Viva Italia: All-Milan Champions League Semi Final Underscores Serie A Revival

Inter and AC Milan lead the way in Europe while Napoli look set to rule at home
13:00, 20 Apr 2023

No matter which of AC Milan or Inter Milan triumphs in their upcoming Champions League semi final Derby della Madonnina, we will see an uncommon occurrence. For the first time since 2017, an Italian side will line up in a Champions League final. You have to reach back as far as 2010 for a finalist that wasn’t Juventus. But this has been a good year for Serie A sides in the competition, with AC Milan having to navigate past Napoli in order to reach the semi final stage. So why are teams from Italy suddenly reclaiming former glories on the continental stage?

Ordinarily one might look to the boon of a recent international tournament win. Italy won the delayed Euro 2020, beating England in the final in a game a few of you may recall. But it doesn’t seem likely that a post-trophy boost is responsible, given the fact that Italy have since watched a World Cup take place without them after failing to qualify.


There have been signs that the sleeping giants of Italy would emerge from their slumber. Roma picked up the inaugural Europa Conference League trophy last season. Inter themselves reached the final of the 2020 Europa League, narrowly losing to competition experts Sevilla. But for deeper clues as to why Serie A is emerging as a contender on the world stage can be found by looking at the league itself.

Between the 2011/12 season and the 2019/20 campaign, Juventus won every single Serie A championship. The nine titles lifted by the Old Lady essentially turned Italy into a monopoly on a par with the one Bayern Munich operate in the Bundesliga or Celtic’s dominance of Scotland. While Juventus themselves managed to reach two Champions League finals over this period, albeit winning neither, none of their compatriots reached the same stage. 

But there has been a power shift in Italy. The storied Milan clubs have lifted the title in each of the last two seasons. First, Inter scooped the 2020/21 championship under Antonio Conte. It was their first since securing the fabled 2010 treble under current Roma boss Jose Mourinho. It was the Rossoneri’s turn the following year, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic adding to the retro feeling of AC Milan lifting the trophy with his continued presence in his 40s.

ZlatanIbrahimovicatACMilan2020 2021_PA 548313421jpg

Even taking out Juventus’ legal travails, and the 15-point deduction they have incurred as a result, they would only be third this season. It is Champions League quarter finalists Napoli who are running away with this season’s Serie A title. 14 points clear with eight games to play, it seems that the Italian top flight will have new champions for the third year in a row. This level of competition can only be good for the rest of the league. Steel sharpens steel. 

This competitiveness has trickled down too. Emperor Mourinho’s Roman troops are third, above both Milan clubs and chasing down a first Champions League appearance since the 2018/19 campaign. Roma are also through to the quarter finals of the Europa League, as trophy specialist Mourinho seeks to add yet more European gloss to his legacy.

Lazio currently sit in the runners-up spot. If they can maintain it, it will be their highest finish since lifting the title itself in 1999/00. Maurizio Sarri unfairly became a figure of fun in England for his chain-smoking ways and Chelsea fans’ outright rejection of ‘Sarriball’. But the 64-year-old Charles Bukowski enthusiast is a man rejuvenated back on home turf. A Serie A title during a brief spell at Juventus was seen as doing the bare minimum, but his work at Lazio is seriously impressive.

If the winner of the upcoming, two-legged Milan derby goes all the way and lifts the trophy, Italian football will be back on its pedestal. It had been left behind as the gold standard of European football by the La Liga dominance of the last decade and the Premier League revival of this one. But the return of doyens like Mourinho and Sarri, as well as the breaking of the Juve monopoly and the return to the summit of the Milan clubs has put Serie A back where it belongs. Viva Italia.

UCL outrights: inter 13/2 ac milan 7/1

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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