Juventus loss opens title race as Lazio enters the fray

Napoli's coach Carlo Ancelotti attends a Serie A soccer match between Udinese and Napoli at the Friuli - Dacia Arena stadium in Udine, Italy, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Gabriele Menis/ANSA via AP)


Associated Press

MILAN (AP) A two-team battle for the Serie A title has suddenly become a three-team race.

Before last weekend, Inter Milan was trying to prevent Juventus from winning a record-extending ninth straight league title. But Lazio handed Juventus its first loss of the season to enter the fray.

Lazio recovered from an early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo to win 3-1 and move to within three points of second-place Juventus. The Rome club is five points behind Inter after the league leaders were held to a 0-0 draw by Roma.

"We were focused and perfect, and managed to beat a great team," Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said after Saturday's match. "But we have been doing well for the past four years, qualifying for Europe and winning two trophies.

"The guys have been giving me similar nights for years, now we're going to enjoy it but keeping our feet on the ground because things can change quickly in soccer."

Lazio has won the Serie A twice in its history, the last time in 2000. The team was fifth at the same stage last season, 18 points behind Juventus.

The Bianconeri aren't exactly struggling this season, but they are far from their imperious best.

Juventus had yet to lose after 15 matches last season and had conceded only eight goals. It has already let in 15.

"We need to improve. This is obvious because we cannot concede so many goals," Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "We also need find the desire and determination not to suffer.

"Now that this false step has arrived, we will now take the good things done so far and start working again."

Napoli's Champions League match against Genk on Tuesday could be key to Carlo Ancelotti's future at the club.

Napoli drew 1-1 at Udinese over the weekend to extend its winless run to nine matches in all competitions. It only needs one point on Tuesday to progress to the knockout round in the Champions League and could even go through with a loss if Salzburg does not beat Liverpool.

But anything other than a win could leave Ancelotti's future even more uncertain, with Italian media reporting that Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was meeting with former AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso on Monday.

"A coach's suitcase should always be prepared, so therefore so is mine," Ancelotti said on Monday. "I think that in this situation, talk of a coaching change is completely normal. I've experienced it in the past and the idea of being fired doesn't worry me because I know that's soccer.

"I know that the squad hasn't performed according to everyone's expectations: mine, the club's and even the players' ... I can't pretend, the team is giving what it can and I'm responsible."

Ancelotti is in his second season at Napoli.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated December 9, 2019

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2020 by STATS PERFORM.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS PERFROM is strictly prohibited.