Roma’s European adventure continued on, as the Giallorossi advanced to their second European semifinal in just three years by defeating Ajax on Thursday. Even if the Europa League isn’t held in as high regards as the Champions League, that’s no small feat for a club like Roma. However, as we all know, the league campaign hasn’t gone so swimmingly.
With just eight matches remaining and a seven-point gap to make up with fourth place Atalanta, Roma is now given just a 3% chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League via the league route by fivethirtyeight.com. When considering the aforementioned points needed to catch La Dea, plus Napoli and Lazio standing in the way, it’s no surprise that Paulo Fonseca seems to be putting all of his eggs in the Europa League basket.
The Giallorossi got back to winning ways last weekend against Bologna after dropping points in three straight Serie A matches. However, since all the other top sides won, all those three points managed was to keep the status quo intact.
This weekend might have the potential to breathe just a little more life into Roma’s top-four hopes, which are currently on life support. With Roma facing relegation fighting Torino, some of the direct rivals are stuck with difficult head-to-heads. If things go the Giallorossi’s way then Thursday’s match against Atalanta may take on even greater importance.
So, let’s peruse the peninsula and see who might be in danger of dropping points.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 31 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Atalanta (4th place) vs Juventus (3rd place): Sunday 9:00EDT/15:00CET
This match has huge Champions League implications, as third-place Juve is currently just one point ahead of fourth-place Atalanta. And with Napoli within striking distance of both sides, a loss could mean going from a Champions League place to the outside in a hurry.
La Dea has been one of the most in-form sides of late, which is why they’ve made their way ahead of Napoli, Roma, and Lazio in the table. Atalanta is gunning for its third straight season of Champions League football while establishing itself as a true perennial power in the league. What better way to do that than to put the nine-time defending champions in danger of missing CL action?
Atalanta has been a thorn in Juve’s side since its rise, taking points off the Bianconeri in five of the last six meetings in all competitions (1W, 4D, 1L). However, in league play, Atalanta hasn’t beaten Juve since February 2001. That seems absurd given how good Atalanta has been in recent seasons, but that one win was limited to the Coppa Italia. Juve has also been Gasperini’s bugaboo side, as the manager has collected only 0.59 points per match against Juve—the worst against any opponent in his career.
The reverse fixture ended 1-1 and a draw looks like a likely result given the sides’ recent history. This match could be huge for Roma if La Dea falls. That would give Roma a chance to be within four for Thursday’s encounter at the Olimpico, plus it could slow Atalanta’s momentum for the Giallorossi.
Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
Milan (2nd place) vs Genoa (13th place): Sunday 6:30 EDT/ 12:30 CET
Despite some second half of the season struggles, Milan continues to hang on to second place. The Rossoneri managed to defeat relegation-bound Parma last weekend despite a Zlatan Ibrahimovic red card. Meanwhile, Genoa fought Juve hard before eventually falling 3-1 to the Bianconeri.
Milan has won four of its last six league matches against the Grifoni (4W, 1D, 1L). However, the reverse fixture saw the Rossoneri have to fight back to cancel out a Mattia Destro brace. The Grifoni are also the only side besides Atalanta that Stefano Pioli has yet to defeat since taking over as Milan coach last season.
A home match would normally be looked at as a positive by most sides. However, Milan has been particularly poor at the San Siro, especially in 2021. The Rossoneri are 2W, 2D, 4L since the calendar turned and have allowed 21 goals in 15 home matches this season. That’s the most since 1941/42 through 15 home matches. Even though Milan will be favored, Genoa could have a shot to take points off Pioli’s side.
Lazio (6th place) vs Benevento (16th place): 9:00 EDT/15:00 CET
The Biancoceleste remain ahead of Roma after squeaking out late victories the last two weekends. It took a 92nd-minute goal from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to get Lazio over the line last weekend against Hellas. It hasn’t been easy for Simone Inzaghi’s side, but wins are wins and Lazio has the third-best points per game in the league in 2021 (2.27).
In this one, the Bianconeri face relegation battling Benevento. The Sorcerers are likely safe on 30 points (eight ahead of Cagliari), but stranger things have happened with eight matches to play. So, Pippo Inzaghi will be keen to try and take something off his brother’s Lazio.
The first time these sides met, Benevento managed a 1-1 draw when Pasquale Schiattarella canceled out Ciro Immobile just before the half. A similar result isn’t out of the realm of possibility considering some of the results Benevento has achieved this season—most notably a 1-0 win over Juve at the Allianz.
Napoli (5th place) vs Inter (1st place): Sunday 2:45 PM EDT/ 20:45 CET
Most weeks, this would be the must-watch match, but Atalanta vs Juve pips it this time around. In this one, Inter will look to take one more step toward securing the Scudetto. However, a trip to the Stadio Maradona will be no easy task.
Last season, Inter broke a 13-match winless run in Naples and have won all three against the Partenopei under Antonio Conte. The Nerazzurri haven’t won four straight against Napoli since 2000. Opposite of Conte’s success against Napoli, Gennaro Gattuso has had issues with Inter throughout his managerial career (1D, 5L). That’s something that must eat at the ex-Milan man.
The Nerazzurri enter this one on an absolute tear—winning 11 straight league matches. That’s the third-longest streak in a single Serie A season, behind only Mancini’s 06/07 Inter (17) and Conte’s 15/16 (12) and Allegri’s 17/18 (11) Juve sides. The reverse fixture ended 1-0 at the San Siro. Roma would love to see a similar result to potentially cut the gap with Napoli.
- Sampdoria (10th place) vs Hellas Verona (9th place): Saturday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Crotone (20th place) vs Udinese (12th place): Saturday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
- Sassuolo (8th place) vs Fiorentina (15th place): Saturday 12:00 EDT/ 18:00 CET
- Cagliari (18th place) vs Parma (19th place): Saturday 2:45 PM EDT/ 20:45 CET
- Bologna (14th place) vs Spezia (11th place): Sunday 9:00 EDT/ 15:00 CET
What result are you hoping for in the Atalanta vs Juventus match?
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