Serie A could still provide sting in the tail
MILAN, May 10 – Juventus have already sewn up the title but the final day of the Serie A season could still have a sting in the tail as the champions look to complete the competition unbeaten while four teams battle for the Champions League qualifying place.
The calculators will be out as Udinese, Lazio, Napoli and Inter Milan vie for third place while at the bottom, Genoa try to secure their place in the top flight for another season.
Juventus, who have 81 points from 37 games, and AC Milan (77) have already grabbed Italy’s two direct places in the Champions League group stage next season.
If Juventus avoid defeat against Atalanta they will become only the second team to win Serie A without losing a match, emulating Fabio Capello’s AC Milan in 1991/92.
Perugia were unbeaten in 1978/79 but finished second in a league of 16 teams as opposed to the current 20.
The double is also a possibility for Juventus, who face Milan in the Coppa Italia final on May 20.
The race to finish third and claim a place in the final round of the Champions League qualifiers has been complicated by the league’s decision to use the head-to-head rule rather than goal difference if teams finish level on points.
Udinese currently hold third place with 61 points, followed by Lazio on 59 and Napoli and Inter Milan each on 58.
A draw at Catania would be enough to clinch Udinese’s place as they have a better head-to-head record than Lazio, who can only steal third spot if they beat Inter and Udinese lose.
Unfancied Udinese have had another remarkable season under coach Francesco Guidolin, keeping up the standards set last term despite losing key players Gokhan Inler to Napoli and Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona.
“Nothing is decided, everything is still to be achieved,” said Guidolin, who has had to soldier on with a small squad and contend with participation in the Europa League this season.
“We just have to prepare well and be ready in our head, legs and heart. There is still a long road ahead of us.”
Napoli, who might have blown their chances with a 2-0 defeat at Bologna last Sunday, need to beat Siena, hope that Udinese lose and that Lazio fail to win their game.
They would then pip Udinese on their head-to-head record.
Walter Mazzarri’s side, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League this season, would also finish top in a three-way head-to-head should Udinese, Inter Milan and themselves finish level on points.
Inter will only take third place if they beat Lazio, Udinese lose and Napoli fail to win.
At the bottom, Genoa, who have 39 points, should just crawl to safety at Lecce’s expense barring an unlikely combination of results.
Novara and Cesena have already been relegated. – Reuters