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Previewing the Decisive Matches in the race for the Champions League

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Five rounds to go. Which of Roma, Lazio and Inter are going to break?

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

There’s five rounds to go in the Serie A season and Roma, Lazio and Inter Milan are locked in a furious battle for the last two Champions League places. One point separate 3rd place Roma from 5th place Inter with Roma’s arch rivals Lazio in 4th (tied on points with Roma but behind on head-to-head). The statisticians will have you believe that Roma are in pole position to emerge unscathed from this fight but as we’ve seen recently with our beloved club, we like to mess with the stats.

Fixture list

Team Week 34 Week 35 Week 36 Week 37 Week 38
Team Week 34 Week 35 Week 36 Week 37 Week 38
Roma SPAL (A) Chievo (H) Cagliari (A) Juventus (H) Sassuolo (A)
Inter Chievo (A) Juventus (H) Udinese (A) Sassuolo (H) Lazio (A)
Lazio Sampdoria (H) Torino (A) Atalanta (H) Crotone (A) Inter (H)

At this stage of the season, every game is crucial and no game is easy (remember the heart attacks in the Genoa game last season?). However, there are some games that jump out as more intriguing than others and I thought I’d try to pick out the key games from each remaining round of fixtures.

Round 34: Roma vs SPAL

I know what you’re thinking – Surely, Roma vs SPAL is not a key game. On the contrary, I believe this will be one of the most crucial games for Roma this season. Since taking over as head coach in 2014, Leondaro Semplici has guided his side from Lega Pro to Serie A via back-to-back promotions. This season, SPAL find themselves in a bit of a struggle and are very much in the thick of the relegation fight sitting just one point away from the drop zone. However, Semplici’s side has had an impressive rise in form in recent weeks and haven’t lost a game in two months in Serie A (a 1-0 defeat to Napoli in mid-February). Their impressive recent run has seen them pick up draws against quality sides like Juventus, Fiorentina and Atalanta and their determination to stay in Serie A poses a significant danger to Roma who have a habit of playing at the same level as their opponents.

Round 35: Inter vs Juventus

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

A huge game and one in which the Roman clubs will be hoping for a favour from the Serie A leaders. Juventus could have an opportunity to clinch the title against their bitter Milanese rivals and certainly have the quality and depth to beat Spalletti’s men. However, Inter vs Juventus is not a game that always follows the expected script, especially at the San Siro where Juventus have not beaten Inter since May 2015.

Round 36: Lazio vs Atalanta

Atalanta are one of the most exciting young sides in Italy this season. Under the guidance of Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta find themselves in a fight of their own as they try to pip AC Milan to the last Europa League position. Atalanta have seen a slight dip in form in recent weeks but we can hope that this will be one of those matches where Papu Gomez and co. can step up and take the game to Lazio. A high-scoring draw like the 3-3 they shared last time around would serve Roma very well.

Round 37: Roma vs Juventus

AS Roma v Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Oof. What a time to play the league leaders. This is, far and away, the hardest game on Roma’s calendar this season. Depending on how results shake out at this point in the season, this could be a dead rubber or a game with major consequences for the Champions League race and possibly even the title race. Juventus have been the most dominant team in Italy for six years but Roma will not give in easily as Radja reminded them the last time they visited the Olimpico. My dream scenario is Radja firing Roma into the Champions League with a late winner, blows open the title race for the last matchday and we get to hear about Buffon complain about Radja’s trashcan of a heart. One can hope.

Round 38: Lazio vs Inter, Sassuolo vs Roma

Now, I’m hoping by the time this week rolls along, we’re just grabbing the popcorn to see which of Inter and Lazio are going to join us alongside Europe’s elite. In the event that it’s not all done and dusted, what a story this will be! Inter vs Lazio is likely to be a head-to-head game for Champions League qualification which could be the last chance for Roma to clinch the final Champions League spot. In this (slightly nightmarish) scenario, Roma would be faced with a must-win game against relegation threatened Sassuolo, Eusebio di Francesco’s beloved ex-club. EDF may be faced with the prospect of needing to relegate the club he coached and developed for five years or face the prospect of Roma missing out on Champions League football. Shakespeare’s tragedies end with more joy than this scenario - lets hope it isn’t one we’ll need to see play out.

So, what do you think? Are there other games you’re looking forward to? Will Roma keep their nerves till the very end?