Swinging Zenga, dodgy refs and friendly fire

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Just when we were about to start contemplating the closest title race in years, the pretenders to the throne collectively implode. Napoli, Lazio, Udinese and Fiorentina all lost over the weekend, leaving the top of the table with a more familiar look to it.

Inter lead AC Milan by a point, with Juventus in third after their 4-1 demolition of Genoa on Thursday – the game having been brought forward to accommodate Saturday’s rugby Test match between Italy and Argentina.

That's it, lads, stay off the pitch 

Let’s hope that the Olympic Stadium pitch has recovered from that pounding by the time Juve and Inter run out next Saturday evening for what, to the annoyance of Milan, is known as the Derby of Italy.

It'll be even more high-profile than usual this season, what with Inter's Jose Mourinho and Juve's Claudio Ranieri having the first opportunity to settle their media spat on the field.  

That will be a less than friendly encounter after a midweek of non-competitive internationals. Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juve's Olof Mellberg both asked to be left out of Sweden's squad for the kick-about with Holland, and their request was accepted. And the club versus country very rarely causes problems for any Italy coach either: the Azzurri all-stars don’t do friendlies.

Iba: brace, then relax 

Instead, Marcello Lippi will use the game against Greece to have a look at a few players who have been impressing of late. So Udinese’s Gaetano D’Agostino will have a chance to shine in the centre of midfield at the age of 26, and there'll be no headlines complaining that Alessandro del Piero or Antonio Cassano have been snubbed again.

Indeed, despite a relatively harmonious weekend which witnessed two more cracking goals from Ibrahomivic and Julio Baptista finally winning over the Roma fans with the only goal in the derby against Lazio, reporters could be excused for watching what they say about any manager, lest there be serious repercussions.

Last week there was Jose's none-more-Italian squabble with Sky Italia. This week, coming out swinging from the Rossazzurri corner comes Catania’s Walter Zenga, verbally laying into a presenter who brought up the goalkeeper’s mistake in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Argentina to highlight some point or another.

There ensued a bout of shouting and screaming, much as you might hear in the cafes on a Monday morning, with Zenga promising to go a few verbal rounds with his assailant at a future date.

It was another dark Sunday for referees as well. Milan were awarded a penalty when Ricky Kaka was clearly tripped outside the area; the God-fearing Brazilian dusted himself down to score the winner from the spot.

What would Jesus do, Ricky? 

Elsewhere, Napoli had the referee to thank for their spot-kick at Atalanta. It looked for all the world as if home defender Thomas Manfredini won the ball first when he tackled Chelsea’s reported target Ezequiel Lavezzi, but the ref somehow saw it differently.

Referee chief Pierluigi Collina has now called his charges to a meeting and will no doubt ask them to stand up in front of the whole class to explain their decisions. 

And just when we thought we were in for a quiet few days before the fireworks expected next weekend in Turin.

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