Serie A: Lukaku drives Inter closer to title, Juve settles for top four hope

Inter Milan
Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images

Juventus kept its top-four status in check on Wednesday but still moved closer to seeing its scudetto streak stopped at nine consecutive Serie A titles.

There were two high-profile matches in the Italian top-flight on the afternoon, and both delivered goals and drama as The Old Lady held off Napoli 2-1, moving three points clear of Gennaro Gattuso’s Neapolitan side, and Inter Milan kept up its title march by beating a very decent Sassuolo side. ()

[ MORE: Serie A table, box scores, leaders ]

Juve had 27 titles when the Milanese hold on the division reached six seasons with AC Milan’s title in 2010-11, which came on the heels of five-straight Inter crowns.

The Turin giants have 36 titles now, but Inter is about to break its tie for second-most all-time with cross-city rivals AC Milan barring a wild swing over the season’s final nine match weeks.

Inter Milan 2-1 Sassuolo

You’re not going to believe this, but Romelu Lukaku scored again.

The Belgian superstar scored off an assist from fellow former Manchester United player Ashley Young to put Inter up 1-0 after 10 minutes, then set up Lautaro Martinez in the 67th minute.

Hamed Junior Traore put the game back in the balance with five minutes left in the 90, but it was not to be as the 71% possession holding hosts have an 11-point lead on the field.

Lukaku’s 28 goal contributions — 21 goals and seven assists — are one more than anyone else in Serie A (Cristiano Ronaldo is second with 25 and 2). He’s currently second to Ronaldo in goals and one assist off the league lead shared by Hakan Calhanoglu, Alvaro Morata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Duvan Zapata.

Turns out, he’s really good (as is Martinez, who has 15 and three).

Juventus 2-1 Napoli

Juve opened up a 2-0 lead on the visitors with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in the 13th minute and Paulo Dybala chipping in the side’s second goal in the 73rd, four minutes after subbing into the game with USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie.

Lorenzo Insigne bagged a penalty at the outset of stoppage time but their 54 percent possession and 14-12 shot advantage didn’t deliver anything else.

Juve leaps from fourth to third, moving a point clear of Atalanta. The Old Lady is also a point back of early-season darlings AC Milan for second, but that’s little consolation considering Andrea Pirlo’s men are 12 points behind Inter with nine matches left in the season.

The run-in: What does Juve need to produce a miracle?

Juve finishes with Genoa, Atalanta, Parma, Fiorentina, Udinese, AC Milan, and Sassuolo, then meeting Inter on the penultimate matchday, which is also four days before a Coppa Italia scrap with Atalanta. Should it miraculously get to the final day of the season, Juve heads to Bologna.

Inter hosts Cagliari next before visiting Napoli, then meets Spezia, Hellas Verona, Crotone, Sampdoria, and AS Roma. Then it’s Juve away and a final day visit from Udinese.

Simply an opinion, but the only serious question is whether Inter will need any points heading into the Juve fixture. Inter has lost twice all year, allowing 27 goals in 28 matches. Antonioe Cotnte’s men have won 10-straight in Serie A and have lost once since Nov. 22, drawing on only two occasions.