Premiership Vs Serie A: A Foregone Conclusion Or Not?
The next couple of weeks will deliver a sporting verdict on a long-running debate.
Which league is better, Serie A or the Premiership?
The accepted wisdom is that the English set-up has long since overtaken Italy and wins hands down thanks to its financial power and the consistent progress of its sides in the Champions League.
But the head-to-head record this year puts that conclusion in doubt.
So far this season Italian and English teams have clashed on half a dozen occasions.
The result is four victories to one in favour of the Serie A outfits with one draw.
Until Manchester United’s win in the San Siro, English sides had failed to defeat their Italian counterparts in the 2009/10 continental campaign.
Fiorentina defeated Liverpool home and away, Inter Milan beat Chelsea and Roma got a win and a draw against Fulham in the group stages of the Europa League.
That record will be updated over the coming fortnight.
First into action will be Milan on Mission Improbable to Old Trafford as they trail Manchester United 3-2 from their first leg.
Then Juventus clash with Fulham in an intriguing Europa League tie.
And next week Inter Milan will visit Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho attempts to put another one over on Carlo Ancelotti.
With three home ties out of four, the chances are the seasonal results will swing back toward England.
However, the head-to-head performances must be cause for reflection.
While Italian sides have struggled against other opposition, they have been able to raise their game when the Premiership comes calling.
Maybe it is tactical awareness, perhaps they have been fortunate, or perhaps just hit form at the right time.
Whatever the reason, Italy has held the upper hand.
It would take an out-of-this-world performance for Milan to do anything other than go down to defeat in Manchester.
After a blistering first half, they wilted in the first leg at the San Siro.
However, there was more than a little good fortune in Paul Scholes’ strike in that match and Wayne Rooney is nursing an injury.
Any sort of result would boost Leonardo’s managerial stock a little higher.
British TV pundits are in no doubt about the Juventus versus Fulham tie.
The London club has “nothing to fear” from the Turin side and it is a commonly-held belief that they will turn over their illustrious opponents at Craven Cottage.
Serie A veteran Roy Hodgson is unlikely to fall into the trap of thinking it will be that easy.
The Bianconeri have had their problems but they still boast European experience that Fulham can only dream of.
A victory for the English side would be a hammer blow to one of Italy’s historic big hitters and a major feather in the cap of the Premiership.
It is likely to be a fascinating clash.
Last but not least is the battle between two would-be champions of their respective nations.
Inter Milan hold a slender advantage but only those of impaired footballing vision could have failed to see that they were second-best for long spells at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Chelsea had the possession and purpose to do better than their 2-1 defeat.
But that, in itself, might be exactly what will worry Ancelotti.
The Nerazzurri did not play particularly well and yet they managed to get a result which will at least see them kick off against John Terry and company in a qualifying position.
Whether they can hold on to it is another question.
More than any TV, radio, or newspaper hype, these matches will deliver a decision on the strength of the respective leagues in cold, hard, footballing facts.
It will be an outcome which either England or Italy will not like, but it will be difficult to argue with the conclusions.
In a couple of weeks time the Premiership could be sitting proudly with the scalps of Inter Milan, Milan, and Juventus on its mantelpiece.
Or Serie A just might have seriously undermined English claims of being a vastly superior product.
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