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While the top two continue to give each other a break, the country's most attacking outfit could be just a couple of signings away from becoming a real force

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

The 2011-12 Scudetto is fast becoming the title nobody wants to win. While AC Milan turned in a dour performance at home to Napoli, Juventus once more failed to take full advantage as they dropped another two points to lowly Siena. Inter’s thrashing at the hands of Roma ensured that the leading two are out on their own in the race for this year’s top spot, but it also proved that they could have a real fight on their hands come next season.

Not even accounting for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card, it was a bad afternoon for the champions. Against one of the more uncompromising defences in Italy, they looked lifeless for far too much of the game as Walter Mazzarri’s side held out with something to spare.

Ibrahimovic’s petulant slap at Salvatore Aronica could well see him earn a three-match ban, but whereas one of their best performances of last season arrived in the 3-0 derby win over Inter while the Swede was suspended, this time around you have to fear for the Rossoneri without their talisman.

MATCH FACTS | Juventus 0-0 Siena

Shots
On Target
Possession
Territory
Corners
Bookings
Juventus
20
7
70%
82%
9
3
Siena
10
2
30%
18%
3
2

Much has been said – both on these pages and elsewhere – about their over-reliance on Ibra this term, but yesterday only magnified that further. Robinho’s star continues to fall, with yet another ineffective display being turned in against the Azzurri, and it has now reached the point where Massimiliano Allegri has been left scratching his head.

Maxi Lopez will likely come in as Ibra’s replacement, but his goal return of recent times will have to be improved over the next three games and beyond if the current signs are anything to go by. For while Robinho is struggling, they are also missing Kevin-Prince Boateng, Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato, leaving them short of options up top.

It could prove particularly costly against Juve at the end of February, though the Bianconeri themselves showed a lack of cutting edge yesterday against Siena.

Juve had all of the possession from start to finish, with the game almost entirely played out in the Siena half, yet they didn't create a single decent chance all game. Only in injury time did they really manage to open up the Robur, and on that occasion Emanuele Giaccherini curled over.

Siena were comfortable throughout, and although they should have conceded a penalty for a blatant handball by Simone Vergassola right in front of the referee, they missed a sitter themselves when Alessandro Gazzi fired over with the goal at his mercy.

For once, there appeared a chink in Antonio Conte’s armour, with his introduction of Marco Borriello in the second half coming at a time when Juve needed a game-changer of Alessandro Del Piero’s ilk to unlock a stubborn, organised Siena defence which stood firm deep into their own half. The result was a further tepidness about the Bianconeri’s attacking game as Del Piero was forced to sit and watch from the bench while Borriello turned in another awful performance.

MATCH FACTS | Milan 0-0 Napoli

Shots
On Target
Possession
Territory
Corners
Bookings
Sendings-off
Milan
16
5
56%
54%
12
4
1
Napoli
9
1
44%
46%
8
3
0

Again, it was a missed opportunity. Yes, they remain unbeaten after 21 games of the season, but Juventus are still very much in danger of repeating Perugia’s feat of 1978-79 in going an entire campaign without a defeat yet still missing out on the title. At this stage, Milan’s poor form is keeping them top more than their own performances are.

Another team that have been struggling to put a string of wins together is Roma, but some of their displays this term have shown signs of a dominant attacking force in the making. And Sunday afternoon gave us the greatest example yet of their potential as they dismantled Inter from start to finish at the Olimpico.

Even before they opened the scoring through Juan’s header, their supremacy was there for all to see. Fernando Gago’s delightful chipped pass found Fabio Borini racing in behind a square Nerazzurri backline in what was to become a common theme. Inter failed to learn their lesson, and were punished brutally by Serie A’s most attractive outfit.

Maicon turned in perhaps his worst performance in an Inter shirt as first he failed to get anywhere near the jump of countryman Juan, then he twice found himself completely out of position as Borini broke through for goals either side of the break. The Brazilian wasn’t alone though, with Walter Samuel substituted at the interval after being turned inside and out as Roma’s star of the show made it 2-0 before the half-time whistle. Lucio will also have fingers pointed at him for his role in the two second-half goals.

But more than anything, Inter were left chasing shadows. Roma’s superior passing ability and speed of movement left Claudio Ranieri’s men with far too much work to do simply to get hold of the ball. Even after bringing on Andrea Poli as an extra midfielder at the break, they simply couldn’t get close to Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic.

MATCH FACTS | Roma 4-0 Inter

Shots
On Target
Possession
Territory
Corners
Bookings
Roma
12
6
67%
64%
5
3
Inter
4
2
33%
36%
3
2
The returning De Rossi was a masterful example of how a midfielder can dictate a game; harrying and harassing off the ball, nerveless and powerful on it. Alongside him, Pjanic made football look easy, completing 96 per cent of passes over the 90 minutes. They were the features of a superb team display, one which proved that Roma can take apart the best when they get the Luis Enrique philosophy right.

They have shown similar signs in other games this term, but have been undone by their own defending. But yesterday proved that with a few tweaks at the back they can be as beautiful and as dangerous as almost any team in Europe. Their ability to hold on to the ball for long spells is reminiscent of Barcelona, and their latest performance bore all the hallmarks of a side who can be just as successful domestically in years to come.

And Borini was the man who took advantage of the midfield supremacy, turning in his second magnificent performance against Inter this term. Whereas last time he deserved more than he got in the 0-0 draw at San Siro, here he produced a well-earned brace before substitute Bojan Krkic wrapped up the 4-0 win.

In a country where few star talents have risen to the top in recent times, the former Swansea City and Chelsea man has turned in many top-class performances this term based on endeavour, vision and a cleverness which could well see him go on to become one of Italy’s greatest attacking hopes of the next few years.

But while Roma are the team of the future, the present sees a head-to-head between the two most successful clubs in the Italian game as they are left to fight it out for the title. And rather than two prize fighters slugging it out, they are only lightly tapping at each other’s chins so far. The big moments in this scrap are still to come.

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