The state of play at the top
After 15 games, Serie A will now take a break for the World Cup until the beginning of 2023.
But with less than half of the season played, how’s it looking at the top?
Napoli has proven to be unstoppable up until now, their 3-2 win over a Udinese side that has enjoyed some success themselves this season a keen indicator that they were determined to reach the break with a win.
With 13 wins and two draws, Luciano Spalletti’s men are at the top of the pile, some eight points ahead of closest rivals Milan in second place and are only the second team in Italian football history – along with Juventus – to have won 13 of their opening 15 games in a single Serie A season.
The Rossoneri scored a last-gasp own goal against Fiorentina on Sunday to ensure they kept that gap from becoming any bigger, but have a lot of work to do if they want to retain their crown.
Juventus will be the team to watch after the break after they put together an excellent run in the last few weeks. Now out of the Champions League, the Bianconeri have won all six of their last Serie A games, keeping a clean sheet in each one for the first time since December 2018.
Belotti’s Embarrassing Return
After seven years at Torino – including five years as captain – striker Andrea Belotti left the club this summer.
It was once reported that the Granata had turned down €100m for the man nicknamed Il Gallo, but he was ultimately picked up by Roma for free once his contract had run down.
“It is difficult for me to explain what we have experienced together in these seven years,” Belotti wrote on Instagram when his move to Rome was finalized. “I arrived when I was little more than a child and day after day I have grown, based on the values that this team represents.
“We suffered, rejoiced, and rejoiced together. You have always been there, in every situation.”
It was clear that Torino had meant everything to Belotti, and it was always going to be tough when he faced his former team for the first time.
That was on Sunday night at the Stadio Olimpico, and you can imagine the surprise that when the Giallorossi were awarded a last-gasp penalty, Belotti was the man to step up to take it.
Less surprising was the fact that he missed.
After the final whistle, boss José Mourinho explained what had happened, and offered some defense to the undoubtedly embarrassed Belotti.
“He wasn’t supposed to take the penalty,” the boss declared. “I can’t reveal who should have taken it. It’s something that can happen. What I can’t stomach is instances of psychological fragility. Belotti had the courage to take it.”
You can forgive Spezia for not celebrating their 2-1 win over Hellas Verona too much.
The Ligurian outfit signed former Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartłomiej Drągowski on a three-year deal this summer, and of course, the Poland international immediately became their first-choice stopper.
In his last club game before departing for the World Cup with Poland, Drągowski suffered a freak injury, a horrific ankle break that left him screaming in pain.
Not only did he feel the pain in his leg, but also had to endure the heartbreak of the immediate realization that this World Cup dream was over.
At the end of the game, his Spezia teammates held his shirt aloft, and the club sent a message of gratitude to those on the scene in Verona.
“Spezia Calcio would like to thank Dr. Gatto, all the medical staff at Hellas Verona, and the Green Cross of Verona for the timing, readiness, and great professionalism shown on the occasion of the injury suffered by Bartlomiej Dragowski,” the club wrote on Twitter.
Inter’s unlikely hero
This was supposed to be the season of Romelu Lukaku’s triumphant return to Inter, yet so far his season has not really even begun.
Since arriving back on loan from Chelsea, the Belgian striker has managed only three starts.
Lukaku missed 12 games with a hamstring injury, briefly returned, and has since missed another four matches due to a problem with his Biceps femoris muscle, leaving Inter wondering whether a further year’s extension to the loan would really be a good idea.
With their star man out of action, the focus up front has shifted back to journeyman Edin Džeko, and the Bosnian has really stepped up to the plate.
His brace saw Inter finish for the World Cup break with a flourish, hammering out a tough 3-2 win over Atalanta on Sunday during his 250th Serie A appearance.
Džeko now has nine goals and three assists for the season, a decent return for a 36-year-old striker who was supposed to be playing a backup role to Lukaku.
Inter’s fans will be grateful he’s managed to keep the goals flowing in Lukaku’s absence.
Chloe Beresford is an experienced Serie A expert, with previous bylines at Forbes, The Guardian, AS Roma and many more. She has appeared on the radio at Sirius XFM and on the BBC Euro Leagues podcast. Watching live games in Italy and experiencing all the country has to offer are her biggest passions.