There is no Juventus, Inter Milan or AC Milan on top of Italy’s Serie A.

In a league that is becoming increasingly more competitive, the Italian soccer giants are struggling to claim the first position against fierce, highly-motivated title challengers.

The biggest surprise of the 2022/23 Serie A season are Napoli, who are still undefeated and deservedly occupy the first position.

Napoli boast the most prolific attack in the league despite having replaced most of their offensive personnel in the latest transfer session, with former captain Lorenzo Insigne and all-time top goal scorer Dries Mertens leaving the Partenopei. Last summer, the club also experienced a significant budget cut, which speaks to the incredible work that manager Luciano Spalletti and his players are currently doing on the field.

Trailing from second place are Atalanta, whose solid defensive shape – they have conceded just six goals in 10 matches – makes them a very tough opponent to face this year. And because Atalanta cannot compete financially with Italy’s major clubs, their success in Serie A has been even more remarkable this season.

The black and blue, Bergamo-based club seems to have regained the kind of enthusiasm that had allowed them to overachieve in recent times, including a terrific run in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League, when only two stoppage-time goals by Paris Saint-Germain knocked them out in the quarter finals.

The big three of Italian soccer – Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan – are all chasing. Due to their history, reputation and financial prowess, these are the teams that every year are expected to hoist the league trophy or, at least, be a fierce title contender.

Following Sunday night’s 2-1 victory away at Hellas Verona’s Stadio Bentegodi, AC Milan have claimed the third position in Serie A. The club, which in the summer was taken over by Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital Partners, is on a quest for its second Scudetto in a row, which would bring the total to 20 and thus add a second star on top of its crest.

Inter Milan are surprisingly occupying the seventh position. The Nerazzurri, who boast the league’s highest market value according to Transfermarkthave arguably the deepest and most talented roster of all 20 Serie A teams, which is why it should be a matter of time before they close the eight-point gap that separates them from the top of the table.

After a slow start to the season, Simone Inzaghi’s side now seems back on track both domestically and in Europe, as shown recently by the successful performances against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

Juventus, who sit in eighth position after last weekend’s Derby della Mole victory, are 10 points shy of league leaders Napoli. The Bianconeri are under strong pressure to perform considering that they are the club that invests the largest amount of money in its players (the total for the 2022/23 campaign adds up to €158 million, or $154m, per Calcio e Finanza estimates).

If Juventus get knocked out of this year’s European competitions, they will have no option but to channel all their energies in the domestic league. Finishing among Serie A’s top-four positions is crucial for Juventus, because it means collecting large economic rewards that would help deal with their delicate financial situation.

Ten teams are currently standing within eight points in Serie A, with Lazio, Udinese and Roma also featuring in this cutthroat mix. Seeing unusual names higher up in the table is an indicator of the growing competitiveness that has been witnessed in the Italian league over the past few seasons.

The seven-week break forced by the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which will cause Serie A action to pause from Nov. 14, 2022 to Jan. 3, 2023, will significantly affect the teams’ form and momentum, making it even harder for soccer pundits to predict which teams will come out victorious from Italy’s exciting title race.

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