Maurizio Sarri v Max Allegri: Which manager will win Serie A?by Chloe Beresford / 27 April 2018, 14:03Tweet
Only one of the top five European leagues has a close and interesting title race this term, and it couldn’t really be any more tense in Serie A as Juventus lead Napoli by just one point with four matches remaining.
This Saturday night sees Juve face a tough Derby d’Italia encounter away at Inter, while Napoli will face Fiorentina on Sunday afternoon. The Partenopei are clearly ready to pounce on any small slip-up made by the side who have won the previous six Scudetti, ramping up the pressure on their experienced opponent.
While Allegri won the Serie A title with Milan before arriving in Turin to replace Antonio Conte at the beginning of 2014/15, Sarri had just achieved promotion from Serie B with Empoli, taking on his first ever job in the Italian top flight that very same year. Since then, Allegri has won three consecutive league titles and Coppa Italia trophies, whilst taking Juve to the Champions League final twice in the last three campaigns.
Allegri fits well with the corporate image of the Bianconeri, well-dressed, well-spoken and tactically intelligent. Sarri might not live up to those clean-cut ideals - for example he showed Juve fans the middle finger when the Napoli team bus arrived in Turin last weekend - yet has proven to be capable of pushing his top-of-the-table opponent right to the limit this term.
With a vastly smaller budget, the often-controversial boss has continued to improve the passing precision of his team, and in the current campaign has made Napoli much more tenacious in responding to adversity. This has meant that Juventus have not managed to blow their opponents out of the water in the final stages of the season this time around, but just how likely are we to see a different winner of the Serie A title?
Firstly, a look at the run-ins of both sides seems sensible here. Juventus have arguably the tougher fixtures with Inter away, Bologna at home, Roma away and Hellas Verona at home, and a Coppa Italia final with Milan sandwiched in-between. They will also have to win these fixtures without the injured veteran Giorgio Chiellini, who has been confirmed as out for the season. Meanwhile, Napoli travel to Fiorentina then host Torino, then away at Sampdoria and finally home to Crotone.
It does seem like Sarri has the simpler end to the campaign, but the ability of the Bianconeri to go on long unbeaten runs is well-documented. Furthermore, Allegri heads into the final four matches safe in the knowledge that a 100% record in these games is enough to win the title.
“What matters now is the match against Inter,” admitted the Juve boss in his pre-match press conference.
“We’ll need to live it with enthusiasm and a carefree attitude. If we do that, we’ll probably win the Scudetto. Our first match against Inter earlier this season? It was one of our best performances. We’ll have to win this one for the League. Inter will have to win it for the Champions League.”
It is very difficult to predict who will lift the Scudetto trophy when the season draws to a close in mid-May. Yet many neutrals are hoping to see a different winner in Italy this term, and it does seem like the momentum has swung in Napoli’s favour. With this in mind, a prediction of Napoli to win the Scudetto seems to be the most optimistic and realistic choice in equal measure.