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Choosing a horse in a title race without the Old Lady

It appears the time has come to officially declare Juventus out of the Scudetto race, but there is still plenty to be decided at the top of the table.

Juventus v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sunday’s match is still providing some fresh pain for me and I’m sure many of you reading this. Some of you may have already moved past any hope of Juventus winning the Serie A title this season, but for the rest of us, Sunday certainly felt like the final nail in the coffin.

Even Max Allegri decided the defeat was good for one thing: no more asking about the title race.

And look, I understand that Juventus fans have every reason to have high expectations and want the title year after year. I wanted it just as badly this season, too, but that is certainly no reason not to enjoy the remaining drama over these next few weeks to end the campaign.

A three-club race essentially within one point of each other with seven matches remaining. It really is a dream finish for neutral fans.

I don’t want to tell anyone to put aside their Juventus fandom in order to enjoy some other rival club winning a trophy, but maybe at the end of the day, the best way to take a positive outlook at the end of this season is just to enjoy the football. (Plus, hopefully a Coppa Italia trophy to ease the pain.)

And this would certainly be easier to write if pretty much any other club was in the mix, but no, it’s the trio of teams maybe most difficult to root for when it comes to winning the Scudetto.

So how can one even decide between the three? A loss to Inter being fresh on the mind would seemingly push them into last on the list, but recency bias is certainly a real thing. But can you really bear to see Napoli or Milan end their respective title droughts?

Or maybe you have to look past the clubs. Maybe it is more about the players and which ones are tolerable even in enemy colors. Or hell, maybe it is just about which one has your favorite color scheme.

For me, there is a combination of different reasons and each club has a decent case to make in my book. Let’s run through some of the pros and cons or at least how I see them.

Let’s start with Napoli — the team which has shot itself on to the scene during this time where no one seems to want to win a title.

I think the first thing that comes to mind is the title drought as the Scudetto has not been home in Naples in more than three decades. A part of me thinks that would be a cool story to see end, but also it’s fun to laugh at that drought every now and then when you need to put another club down because your own favorite club has a disappointing season and has lost a match to all three of the teams I am writing about now. It’s fine. I’m fine.

While many teams and players have made headlines for racism within their matches, Napoli may have been there the most often. Sure, their fans, as with many clubs, have been at fault but most recently, it has been the players who have been the victims. If this comes down to the final matchdays, it will certainly be difficult not to root for players like Kalidou Koulibaly and Victor Osimhen who have both been subject to racist abuse in this very season.

Unfortunately for Napoli, although they may have my two favorite players from any of the three sides, there may not be any other likable players on the squad. Which may be the biggest argument in favor of the other two clubs.

Milan is full of players that I really like to watch. In fact, I think you could put out an entire team sheet featuring Milan players and put a different badge and kit on them and I will likely root for them against most clubs in the world.

While I am getting more and more content with the Juventus midfield, I would have killed for a Franck Kessie-Sandro Tonali pairing for the last couple of seasons. Rafael Leao is one of the most exciting young players to watch in attack. I can’t help but root for some of their more likable players like Olivier Giroud and Simon Kjaer.

And then Zlatan is Zlatan, good or bad. Not sure which side he fits into the Milan argument so he gets his own line.

Then for the club across town, I will always be a fan of Arturo Vidal. Most people refer to him as the kind of player you love if he’s on your team but hate when he’s an opponent. I thought that would be the case, but I can’t help but to remember the good times.

Inter has a few others I don’t mind watching and even rooting for when they are not in an Inter shirt. Nico Barella is one of my favorite midfielders in the world. I’ve made it clear on this site before that I am a big fan of wingbacks and Robin Gosens and Denzel Dumfries are perfect in those roles so fun to watch for me. (I am choosing to ignore Ivan Perisic for this argument’s sake because I like Gosens a lot more.)

Another thing Inter has going for it: it’s already won a title. We’ve dealt with the fans and the celebrations for a year already, what’s one more? If it’s not Inter, we have to deal with a whole other fanbase and club celebrating a Scudetto more recently than Juventus. That doesn’t sound very fun to me at all.

And the more I think about that last point, the more I lean toward rooting for Inter. Of course, then I see those words typed out in a row and it feels wrong and I kind of hate myself for it.

But at the end of the day, what I want to be rooting for is the three-horse race to still be alive come mid-May. Give me some entertainment, crown a champion and then let’s get ready for the next race.