If the Serie A season was a thoroughbred race, with just 10 of 38 matches remaining, we would be entering the home stretch. With Inter looking like prime Secretariat—running away from the field—the best of the rest are just looking for a place on the podium. While it’s unlikely at this point that Roma will either place or show, luckily for the Giallorossi, fourth is good enough in calcio.
Nevertheless, after falling to Napoli before the international break, Roma is looking like the horse that started strong but is falling back into the pack as the finish line nears. That’s quite the opposite of some of her direct competition for a Champions League place—namely Napoli and Atalanta—that are coming on strong with a prize in sight.
Besides sitting sixth in the table (and potentially seventh if Lazio wins its match in hand), Roma is also the only Italian team remaining in a European competition. While that may be a point of pride, it also adds to the already taxing late season schedule. Roma will have a busier April than everyone else in the league as it plays Ajax on back-to-back Thursdays. That’s just another obstacle in Roma’s final grueling sprint to the finish line on matchday 38.
In terms of the league schedule, Roma has three head-to-head matches against the top seven clubs in the table (Atalanta, @Inter, Lazio), three matches against spots 8-13 (@Sassuolo, Bologna, @Sampdoria) and four against the bottom seven sides that still aren’t out of the relegation fight (@Torino, @Cagliari, Crotone, @Spezia). That’s pretty much on par with what the other teams in places 2-7 will face as they battle it out for a UCL place.
Milan’s schedule breaks down the same as Roma’s in terms of the opponent’s table position. Meanwhile, Napoli and Lazio each have three matches remaining against top and/or mid-table competition and five against bottom-feeding clubs—they both still have a match in hand over Roma as well.
With three matches remaining against the top four clubs, four against middle-of-the-pack clubs, and three against lower teams, Atalanta’s final ten matches are slightly more challenging. Ultimately, Juve has the toughest remaining schedule with four against the top, four against mid-table, and three against lower table opposition.
With that being said, Roma will have to be at its best domestically in order to hang with the leading pack to the finish line this season. In order to do that it starts this weekend against Sassuolo, but the results from around the league become even more important with Roma now playing catch up. So, let’s peruse the peninsula and see where Roma could potentially get some help.
Perusing the Peninsula: Matchday 29 Previews
The Best Non-Roma Match
Torino (17th place) vs Juventus (3rd place): Saturday 12:00 EDT
Normally a match featuring a relegation fighting side against a top-four contender wouldn’t be considered must-see TV. However, there aren’t any matches with top eight sides squaring off besides Roma against Sassuolo, so the Derby della Mole has to be the next best match.
Juve will be favored in this one despite losing to Benevento prior to the international break. In fact, history would dictate that Andrea Pirlo’s side won’t lose, as Juve has lost consecutive matches just once in its last 215 league matches. Meanwhile, Torino has won only one of its last 29 matches against city rivals Juve (6D, 22L) and hasn’t kept the Bianconeri off the scoresheet in the last 19 meetings.
Torino will enter this one desperate for a result, but we'll see if that's enough for the Toros to get something out of this match. The first time these sides met, Torino led for almost 70 minutes before late goals by Weston McKennie (77’) and Leo Bonucci (89’) broke Granata hearts.
Matches Featuring Top Four Challengers
AC Milan (2nd place) vs Sampdoria (10th place): Saturday 6:30 EDT
After starting the season on an absolute tear, Milan went into the international break on up-and-down form. However, thanks to slip-ups by the rest of the contenders, the Rossoneri still find themselves in second place. Outside of Roma, Milan faces the stiffest competition this weekend in the form of 10th place Samp.
The first time these sides met, Milan took all three points with a 2-1 victory at the Marassi. With the win, the Rossoneri have won four of their last six against the Blucerchiati. However, Samp may have a better chance to win at the San Siro considering Milan has picked up 22 points at home versus 37 on the road.
And with the last 20 matches in which Samp has played a top two team not finishing in a draw (5W, 15L) the odds favor someone taking home all three points.
Atalanta (4th place) vs Udinese (12th place): Saturday 9:00 EDT
Just when it looked like the league figured Atalanta out, La Dea has come on strong of late. Atalanta has won six of its last seven and moved into the top four. And without Champions League football to distract them, Gasperini’s side could be even more dangerous down the stretch.
La Dea is joint top with Inter in goalscoring (65 scored) but will face a fairly stout Udinese defense that has only given up 36 goals thus far. The first time these sides met, it ended in a 1-1 draw at the Friuli.
That draw was Udinese’s first point after five straight losses to Atalanta. Udinese has been strong in its last 14 matches (4W, 6D, 4L), which gives the rest of the contenders hope that the Zebrette can again find a result.
Napoli (5th place) vs Crotone (20th place): Saturday 9:00 EDT
After rumors swirled of a potential Gennaro Gattuso sacking just weeks ago, Napoli is again a legit top-four threat. The Partenopei entered the international break with back-to-back wins against Milan and Roma to pull within two points of Juve and Atalanta.
The rescheduled match against the Bianconeri looms large for Napoli on Wednesday, but before that, they host last-place Crotone. Napoli is a 5-0-0 all-time against Crotone and won the reverse fixture 4-0. That clean sheet was one of Napoli’s league-leading 11.
Couple that strong Napoli defense with Crotone allowing two or more goals in each of its last 10 matches and the script seemingly has already been written. The only hope for Crotone is that it can catch Napoli looking ahead to its trip to Turin.
Lazio (7th place) vs Spezia (15th place): Saturday 9:00 EDT
In its last match before the break, Spezia scored a crucial win in the survival race by defeating Cagliari 2-1. Those two goals brought Spezia’s total to 36, which is the most after 28 matches by a newly promoted side since Palermo’s 38 in 2014/15.
Spezia will have to bring its goalscoring boots if it expects to upset Lazio, which is unbeaten in its last 29 home matches against recently promoted sides. Additionally, the Biancoceleste have won seven straight at the Olimpico.
Lazio won the reverse fixture 2-1. We’ll see if Vincenzo Italiano’s side can muster enough goals to pull off another famous Olimpico victory—this time one that Giallorossi supporters can enjoy.