Milan’s capitulation against Roma last weekend opened the door for Juventus – who were much maligned earlier in the season – to become Napoli’s main challengers.
And the Old Lady’s chance to cut the gap at the top to just four points looms on Friday night when Massimiliano Allegri’s men travel to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
The encounter is just one of NINE you can watch exclusively live on BT Sport this week, so read on for all the top stories from Round 18 to watch out for.
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Miserly Juve face the toughest test in the league
Juventus is not having the best time off the pitch.
The Torino outfit have been embroiled in a fake accounts scandal, accused of understating significant financial losses and claiming players had agreed to post-Covid pay cuts that were allegedly far less than the club had recorded.
The saga is seen as the most embarrassing episode for the Italian giants since the Calciopoli betting fiasco that saw them relegated to Serie B in the mid-2000s.
However, things look a lot rosier on the field.
Despite an injury list that includes Paul Pogba, Dušan Vlahović, Leanardo Bonucci, Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio and now centre-back Bremer (the latter two doubtful for Napoli), Massimiliano Allegri has managed to turn Juventus into a winning machine.
The once perennial Serie A winners have tasted victory in their last eight games, incredibly without conceding a single goal.
That defensive resilience will be severely tested on Friday night.
Sure, Napoli’s goal rate has slowed in recent games either side of the World Cup, but they are still the best attacking force in the country and Victor Osimhen owns the division’s leading goalscorer.
The Nigerian’s 10th league goal of the season – in just his 13th appearance – came in the 2-0 win at 10-man Sampdoria last time out as he headed expertly in looking for Mario Rui’s cross.
The 24-year-old appears hungrier than ever and will next face former Napoli team-mate Arkadiusz Milik.
The Polish striker scored 48 times in 122 games for the Partenopei before finally joining Marseille permanently last summer after two years on loan in the south of France.
Now back on loan in Italy, Milik has seven goals this term, most recently scoring a 91st-minute winner at Cremonese.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus have conceded just seven league goals this season – and none in their last eight Serie A games
Trembling Milan runs into one of his own
After seeing off Salernitana in their first post-World Cup game, Milan must have felt they were building some momentum when they took a 2-0 lead against Roma.
However, the Rossoneri were dealt their worst blow late on when Roger Ibanez chipped in from Sandro Tonali to score in the 87th minute, before Tammy Abraham was quickest on the attack after Nemanja Matic’s header was stopped by Ciprian Tatarusana.
Perhaps this shock collapse was as much the result of a devastating injury list as individual lapses in concentration, but Stefano Pioli may still be without nine first-team players, including goalkeeper Mike Maignan and strikers Divock Origi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The reigning champions now travel to Lecce hoping to capitalize on a possible Juventus setback at Napoli, but they will be up against an opponent who has taken 11 points from their last 15 on offer and has Milan loanee Lorenzo Colombo leading the way.
The 20-year-old has really come into his own, scoring three and assisting two in his last five top-flight games for the side who won Serie B last season.
A confident finisher from close range, Colombo demonstrated his ability to pounce on defensive mistakes and sniff out where crosses would fall.
Each of his four strikes came at an important moment and he also has the strength of character to respond decisively to setbacks, as he showed by scoring a superb goal against Napoli just minutes after missing a penalty.
Unlike in England, loanees can play against their parent club. Milan, take care.
Lorenzo Colombo (right) could be a thorn in the side of parent club Milan on Saturday
Josh shows that he has that Doig in him
In a season that has been depressing for Hellas Verona and their fans, the form of Scottish left-back Josh Doig, signed from Hibernian in the summer, has been a source of comfort.
The 20-year-old highlighted what he really is in a crucial 2-0 win over Cremonese on Monday when he made a stunning run from his own half to the edge of the visitors’ penalty area, then played a beautifully measured pass for Darko Lazovic to score his second of the night.
While Inter are certainly slightly above Cremonese, Doig will be optimistic that he can take advantage of the Nerazzurri’s tendency to play a back three, regardless of whether he opts for Matteo Darmian or Denzel Dumfries on the right wing.
Verona are still six points adrift of safety, but Simone Inzaghi’s side look vulnerable at the moment, possessing the worst defense in the top 10, who look nervous when forced to defend crosses coming into their box.
So Monza profited deep into stoppage time last weekend, while second-division Parma were on top of Inter for long periods in their Coppa Italia clash on Tuesday before eventually succumbing to the favourites.
However, Verona have the second-worst backline in the entire league, one that must find a way to stop Lautaro Martinez, who has scored in each of the last two games.
Only Osimhen is ahead of the World Cup winner in this season’s scorers list. This would be an ideal opportunity to upgrade it.
Josh Doig has been a renaissance since joining Hellas Verona from Hibernian this summer
Lax Lazio needs reinforcements in the UCL mission
Going into the World Cup break, Lazio held fourth and final place in the Champions League despite losing 3-0 to Juventus.
On their return to action, the games against Lecce and Empoli, although awkward, were not the kind of games that should daunt a side with ambitions to sit at the top of European football.
However, defensive sloppiness saw a 1-0 lead soon turn into a 2-1 deficit in the first of those games, while in the second, a 2-0 lead evaporated late on as Lazio were forced to accept a draw before stunning Stadio Olimpico.
Maurizio Sarri’s men now face Sassuolo in need of three points, while city rivals Roma and Atalanta have the same number of points as the Eagles, with Inter three points ahead of them.
Fortunately for Lazio, their upcoming opponents are in poor form.
Having picked up just one point from their last six games, the Neroverdi have unexpectedly been thrust into the relegation battle and while they still have a seven-point lead over 18th Hellas Verona, both Verona and 19th Sampdoria look better than Sassuolo at the moment.
Can Alessio Dionisi’s men secure their first win since October 24?
Will Cremonese ever win this season?
Things are starting to look increasingly desperate for the Cremonese.
The Grigiorossi had a golden chance to finally secure their first Serie A win of the season against last-placed Hellas Verona on Monday, only for their defense to let them down twice in the first half.
That 2-0 defeat means Massimiliano Alvini’s newly-promoted side are in deep trouble – if they weren’t before – and this weekend presents what must be one of the few decent chances they have left to drag themselves to safety.
Their new boys from Monza may have drawn against Fiorentina and Inter since the restart, but they are still 15th and have won just once on their league travels this season.
These facts in themselves should give hope to the hosts that they could win, despite not being able to score in the last four away games. This match will not be for the purists.
Cremonese are running out of time in their bid to avoid an immediate return to Serie B
Your weekend in Serie A on BT Sport
Naples in regards to Juventus (19.30 on BT Sport 1)
Lecce in regards to Milan (17.15 on BT Sport 1)
Between in regards to Hellas Verona (19.30 on BT Sport 1)
Sassuolo in regards to Lazio (11.30 on BT Sport 3)
Udinese in regards to Bologna (2pm on BT Sport 3)
Turin in regards to Spezia (2pm on BT Sport 6)
Atalanta in regards to Salernitana (5pm on BT Sport 3)
Roma in regards to Fiorentina (19.45 on BT Sport 1)
Empoli in regards to Sampdoria (19.30 on BT Sport 1)