The calm before the storm

Serie A has rarely seen a season like this.

Four teams are within two points of each other at the top of the table.

Under former City manager Roberto Mancini, Inter are branded as serious title challengers for the first time since José Mourinho left. The nerazzurri don’t score that much (won seven with the same 1-0 scoreline) but they have displayed defensive steel, with the notable bleep in the shape of their 1-4 mauling at the hands of Fiorentina.

The Viola are joint leaders on 27 points, fresh from a rampage at Sampdoria (who then sacked their manager Walter Zenga). Their high-tempo and short passing ways are reminiscent of Barcelona, no less. Sky’s the limit for the Florence outfit.

Down the Autostrada del Sole, AS Roma are enjoying, one year late, a burgeoning title run. They’ve had their share of defensive blunders but since a somewhat bumpy ride in the Champions League, the Giallorossi are back on track, a fact confirmed by the derby triumph over a seemingly depressed Lazio.

In Naples, superstition is such that nobody talks about the scudetto openly but harbour, deep down inside, the secret wish to see Gonzalo Higuain march in the footsteps of Diego Maradona and lead flamboyant Napoli to a third domestic crown, their first since 1990.

Right behind the leading quartet, plucky Sassuolo are standing above big guns like Lazio and Milan, who are showing signs of ripresa. All three teams should stay, well, pretty much where they currently stand because of their shared inconsistency: flashes of greatness followed by abysmal results.

As for reigning champions Juventus, who ran away with the title every season for the past four years, they are nine points adrift of first place after a calamitous start of the season. A last-gasp win over city rivals Torino followed by a 3-1 triumph at Empoli has left them in a more dignified position, but they’re still a long way from the steamroller they used to be.

Enter the international break.

Without Pirlo (and, controversially, without Insigne) Italy will now play friendlies against Belgium and Romania.

Yet all eyes are already on the Juve-Milan clash in Turin on Saturday 20 November.

The run-up to Christmas should provide more answers, especially when Napoli meet Inter, the division’s two best defences, on 30 November (a Monday night posticipo) and then Roma mid-December.

The calm from this mid-November hiatus is poised to leave the way to a fest of stormy clashes…