Shipped from abroad, Italy: Inter loses, becomes the most important team in Italy

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Bizarro Juve showed up again, but we’ve decided to accept them for what they are. They’re a team that, despite their undefeated record, can give up an 85th minute equalizer on home soil to a 10-man relegation battler. If we were looking at the score in isolation, the result would surprise nobody, through how it came about was shocking. Electrocute-ingly shocking.

If there has been one constant this season, it’s been Gigi Buffon – arguably Europe’s best `keeper throughout the 2011-12 campaign. Juventus’s 19 goals allowed are nine (NINE!) less than anybody else in Italy, a number that includes the score he gifted Lecce on Wednesday. Buffon’s error – and it was a huge one (see below) – conceded the game tying goal to Luis Muriel, leaving the Old Lady with only one point from the league’s 18th-ranked team.

Milan, on the other hand, got a strong three points from an Atlanta side that would be in the race for Europe had they not been forced to give six points back to the house. Robinho’s late score provided insurance to Sulley Muntari’s early opener, bookend goals being as seminal a format to late-season soccer as ABABCB is to pop music.

And so it is that a team with five more losses than the league’s leaders will go into the weekend only one point back. Unfortunately, while Juventus travels to 14th place Cagliari, Milan will face their biggest rivals – an Inter Milan side that’s clawed their way back into Europe-contention despite being on their third coach.

That coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, suffered his first loss on Wednesday. Three second half goals, including one from former Inter trainee Jonathan Biabiany, leave Inter three back of a Champions League spot. Thankfully, they remain slotted for Europa League, but having been dealt their first major set back under Stramaccioni ahead of their biggest game, their ability to bounce back suddenly becomes the most important facet of Serie A soccer.

If Inter was looking beyond Parma to Milan, they may still be a side that can pave Juventus’s road to the scudetto. If, however, the air’s out of the balloon, Milan’s run-in has suddenly become a lot easier.

Five losses worse than the team you’re chasing: It’s not your typical title defense.

Tuesday’s results
Chievo 0-0 Roma
Napoli 2-0 Palermo

Wednesday’s results
Milan 2-0 Atalanta
Catania 0-1 Bologna
Genoa 2-1 Cagliari
Parma 3-1 Inter Milan
Juventus 1-1 Lecce
Fiorentina 2-2 Novara
Lazio 1-1 Siena
Cesena 0-1 Udinese

Races

Champions League: Juventus (78 points, 36 games), Milan (77, 36), Napoli (58, 36)

Europa League: Udinese (58, 36), Lazio (56, 36), Inter Milan (55, 36)

Survival (relegation): Genoa (39, 36), Lecce (36, 36)

Player Taunts Coach; Coach Attacks Player

The big story out of Italy is not the title race but Delio Rossi. The Fiorentina manager – strike that, former Fiorentina manager – took a swing at one of this players on Wednesday. Yes – ee tried to punch one of his players in the middle of a game.

The moment came near the half-hour mark when Rossi, looking to change his team after falling behind two goals early, brought off Adam Ljajic, seeking to replace him with Ruben Olivera. Ljajic responded with an incredibly rude but not original sarcastic clap directed at his coach.

Rossi’s response? He attacked Ljajic, choking him in the dugout before taking a swing at him.

It really is the type of composure you want from people in management positions, though one itsy, bitsy detail is important: Ljajic is 20. Rossi is 52.

Can you imagine getting into a fist-fight with one of your Dad’s friends at an AYSO game?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIDvXXl5Bh4%5D

Good times.

After the match, Rossi was dismissed, an easy choice for a club that sits a disappointing 14th. Rossi’s reaction may have also been a function of that disappointment, with the former Palermo-man bringing only minimal improvements to Florence since his November appointment.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Rome is still crumbling. Lazio’s now winless in five. Roma: four. Were it not for Roma being seventh (the next team in line for Europe), Lazio might actually be in danger of falling from a Champions League to outside Europa. Six points up on eighth-place Parma, they’re probably safe.
  • Lazio was part of a four-way tie (on points) for third coming into the week. Now, Napoli holds that last Champions League spot, having taken four points from Udinese this season.

Up next: Expect some offshore drilling of Sunday’s big match at the San Siro, a match that overshadows the rest of the league’s weekend. However, a win by Juve (at Cagliari) coupled with a loss or draw by Milan will give the Old Lady the title.

Highlights fun

Buffon’s boo boo, courtesy of Al-Jazeera.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNLG96dvDqM%5D

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