The Serie A season returned with its first matches of 2022. For some teams it seemed like not much changed, with the trends of 2021 continuing into 2022, while in other cases there were important developments that could change things. Inter Milan drew against Empoli and dropped points for the first time in almost two months. At the same time, AC Milan failed to capitalize on the result and take of the league lead, instead losing on Monday night against Spezia in an absolutely wild affair. Napoli, meanwhile have finally seen an important player return to the pitch, while Juventus, after their terrible start, eye climbing to fourth and qualifying for next season's Champions League. At the other end of the table In the relegation zone, two teams changed managers after disappointing first halves, as they fight to survive in the top division. And now onto the rankings.
1. Inter Milan (-)
Inter Milan drew against Atalanta in a spectacular match that ended with both teams failing to score despite a ton of chances (the expected goals tally in the match was 1.52 for Inter to 1.14 for Atalanta). Simone Inzaghi's side remain in first place, however, and their lead is bigger than it seems, having played one game less than crosstown rivals AC Milan. Anyway you look at it, Inter Milan remain the team to beat this season.
2. AC Milan (-)
A crazy match against Spezia Calcio ended with an unexpected defeat for AC Milan who had a chance to become Serie A leaders on Monday night. Now Pioli's men have the opportunity to redeem themselves against Juventus this Sunday, in one of the most iconic matches in Serie A. Milan will be feeling pressure from both directions, however, because a loss not only drops them further behind the top of the table, but with Napoli also only two points behind, they could tumble to third.
3. Napoli (+1)
The biggest news of the week for Luciano Spalletti's side was the return to the pitch of striker Victor Osimhen. He's a key player for Napoli's ambitions in Serie A. The most important thing was that his return came in a victory against Bologna which put the club just two points from second place. And just as important, it kept the gap to fifth-place Juventus at five points. After starting the season so strongly, and sitting atop the table for the first few months, Napoli must now mind their backs and avoid getting drawn into a battle merely to qualify for the Champions League.
4. Atalanta BC (-1)
The match against Inter Milan once again showed just how well this team keeps performing in Serie A, no matter what obstacles get thrown in front of it. Injuries and Covid-19 cases have slowed Gian Piero Gasperini's progress in the recent weeks. However, in the coming weeks Atalanta will have to try and hold off Juventus ahead of a February 13 showdown. As the coach said at the post-match press conference against Inter, the goal now is to try to steal points on Napoli and AC Milan.
5. Juventus (-)
Massimiliano Allegri seems to have finally found some defensive organization and Juventus is improving week after week because of it. There are still many issues to solve, but compared to the beginning of the year, the Bianconeri can now really hope to reach their minimum goal of qualifying for next season's Champions League. Sunday night's match against AC Milan will tell us more about this team's upside this year in Serie A. The top of the table might be out of reach but a return to form from Juventus over the back half of the season would likely mean a comfortable climb into the Champions League spots.
6 - Fiorentina (+1)
Vincenzo Italiano's team absolutely destroyed Genoa on Monday night, winning 6-0 after a defeat against Torino last week that caused concern among the fans. In the end, it seems like Torino was just a blip and Fiorentina are back on track ready to prove they can be one of the best teams in this league. It sure helps that Dusan Vlahovic is scoring in almost every game.
7 - Lazio (+1)
Lazio won against Salernitana and are knocking on the door of the European spots, sitting tied on 35 points with crosstown rivals Roma. Mattia Zaccagni is finally becoming a crucial contributor for this team, buttressed by the good performances of key players like Sergej Milinkovic Savic and Felipe Anderson. The 3-0 result is enough to give to the fans a needed dose of positivity after a difficult beginning of the year. The only bad news of the weekend is an injury to Pedro, the team's best player recently, which will keep him out until February.
8 - AS Roma (-2)
The Giallorossi won against Cagliari thanks to a penalty kick scored by new signing Sergio Oliveira. It was a crucial win after two consecutive defeats even if those losses were against AC Milan and then Juventus in an incredibly 4-3 affair last weekend. Next up for Mourinho is finding some consistent results and hoping that's enough for a place in the next Europa League at least. The most positive sign is that the defense didn't concede a goal, maintaining a clean sheet for the first time in five games.
