tricky resumption than either of the teams above them, but Antonio Conte's team probably have too much ground to make up, and will surely have to win all of their remaining games to give themselves a chance of the Scudetto.
Strength in depth useful but not so important
The thing that fascinates me about this shortened end to the season coming after a three-month break is that it largely takes the benefit of having a large and powerful squad out of the equation. Strength in depth will still be useful, but less important in two months than it would be in nine, and that of course brings Lazio's brilliant first XI (or 14, to be more accurate), so dazzling throughout the season, but maybe starting to fade a little, right into the picture.
It also makes me consider Atalanta, and what they might achieve in a truncated Champions League. I think that a shortened tournament in August could play into their hands, and if Gasperini's side head into the final eight with a full squad, then I really believe they could win it. They look huge at [28.0] to cause a big upset.
I haven't changed my mind about the relegation places, and believe that Lecce may just have enough to stay up, which makes Udinese look awfully vulnerable at [6.4] for the drop (and you may be able to get bigger than that with some judicious trading) - they have a nasty run in, an uninspiring squad, and may just be on the slide. I'd watch them carefully, and they still have Juventus and Lazio to play.
It's going to different, it'll be unpredictable, and if you pushed me into a decision then I'd certainly tell you that Lazio are too big at [4.6] for the Scudetto. If Inter were in their position, with their squad, they'd be half that price. If they beat Atalanta on Wednesday, then it's game on, and belief will grow that this season will be momentous for its results, not simply its tragic hiatus.
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Saturday 3 August, 1.00pm
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