For the first part of the 2015/16 Serie A season, it seemed as if Juventus' reign at the zenith of Italian soccer was about to come to an end. The Zebras entered the season as just about the surest bets in the world: not only were they carrying four consecutive Serie A titles (and going for a fifth), but they were also the reigning holders of the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italia, and were fresh off a runner-up finish in the UEFA Champions League.
And yet, when Juventus kicked off their 2015/16 campaign, they didn't look like the decorated football club they are. Week one brought a 0-1 loss against Udinese-and at home, no less. Week two and week three were hardly better, bringing a loss against Roma and a draw with Chievo, respectively. The Zebras finally won a game roughly a month into the season, winning 2-0 at Genoa. But subsequent losses to Napoli and Sassuolo continued to expose Juve's flaws and left the soccer club languishing in 12th place after ten weeks of competition.
If the early-season failings of Juventus were surprising, at least, they had an explanation. Over the summer, the football club bid farewell to Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal, and Andrea Pirlo-three key players that had been key to the team's success in 2014/15.
The good news, for fans in the Juventus home shirt 2015/16, is that the Zebras managed to bounce back and figure out how to win despite the absence of their former stars. Since beating Torino 2-1 on Halloween, Juve hasn't lost a single Serie A match, stringing together seven victories in a row-including wins against quality teams like Empoli (3-1), AC Milan (1-0), and Fiorentina (3-1) along the way. On December 20th, Juventus beat Carpi in their last match of 2015, ending the year with their impressive winning streak intact.
The Serie A Standings
The seven consecutive wins have allowed Juventus to climb from 12th to fourth place and have bolstered the soccer team's record to a solid ten wins, three draws, and four losses. More impressive still, the Zebras are just three points off the lead heading into 2016. They may yet win that fifth consecutive title.
The current table leaders are Inter Milan, enjoying their own rise-from-the-ashes season, under the management of Roberto Mancini. The Black and Blues finished eighth last season but have bounced back this fall, winning 11 of their first 17 matches.
So far, Internazionale has been successful largely thanks to defense. Indeed, their "Goals For" tally of 23 is five fewer than any other team currently ranked in the top five. With a "Goals Against" count of 11, though-and 11 clean sheets from Samir Handanovic, currently the league's best goalkeeper-Inter Milan are holding strong at the top of the table.
Inter's lead is slight, though: following a loss to Lazio in their last game of the year, the football club has just a one-point advantage over both Fiorentina and Napoli. Those two squads, along with Roma (at fifth place, just four points off the lead) have been the offensive heavyweights this season. In fact, Fiorentina and Napoli are dead even in goal difference right now (+18), with the former earning the advantage because of their impressive goal count of 33.
Fiorentina may have the best "Goals For" statistic in the Serie A (Napoli and Roma trail with 32 and 31, respectively), but Napoli has arguably the league's best player in the form of Gonzalo Higuain. At 28 years old, Higuain continues to be remarkably consistent and skilled in his striker role. The former Real Madrid standout has scored 16 goals in Napoli's first 17 fixtures-including a brace in his club's year-ending match at Atalanta. With six more goals than the next most prolific scorers in the league (Sampdoria's Citadin Eder and Fiorentina's Nikola Kalinic), could Higuain help Napoli to their first league title since 1990?
As Serie A heads to winter break, and with the top five teams all divided by just four points it is in an exciting place heading into 2016. Follow Soccer Box on social media to get continued updates on Italian football throughout the remainder of the season! You can find us on multiple social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.