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Has the asymmetrical group made Serie A more competitive?

With nine days to go, the championship is more open than ever

Has the asymmetrical group made Serie A more competitive?  With nine days to go, the championship is more open than ever

There are only nine days to go before the end of the championship, and thanks to Juventus' uphill start, and the slips of Inter, Milan and Napoli, the top Italian championship seems more open than ever. It is true that we were by now accustomed to the monopoly of Juventus, which in nine seasons has collected as many consecutive championships, leaving little and nothing to the opponents, who have always remained far away in the rear-view mirrors. Last year, however, it was Conte, a former Juventus player and the architect of the first Juventus championships, who interrupted the latter's monopoly by leading Inter to an early triumph. This year the situation is undoubtedly more complex: the Nerazzurri have so far collected nine points less than last year and Milan in the last day still managed to stretch, attempting a desperate solo escape followed by Napoli, which with Spalletti has shown itself more determined than ever to try to bring in the city of Campania a Scudetto that has been missing for too long. The Rossoneri now lead the standings with three points over the Campania team and four over their Milanese cousins, who still have to make up the game against Bologna

The Italian league seems to be going through a phase of great uncertainty and suspense, and apart from the changes of coaches and transfer campaigns that have reshaped some of the teams in the running, one of the reasons is to be found in the revolutionary choice of the League to introduce from this year the asymmetrical calendar. For those who don't know, the asymmetrical calendar is not an absolute novelty, in England and Spain they have already adopted it for several years, and it introduces the possibility of not playing in the return round in the same order as the first round, "a match will not have its own return before another 8 matches have been played". An absolute novelty that has broken every scheme in Italy, really dividing the championship into two distinct halves and giving teams the possibility of facing each other in completely opposite situations compared to the first leg. One of the most curious facts concerns Cagliari, who collected their first two victories this season against Sampdoria. In La Liga since its introduction in the 2018-19 season, three different teams have won the Scudetto - including Atletico Madrid who finally broke Real and Barcelona's monopoly on the top spot in the table.

Clearly, the change in trend is not only due to the order of the matches. In recent years Serie A has matured in terms of both the game and the players, regaining the competitiveness that had been missing for too many seasons thanks to a levelling of overall talent. Part of this situation is attributable to the European commitments not only of the clubs, but also of the national teams, which due to the pandemic have overlapped from the European Championship to the next World Cup in Qatar, subjecting the players to stressful rhythms that are often difficult to manage. In all of this, the asymmetrical group has played an important role in adding unpredictability, allowing teams to change all the cards on the table if they have had a particularly unlucky first round in direct confrontations.

A change that has allowed Serie A to reach the 29th day with everything still open, from the first places to the relegation zone passing through the European cups. Napoli, for example, played their first game of the season against Venezia, who are currently fighting hard to stay in the relegation zone, and it would certainly have been too easy for them to take on a team whose fate could already be defined. While with the asymmetrical return round about a month ago we have witnessed a Venezia-Napoli exciting, with the lagooners in full salvation race and mocked only by Osihmen and Petagna, who unlocked the challenge and brought home three precious points. A change that could have had a strong impact on the championship, mixing the cards on the table and complicating a Scudetto fight that this year is much more than tight.