by Petar Todorovski

With 17 Calcio rounds passed already we can look back in the season and make conclusions about what happened and try to predict what would be the finish. Jose Mourinho is not here anymore, so Inter players didn’t give maximum of their capabilities. Benitez was fired, but it was too late, Allegri already made a good team and conquered the top of the table.

Regarding the pre-season objectives of the teams and their achievements so far, I can divide the title contenders in three groups: genuine contenders, contenders which don’t reach their potential and teams from which we don’t know what to expect.

1)      Genuine Scudetto contenders

AC Milan is the biggest Scudetto challenger. This team is alone in this class. After the bad start it seemed that another struggling season is on the rise on San Siro, but after the game in Champions League against Real Madrid things moved forward. In the last seconds Rossoneri missed an opportunity to win the game against world’s best team at that moment, but their spirit was lifted high and nothing could stop them in weeks following. A long unbeaten streak came to an abrupt end in last 2010 game on home turf against underachievers Roma.

Despite the wonderful results Allegri was criticized that his team is Ibra-dependant. The Swede plays his old play, when all his team mates had to do was to pass the ball to him to break the defense with his magical moves. It’s a questionable tactic, not the one that characterize the champions. However, the other players already show signs of motivation to cope with Cagliari without his help in the next fixture. That’s a game that might prove as key for their confidence for the rest of the season: are they really dependant of Ibrahimovic?

Whether it is a perfect team or not Milan is the best team in Serie A so far. Definitely the hottest favorites for winning Scudetto.

2)      Underachievers yet with chances of title challenging

Inter, Juventus and maybe Roma have some chances to contend for Scudetto despite their underachievement regarding the goals set before the start of the season and the squad they posses.

I’m not really sure if Juventus are underachievers, they’re some kind of mysterious team in this group. They’re only five points behind Milan but it’s unclear if they’re capable for more. Milos Krasic proved himself as a great signing but he does not have a supporting cast such as Ibra has in Milan. He is the only really good performer in Turin, others like Simone Pepe, Fabio Quagliarella, Vincenzo Iaquinta have shown much more in the past, so I find them underachieving. I can’t see the future different as well. This squad is full with good players who don’t give maximum and the results are unpredictable. It’s hard to believe that they can catch Milan. They want to win the title, but I think that it will end only with regaining a Champions League spot.

Other underachievers are Inter. European and World Champions play far from their best. Rafael Benitez took the place of “the special one” thinking that it was an easy task, at least in domestic competitions, but he was wrong. He got a job in a team that reached its zenith and could do anything but to continue with flawless play. Mastermind Wesley Sneijder seems to be tired, Diego Milito doesn’t score as before, Maicon is not the beast from previous season. Samuel Eto’o is the only one who shines. They started wonderful, but Milito got injured and their play fell apart. Lost points against sides like Chievo, Brescia and Lecce made them sit the seventh place with 13 points behind city rivals, but if they win in two postponed games they will get closer, on only seven points. That will be the task for new coach Leonardo. Brazilians have bad history with Rossoneri, but he had to believe in an unproductive Ronaldinho instead of this year’s acquisition Ibrahimovic. Now he has a much better team and if he handles the team well, they could use any Rossoneri’s slip. The favorite for title Number 2, in my opinion.

Roma is the last underachiever and nothing says that it could change. They scored the very first victory away from Stadio Olimpico in last game with Milan, which brought them seven points behind leaders. They’re amazing at home and awfully bad away. I don’t remember if a team like that ever won championship title in strong competition like Calcio. It’s up to Ranieri and his boys to turn things around, but I don’t give them big chances. Champions League spot would be their peak.

3)      Mysterious newcomers

The name of this season surprise is Lazio. Aquile brought some new players from which Edy Reja composeda homogeneous group where everyone enjoys playing. Napoli is in a very similar position. Both teams are three points away from table toppers from San Siro. However, their mental strength to cope with a major challenge like Scudetto is questionable. I don’t remember the last time an overachieving team that wasn’t favorite before the start to surprise everyone and won the title. Both teams are loaded with super quality players, but most of them are inexperienced in title battling. I don’t believe they have the mental capability, so Champions League spot would be a jackpot for any of them.

Let’s conclude: Milan looks scary, it’s going to look even scarier if they discard Ibra-dependance, here’s Inter with an opportunity for fresh start with new coach and unpredictable Juventus. Also, there are several teams that will fight for next season’s Champions League honors and money. Nevertheless, whoever wants to reach the top must stop Milan. Anyone?