Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat 20 Nov Roma 2-0 Udinese, AC Milan 1-0 Fiorentina Sun 21 Nov Genoa 0-2 Juventus, Brescia 1-2 Cagliari, Catania 1-0 Bari, Cesena 1-2 Palermo, Chievo 2-1 Internazionale, Lecce 2-3 Sampdoria, Parma 1-1 Lazio, Napoli 4-1 Bologna
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has claimed he is nothing more than a zombie at the moment, stumbling around throughout the week in a daze until he gets a scent of matchday.
Then, like a character from The Walking Dead, he goes tearing lumps out of any unfortunate soul within his reach. Last week it was Marco Materazzi and on Saturday it was Fiorentina’s Per Kroldrup.
The Inter he-man had to be taken to A&E after coming off second-best to a flying taekwondo kick, while the gangly Dane was dragged around the San Siro like a rag-doll before he plucked up a bit of courage to lash out at his tormentor – only for his yapping to the referee to result in his own red card.
By that stage he was a hapless heap of quivering flesh anyway, which has been the case for just about every backline in the league when the big man starts pounding into them – and there's nothing they can do about it.
The way things are going AC Milan will win the league at a canter unless someone (or something) halts the Swede marauding around the country every weekend.
Serie A defenders like to think they are made of the right stuff but now that Ibra has settled back into life in Italy no one has been able to hang in there for more than a few rounds.
Giorgio Chiellini could be a contender, having gone the distance with his old sparring partner in the past (see video), but unfortunately we never got the opportunity to witness a bit of rough-house recently: the defender with the face of a battered punchbag failed to get through the pre-game warm-up without inflicting injury upon himself.
So far the only man man enough to stand toe to toe with Zlat The Splat has been the 200-pound Oguchi Onyewu – but unfortunately for the rest of the league the American bruiser is also employed by Milan although he could become of some use if he secures a loan switch to another Italian side in January.
In the meantime, there is no one taller, tougher or with more physical presence than the Rossoneri Rumbler: eight goals so far this campaign and the matchwinner in the last two outings has ensured that no one can mess with a side that had always put brain before brawn in the past.
Not that it is all bluster with Ibra – as witnessed by his Viola-dispatching bicycle-kick at the weekend. After scoring he threw his arm skywards with such gusto that there seemed for a moment that the limb would fly off into the stands.
Ibs has been accused of lacking heart and a team ethic in the past but not anymore and for all the intricacy of passing that made Milan stand out there has never been a real focal point for the attack since Andriy Shevchenko moved on.
Now the Scandinavian thrives on the menace he provides in the area of confrontation so vital in Italian football – imposing your will on the defence.
Massimiliano Allegri would love that his enforcer could veg out now and again at the weekend but three points ahead of Lazio at the top of the table and a whopping nine in front of Inter means that the coach will be throwing his hit-man opposition shirts to sniff in every pre-game training session from now on.
And what of the other daddy of the league: the player brought to Inter to replace Ibra, Samuel Eto’o? Well, frustration, pent-up rage and in the end a poor imitation of a Zinedine Zidane headbutt on Chievo’s Bostjan Cesar summed up his current state of mind.
It wasn’t that convincing really; more as if he was wiping sweat off his brow against the defender’s sternum than attempting to puncture his enemy's chest, as the Frenchman had seemingly endeavoured to do to Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final.
Verona is the city of broken hearts, where Milan’s own title dreams have been put to the sword in the past, and now it was the turn of the current champions to commit their own scudetto suicide on a grey old Sunday.
Not a cheery tale to tell, what with the one-time lords of the manor down to sixth in the table and the only player seemingly able to lift his game above the mediocre now facing anything up to a four-game ban.
Taking advantage of the waning Rafa Benitez’s fruitless time at the court of Moratti are Napoli, Juventus and AS Roma, who all enjoyed victories at the weekend.
Lazio remained just ahead of the Neapolitans in second after a draw at Parma. However, there is one team – or should that be one man – standing head and shoulders above the rest, and as long as Ibra’s is taking no nonsense Milan will continue to knock the opposition off one by one.
I wouldn't get too excited if I were a Milan fan, either about Ibrahimovic or their league position. They are a pretty average squad overall and are in a false position. I'd be amazed if they became champions and if they do I think it will be because of the other teams failings. A bit like if Arsenal won the English league, it would be more down to declining Man Utd and Chelsea teams then Arsenal's talents.
As for Inter, things are a bit of a mess at the moment. Defeat, however unlikely, to Twente could be the end of Benitez.
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