9 - Torino (+2)
Ivan Juric's team is probably the most improved one in recent weeks in the league. After winning against Fiorentina, they up another good result in an win away against Sampdoria. With one game fewer played than their opponents above them in the table, Torino can now really hope to put themselves in the fight for a place in Europe.
10 - Hellas Verona (+3)
Hellas Verona's win against Sassuolo this weekend showed once again that Igor Tudor's team is one to watch out for. Even when key players like Giovanni Simeone fail to score, others such as Antonin Barak manage to pick up the slack and score a hat trick. After a difficult start to the season under Eusebio Di Francesco, Tudor has solidified the defense and a style that is bringing this team back to the level they played at the last few seasons.
11 - Sassuolo (+1)
Sassuolo are struggling to find consistency this season, despite keeping their entertaining style of play after coach Roberto De Zerbi departure at the end of last season. This has been the main problem for this team with Alessio Dionisi as coach. In fact, he has won two games in a row only once in 22 matches this season. The results have been enough not to risk ending up in a difficult position in the table, but not enough to aspire for a spot in even the UEFA Conference League next season.
12 - Bologna (-2)
After a strong start to the season, Sinisa Mihajlvic's side lost their fifth match out of their last six Serie A games against Napoli on Monday night. At least part of this poor run of form is attributable to the many COVID-19 cases which forced the coach to suspend training for several days. Now the former AC Milan boss must find a way to win points soon and start turning things around so that the season's early successes aren't ultimately washed away and forgotten.
13 - Empoli (-4)
Despite having failed to win in their last five games, Empoli are still a team to be taken into consideration for the way they play and for the many interesting young players who are improving under coach Aurelio Andreazzoli. This weekend's clash against Venezia ended in a 1-1 draw, a result that keep the club out of danger regarding the relegation zone.
14 - Udinese (-)
A defeat against Juventus on Saturday does not change things for Udinese, who with two fewer games played than their opponents still has the opportunity to earn crucial points in their relegation zone fight. Coach Gabriele Cioffi is now slowly getting many players who were out due to COVID-19 back. This weekend's away match against Genoa will undoubtedly be a crucial game to figure out what kind of challenges this team will have to face in the coming weeks.
15 - Sampdoria (-)
The defeat against Torino at Marassi was the last one for coach Roberto D'Aversa, who after being at risk of being sacked for several weeks was fired by the club after the weekend. A new era s about to begin, with former AC Milan coach Marco Giampaolo ready to be back at the club after three years away.
16 - Spezia (-)
A sensational victory at the San Siro against AC Milan gives new hope to Spezia Calcio, a club which until few weeks ago was one step away from sacking coach Thiago Motta. Then, away victories against Napoli, Genoa and AC Milan put Spezia in a totally different position and Emmanuel Gyasi's late winning goal at San Siro will remain as one of the most iconic moments of this season., no matter what happens
17 - Cagliari (+2)
In the new year, Walter Mazzarri's Cagliari have completely changed their momentum and won two games out of three. This weekend's 1-0 defeat against AS Roma should not make the fans lose hope. Now, also thanks to the winter transfer window, the club will be able to fight and maybe avoid relegation after a disastrous first part of the season.
18 - Venezia (-1)
This weekend's draw against Empoli happened thanks to the club's new surprise signing, former Orlando City (and more notably Manchester United) attacker Nani, who helped Paolo Zanetti's side with a crucial assist to avoid a defeat that would have been very heavy. Now Venezia must desperately try to win a match, something that hasn't happened since November 21st against Bologna.
19 - Genoa (-1)
Forty-eight hours before Monday night's match against Fiorentina, Genoa decided to sack former AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko, who has struggled to find good results in only a few weeks as Genoa's coach. Then, against Vincenzo Italiano's side, there was a 6-0 defeat, and now it will likely be up to Rolando Maran to try to change the team's trend and avoid relegation after the team's top managerial target, Bruno Labbadia, decided to pass on the opportunity at the last minute.
20 - Salernitana (-)
A 3-0 defeat against Lazio didn't change the difficult situation of a club that has struggled since the first game of the season. As a consequence, on Monday former AS Roma Walter Sabatini sporting director took the same role at Salernitana and will try to improve the squad in this window in the hopes of avoiding a very likely relegation.