Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat Jan 30 Bari 4-2 Palermo, Napoli 0-0 Genoa Sun Jan 31 Cagliari 2-2 Fiorentina, Catania 1-1 Udinese, Chievo 1-1 Bologna, Juventus 1-1 Lazio, Milan 1-1 Livorno, Roma 2-1 Siena, Sampdoria 2-0 Atalanta Inter didn’t even need to take the pitch this weekend to still come out winners.
Closest rivals – and we use the description loosely – AC Milan failed to close the gap as the Nerazzurri had the day off following a snow blizzard of The Day After Tomorrow proportions postponed their game at Parma.
The storm clouds have yet to disperse from last weekend’s derby either and Jose Mourinho has been getting under his neighbours' skin in a not-too-sublime manner ever since the final whistle.
NEWS, Tue Jan 26: Mourinho charged over derby outburst
The latest taunt came just before the weekend when he reiterated an assertion made after the derby that maybe Milan were getting too many soft penalties – before holding up his hands and acting all innocent by claiming that “it’s just my opinion.”
Of course come late Sunday afternoon those words were bouncing around the airwaves and within the city bars as replay after replay showed Milan players falling to the ground inside the area against Livorno - only for play to be waved on.
“Bravo Mourinho, you got what you wanted,” complained a group of disgruntled Rossoneri fans in a city-centre watering hole.
“We won’t get a penalty now for another four months.”
NEWS, Sun Jan 31: Milan held at home
When it comes to the mocking game there can only be one winner and now Mother Nature seems to have fallen in line with Mourinho’s view of how planet football should rotate – around his smug axis.
Putting their feet up at the weekend gives his men extra rest ahead of the first leg of their Italian Cup semi-final against Fiorentina on Wednesday.
The Parma game has been rescheduled for February 10, which should have been the date for the second leg of the cup – something the Nerarruzzi were attempting to get changed anyway due to the fact that AS Roma weren't playing their corresponding tie until April.
Inter have now got their way without any recourse to arguing it out with the league, who are no doubt breathing a huge sight of relief at not having to go head-to-head with the confrontational Milanese.
So Jose can ready his self-satisfied self for another week of verbal jousting.
What next will he be brewing up? Whirlwinds, cyclones, a plague of locusts on the House of Berlusconi?
It's no wonder Milan just want to crawl under a rock and forget the outside world.
Battered and bruised from their derby experience and then knocked out of the cup, they didn’t take much persuading to run blindly into the wall marked “two lost points”.
NEWS, Wed Jan 27: Milan second string exit cup
“It’s been a tough week,” lamented Leonardo – but then any number of coaches could have said that.
Take Livorno's Serse Cosmi, who last Sunday had attempted to escape out the back door, only to be nabbed at the garden gate and told to get back to work.
He must have been mightily pleased to come up against a Milan side bled of all confidence and reduced to clutching at straws by attempting to win a couple of late penalty reprieves.
AS Roma had a similar encounter with Siena, but in the end found that moment of magic when Stefano Okaka produced a Guti-esque back-heel for the winner.
It's that ability to manufacture the unexpected that has been snuffed out of Milan’s game.
Ronaldinho has lost his mojo again – no doubt it was a quiet night in for the Samba-boy on Sunday – and Milan’s problems stem from the fact that the majority of their attacking thrusts come through Dinho down the left flank.
Livorno were wise to that - as each opponent will be from now on - and crowded that area of the pitch, leaving David Beckham totally isolated out on the right.
His recourse was to drift into the middle, overpopulating one-third of the pitch and leaving no outlet on the wing: tellingly Milan's goal came from a Beckham cross from the right, but it was one of the few times he found himself in that position to deliver.
Once Clarence Seedorf gets a few more games under his belt and Alexandre Pato is fit again, the balance within the team should return.
But they need to get their shape back soon or it could turn into a winter of discontent for one half of Milan.
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