The top four. That’s what it’s all about. Paulo Fonseca’s contract will be automatically renewed if the Giallorossi finish in the Champions League qualification places. If they don’t? Well, things won’t be quite so clear-cut, as many would question the Portuguese tactician’s ability to lead Roma back to the promised land.
Roma's biggest stumbling block this season has been their performance against their direct competitors for the top four places on the Serie A table. It’s those dropped points against the other big clubs that has Roma’s UCL hopes teetering on the brink. And it’s why this Sunday’s match against Napoli will be key in Roma’s chase for a top-four finish.
A win for Roma would keep the Lupi within striking distance of clubs like Atalanta and Milan with ten matches to go. Meanwhile, a loss could mean that a top four finish becomes a pipe dream and all the eggs will have to be put in the Europa League basket—a risky proposition at best.
There should be no shortage of storylines in the Roma-Napoli match, which is certainly the must-watch match of the weekend. However, as we know, Roma’s final position in the table will be determined by more than just the Giallorossi’s results. So, win, lose or draw, it’s important to keep an eye on the other top seven sides. With that in mind, let’s peruse the peninsula.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 28 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Hellas Verona (9th place) vs Atalanta (4th place): Sunday 7:30 EDT
There aren’t any other top-of-the-table clashes outside of the Italian capital this weekend. However, this one makes for an interesting match-up. Atalanta enters with a slim advantage over both Roma and Napoli for the last UCL spot but is coming off Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid. Therefore, Hellas could have a bit more energy than La Dea.
This one will also make for an interesting clash in styles, as the high-powered attack of Atalanta will be tasked with breaking down a stout Verona defense. Ivan Juric has made himself into one of the hottest mid-table managers and a second win against Gianpiero Gasperini would only strengthen his market appeal.
With that Verona win in the reverse fixture, these teams have evenly split their last nine meetings 3-3-3, so it’s anybody’s best guess how this one ends. However, La Dea has been the second-best team in Serie A since the beginning of February. Nevertheless, Verona, which has lost two in a row, hasn’t lost three straight in almost two years. Something has got to give in this one. Roma will be hoping that Verona can extend its streak of not losing three straight a bit longer.
Juventus (3rd place) vs Benevento (16th place): Sunday 10:00 EDT
The Old Lady quickly put a Champions League Round of 16 elimination behind her last weekend when Juve made quick work of Cagliari in Sardegna. And with only the league to focus on for Andrea Pirlo’s side, Roma and the other top seven challengers likely have their work cut out for them in their pursuit of the Bianconeri. After having its midweek match against Napoli postponed, a rested Juve side will be heavily favored in this one.
The reverse fixture in Campania ended in a 1-1 draw. And in all three previous meetings, neither team has kept a clean sheet. However, Pippo Inzaghi’s side will have a difficult job ahead of it in Turin if it is to achieve a similar result.
Udinese (10th place) vs Lazio (7th place): Sunday 10:00 EDT
Of all the teams fighting for a UCL place, Lazio’s chances are the most precarious. The Biancoceleste will be desperate to return to Europe’s premier competition after being eliminated by Bayern Munich this past week in the round of 16. In order to do that Simone Inzaghi’s side will have to win matches like this one.
The problem is Udinese will be no walk in the park. Instead of fighting relegation like many (including myself) would’ve predicted, the Zebrette sit 10th on the table, and convincingly beat Lazio 3-1 at the Olimpico in the reverse fixture. The home side hasn’t swept Lazio since the 04/05 season but enters this one in great form—being only one of three teams unbeaten in its last five.
Meanwhile, Lazio enters having lost three straight on the road, while Udinese has won three on the trot at home. With Lazio coming in off the midweek CL defeat, the Biancoceleste could be ripe for the picking for Rodrigo De Paul and company.
Fiorentina (13th place) vs Milan (2nd place): Sunday 1:00 EDT
In spite of a recent run of poor form, Milan is still clinging to second in the league table. However, their spot on the table isn’t as secure as it was a few weeks ago as the Rossoneri now only sit six points ahead of Roma and Napoli with Juve and Atalanta closer than that. After averaging 2.5 points per match in the first half of the season, Stefano Pioli’s side is only averaging just 1.6 in the second half.
The Rossoneri welcomed back Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the fold this week, but are still dealing with numerous injuries. Add the fatigue that comes with playing Manchester United Thursday in the Europa League and Milan could be in less than ideal shape, both physically and mentally, in Florence this weekend.
It’ll be up to an underachieving Fiorentina side to take advantage of that. The Viola are coming off a thumping of Benevento, but have yet to win back-to-back matches this campaign.
- Parma (19th place) vs Genoa (14th place)- Friday 3:45 EDT
- Crotone (20th place) vs Bologna (12th place)- Saturday 10:00 EDT
- Spezia (15th place) vs Cagliari (18th place)- Saturday 2:45 EDT
- Sampdoria (11th place) vs Torino (17th place)- Sunday 10:00 EDT
- Inter Milan (1st place) vs Sassuolo (8th place)-PPD
Who’s the top side most likely to drop points this weekend?
This poll is closed
Lazio (at Udinese)
Juve (vs Benevento)
Atalanta (at Hellas)
Milan (at Fiorentina)