Never can I recall in my 15 of so years of following Serie A, so many teams playing meaningful football on the last weekend of the season. We’ve had title races, Champions League places up for grabs, and relegation fights on the last day, but they usually involve a couple teams involved fighting for a European spot or looking to avoid the drop. This season the title race may have been nothing more than a runaway, but the fight for European football and Serie B infamy is an all out free for all. Throw in De Rossi’s final game in a Roma shirt for noi romanisti and Sunday promises to be quite the ride so buckle up.
The Champions League Race
This might as well be the race of missed chances; one in which all of Atalanta, Inter, Milan and Roma can rue. And whichever two sides miss out on Europe’s premier competition will look back on with a lot of what ifs. In recent weeks, none of the four has established itself as a sure thing, leaving us to the final weekend to determine the last two European spots.
We enter week 38 with Atalanta and Inter holding slight edges over Milan and Roma despite both dropping points on Sunday. Atalanta and Inter sit on 66 points, one ahead of Milan on 65 and three more than Roma’s 63.
The odds are, of course, stacked for Roma. They are currently behind three teams and don’t have the head-to-head tiebreak with any of them as things currently stand. Inter and Atalanta currently hold the edge over the Giallorossi based on goal differential, while Milan has the better head-to-head record. Roma in all likelihood would need nothing short of a miracle to achieve Champions League qualification at this point. But with the way things have gone this season would you count out more odd results?
Inter host an in form Empoli side just one point clear of the drop after winning three straight. Empoli are coming off a thorough 3-1 thrashing of Torino, which ended the Toro’s Euro Dreams. Meanwhile, Inter were completely annihilated at the San Paolo by Napoli 4-1.
Milan will face SPAL this weekend, who have been a tough nut to crack all season—just ask Roma. Thanks to a fine second half of the season, SPAL secured salvation weeks ago. It remains to be seen how motivated the Ferrara based side will be, but chances to claim the scalp of another big boy should get the competitive juices flowing. Also, SPAL could potentially finish top half with a win; no small feat for a provincial side.
Lastly, Atalanta finish at “home” against the same Sassuolo side that held Roma in check on Saturday. I say “home” because La Dea is currently playing its home matches at the Mapei, the actual home of Sassuolo. Perhaps things might not be as straightforward as Atalanta would’ve hoped.
Then, of course, there is Roma, who must win and pray for the best as they host Parma at the Olimpico. Emotions will be running high in the Capital for obvious reasons. With that in mind, the Giallorossi mustn't lose sight of what’s at stake. Not only are the Giallorossi still on Champions League life support, but a win and Milan loss at minimum assures Roma of finishing fifth. You might say big deal, but with that they would at least avoid the dreaded July Europa League qualifiers that could blow up all of Roma’s summer plans.
Check out all of the Champions League clinching scenarios here from Football Italia.
The Scrum at the Bottom
As crazy as the race for the final two Champions League is, the situation at the bottom of the table is even messier. With Chievo and Frosinone already on their way down to Serie B, no fewer than four teams are fighting to avoid a date with infamy. Currently, Fiorentina and Udinese are level on 40 points, while Empoli are one above the drop on 38, and Genoa sit in undesired 18th place on 37.
One point would be enough to provide salvation for both Fiorentina and Udinese, but any less could spell doom. On Sunday, Udinese travel to Cagliari; the Sardi secured salvation with last week’s draw against Genoa, so it remains to be seen how motivated Maran’s side will be with little to play for. As mentioned earlier, Empoli will have the tall task of traveling to the San Siro to face an Inter side that’s just as desperate as they are.
Meanwhile, the most surprising relegation battle has to be the one featuring Genoa and Fiorentina. Before the season began it seemed much more likely that the Viola would be fighting for a Europa League spot than potentially dropping to Serie B, while Genoa should’ve been tabbed for mid-table mediocrity at minimum.
With each side needing only one point (Fiorentina to survive and Genoa with some help from Empoli), the match at the Artemio Franchi promises to be tense
Check out all of the relegation scenarios here from Football Italia.