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The Champions League Push: Round 20 Review

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Inter move into sixth and the title race is back on for those at the top of the table

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

With Inter Milan looking to push for a top-three Serie A finish—and an all-important Champions League spot—in the second half of the season, let’s check-in on how the clubs above the Nerazzurri fared this weekend.

Round 20

Inter entered round 20 of Serie A in 7th place, trailing third place Napoli by five points and league leaders Juventus by twelve.

With two clubs ahead of Inter in the standings playing each other this weekend, the Nerazzurri’s dominant, albeit late 3-1 victory over Chievo Verona insured that Inter could gain some ground and move up the table. A positive (yet annoying) result elsewhere saw Inter close the gap on city rivals Milan, and an upset victory for Fiorentina plunged Juve back into a legitimate title race with Roma.

Here’s what happened in Serie A Round 20, and how it impacted Inter’s top-three dreams:

Lazio and Atalanta

Lazio and Atalanta played each other at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend, and while a draw would have been the preferred result from Inter’s perspective, Lazio’s 2-1 victory allowed the Nerazzurri to move ahead of Atalanta into 6th place.

Atalanta opened the scoring in an end-to-end first half, when Andrea Petagna was left alone in the box and hammered home a pass from Remo Freuler. Lazio found an equalizer in first half stoppage time through Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who headed in a perfectly placed Senad Lulic cross. The winning Lazio goal would come from the penalty spot, after Atalanta keeper Etrit Berisha collided with Circo Immobile in the box while diving for the ball. Immobile converted the ensuing penalty shot.

Atalanta

Points behind Inter: 1

Up next in the league: Sampdoria at home on Sunday January 22nd

Lazio

Points ahead of Inter: 4

Up next in the league: Juventus away on Sunday January 22nd

AC Milan

Inter’s city rivals entered Round 20 three points ahead of the Nerazzurri in the table, and faced Torino away on Monday. While Milan dropping points in the 2-2 draw is good news, the match should could have been a perfect result the Inter.

Andrea Belotti and Marco Benassi both scored in the first half to put Torino up 2-0 at the break. Despite the deficit, Milan were able rescue a point in the second half. Andrea Bertolacci scored from pointblank range after a chaotic scrum in front of Joe Hart in the 55th minute. Milan were then awarded a penalty in the 60th minute when Luca Rossettini pulled down Gabriel Paletta in trying to defend a cross. Carlos Bacca converted from the sport to tie the match. Alessio Romagnoli was sent off after receiving his second yellow card for fouling Belotti in the 89th minute, so he’ll miss Milan’s next match.

Points ahead of Inter: 1 (with a game in hand)

Up next in the league: Napoli at home on Saturday January 21st

Napoli

Napoli entered Round 20 having won six of their last seven matches in all competitions. A home game against lowly Pescara meant that that their five-point lead over Inter, and grip on the Italy’s last Champions League spot, was safe.

Pescara defended admirably, keeping Napoli off the score sheet in the first half, but it wouldn’t last. Lorenzo Tonelli scored from a set piece, to give Napoli a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute, and goals from Marek Hamsik and Dries Mertens followed. Pescara were able to snatch a consolation goal from a Gianluca Caprari penalty, but Napoli dominated this game.

Points ahead of Inter: 5

Up next in the league: Milan away on Saturday January 21st

Roma

Sitting eight points ahead of Inter, Roma entered Round 20 looking to close the gap on first place Juventus, whom they trailed by just four points. Like Inter last week, they faced Udinese away.

Roma scored the game’s only goal in the 12th minute when Radja Nainggolan guided home a perfectly placed lob pass from Kevin Strootman. Five minutes later, Roma were awarded a penalty after a hand ball, but Edin Dzeko humorously skied his attempt:

While Roma were far from convincing, the win puts them within one point of Juventus thanks to Fiorentina’s victory.

Points ahead of Inter: 8

Up next in the league: Cagliari home on Sunday January 22nd

Juventus

Italy’s league leaders entered Round 20 twelve points ahead of Inter, and four points ahead of Roma (with a game in hand). As mentioned above, Juve faced a difficult away match against Fiorentina, which they lost 2-1.

Fiorentina played very well from the onset of the match, and found a break through in 37th minute. Nikola Kalinic beat Gianluigi Buffon with a perfectly placed shot to give Fiorentina a 1-0 lead. In the 54th minute, Fiorentina doubled their lead when Milan Badelj played a cross into the box that found the back of the net without being touched by Beither uffon or Federico Chiesa. Juve came within one five minutes later thanks to Gonzalo Higuain, who is now within two goals of Mauro Icardi. Despite several chances for Juve, Fiorentina held on to complete the upset win.

As a result, Juventus’s Serie A lead is down to just a point over Roma—though Juve have a game in hand. The title race is back on!

Points ahead of Inter: 9 (with a game in hand)

Up next in the league: Lazio at home on Sunday January 22nd

In other news, Juve also unveiled their new club logo, completely ditching their classic crest:

(Editor’s note: my god that thing is just sad; it’s cheese-and-crackers bland, it’s I-forgot-to-do-my-assignment-let’s-throw-something-together-before-this-meeting basic, it’s mediocrity at its finest. Whoever designed that needs to be fired.)

Table

Here’s how the table looks entering Round 21:

With Milan playing Napoli and Juventus facing Lazio, let’s hope Inter can win our match against relegation-threatened Palermo and rise up the table next weekend.