When AC Milan defeated Inter Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, it didn't seem like it would be as decisive as it is today. Inter Milan had some room to spare in the table, and the game was hardly a decisive victory. But subsequent weeks have shown that Olivier Giroud's brace has completely overturned the balance of power in Serie A. No longer are Inter Milan fully in control of the league and fighting to reach their second scudetto in a row.
Instead, Simone Inzaghi's side lost all its confidence accumulated before the derby. They are more than capable of righting the ship after losing ground in the table and staging a comeback to win it all, one made all the more difficult considering also the games they have to play over the next few weeks.
Napoli are still in the mix as they maintain title ambitions despite a stinging defeat to AC Milan. And it's not possible to completely rule out Juventus, either. Considering how they started the season, it's miraculous enough that they're in the top four and they're not exactly far from dreaming of a comeback for the ages. Not many leagues across Europe can say they have three-to-four contenders nearing the business-end of the proceedings. Serie A has never been this exciting and literally anything can happen in the next two months.
Let's take a look at the fixtures for the final matches of the Serie A season. As a reminder, you can catch all the action in Italy on Paramount+:
Serie A title race: Remaining matches
- AC Milan - 63 points (9 matches left): Cagliari (A), Bologna (H), Torino (A), Genoa (H), Lazio (A), Fiorentina (H), Hellas Verona (A), Atalanta (H), Sassuolo (A).
- Napoli - 60 points (9 matches left): Udinese (H), Atalanta (A), Fiorentina (H), Roma (H), Empoli (A), Sassuolo (H), Torino (A), Genoa (H), Spezia (A).
- Inter Milan - 59 points (10 matches left): Fiorentina (H), Juventus (A), Hellas Verona (H), Spezia (A), Roma (H), Udinese (A), Empoli (H), Cagliari (A), Sampdoria (H), Bologna (A, TBA when the game will be played)
- Juventus - 56 points (9 matches left): Salernitana (H), Juventus (H), Cagliari (A), Bologna (H), Sassuolo (A), Venezia (H), Genoa (A), Lazio (H), Fiorentina (A)
Why AC Milan are the team to beat
Stefano Pioli's side have a relatively trouble-free fixture list until the end of the season, but most notable they're in really good shape -- mentally and physically. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back for the crucial final stretch, which means the squad is practically completely fit aside from defender Simon Kjaer, who is out for the rest of the season. Ibrahimovic joins an in-form Olivier Giroud at the top of the attack, giving them a robust striking corps. Giroud had struggled to settle in with his new club until he played a crucial role in the Derby della Madonnina. He also scored the deciding goal against Napoli, turning himself into an integral pat of the team in Ibrahimovic's absence. All of a sudden, 11 years removed from their last scudetto under now-Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan have positioned themselves as the top candidate to win it all.
What happened to Inter Milan?
Something seems to have changed at Inter Milan. Even Inter boss Simone Inzaghi once admitted that losing the derby in such a painful way -- Inter blew a one-goal lead with 15 minutes to go thanks to a Giroud brace -- hurt the squad. Since that loss, Inter have struggled to notch six points out of a possible 15 over their last five matches, with the only win coming against Salernitana.
To make matters worse, the Nerazzurri were eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16 despite winning at Anfield and were held scoreless in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals against Milan. The overall the mood around the squad seems dark with two key matches coming up against Fiorentina on Saturday and, most importantly, against Juventus the first weekend of April. Some big wins in the next month would do wonders to improve the mood. We will know much more about their legitimate title chances after those two matches.
Can Napoli make an unexpected run?
It's been 32 years since the last time Napoli have won the title, with their last scudetto coming in 1989-90 during Diego Maradona's penultimate season with the club. The dream of bringing home a scudetto has frequently seemed out of reach for fans who have also seen this club recover from going bankrupt in the last two decades. Luciano Spalletti's arrival as manager at the beginning of this season has instilled a different mentality to this team, one that was kind of lost over the last two seasons where there has been managerial upheaval. Spalletti is well known to bring stability and results to any club he coaches, but he has never won the title in Italy. Napoli have some difficult matches to play in the next two months but they are certainly in the mix, especially if AC Milan stumble. It would certainly be a poetic sendoff for captain Lorenzo Insigne if he managed to deliver the long-awaited trophy in his last season before he joins Major League Soccer's Toronto FC at the beginning of July.
Are Juventus in or out?
When Juventus started the new season winless through the first four matches, there were already folks skeptical at the thought of bringing back Massimiliano Allegri as coach, labeling it as a huge mistake. Wednesday's embarrassing Champions League elimination at home at the hands of Unai Emery's Villarreal left a sour note on a club that's actually riding high in league play. The Bianconeri struggled a lot early on but then they haven't lost a league game since last November and are now fully back in the fight for the top positions of the table.
The turning point came in the January transfer window when the club signed Dusan Vlahović, one of the hottest strikers in the sport. While the form was rediscovered before the Vlahović signing, that move signaled that they were well and truly back and not simply content with a top-four finish. He brought a winning mentality, he helped players such as Alvaro Morata become crucial cogs in a system that provided him service. Perhaps most importantly, with less pressure on the side, there's a nothing-to-lose belief around this team. They'll fight until the very end, especially given a pretty easy fixture list ahead, with one exception. The first weekend in April, Juventus will host Inter Milan in a match that could define the title race for both sides. Save the date.
Serie A outright futures
We view AC Milan as the title favorites, but according to the oddsmakers out there, they still sit second to their in-city rivals. Courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook:
- Inter Milan: +110
- AC Milan: +200
- Napoli: +320
- Juventus: +1000
- Atalanta: +15000
- Roma: +50000