Friday, 16 May 2008

[Serie A] Week 38 Preview

The tension is mounting in Italy as the battle for the Serie A title, the race for European positions and the fight to avoid relegation heads towards Sunday afternoon's thrilling finale.

Inter go into the last day of the season with their eyes firmly fixed on the main prize - to retain the Scudetto crown for a third successive year. But any slip-up could let nearest pursuers Roma in at the last possible moment.

The Nerazzurri, leading by a single point, travel to Parma knowing they must at least match Roma's result at Catania to be certain of holding on to their title. The Giallorossi, meanwhile, need to win in Sicily and hope that Inter fail to pick up the three points.

But the race to the title will be inseparable to the struggle to avoid the drop into Serie B as both of the Scudetto chasers have to travel to relegation-threatened opponents. Catania, two points above the relegation zone, know avoiding defeat against Roma will secure their top-flight status for another year.

A defeat for the Sicilians, coached by former Inter goalkeeping great Walter Zenga, will hand 18th-placed Parma an opportunity to pull out of the bottom three, but they must collect a win.

However, it hasn't been an easy week for the Emilia-Romagna outfit, who have remained in Serie A for 18 years and never relegated. Following their 3-1 defeat against Fiorentina last weekend, the Gialloblu decided to replace Hector Cuper with inexperienced youth team coach Andrea Manzo.

Cuper was coach of the Inter side which famously lost the Scudetto on the final day of the 2001-02 season, which they had led from start to finish.

Six years ago, the Nerazzurri fell to a 4-2 defeat against Lazio while Juventus, who had been six points behind with five games of the season remaining - exactly like Roma's deficit at the same stage of the current campaign - clinched the Scudetto with a 2-0 win over Udinese.

And with Roberto Mancini's side threatening to do the same again this season, Inter fans will be glad that the Argentinian will not be there to remind them of 2002, which would certainly have added a twist to what is set to be a dramatic final day.

Should Catania lose and Parma fail to win, second-bottom Empoli will survive with a home win over their already-relegated Tuscan rivals Livorno.

AC Milan and Fiorentina go into the final game fighting to finish in the top four and the final qualifying spot for next season's UEFA Champions League.

Fifth-placed Milan must win against Udinese and hope Fiorentina fail to come out triumphant at Torino.

La Viola hold a two-point lead over the Rossoneri but know that if they finish level on points, it will be Milan and not them who would claim the fourth spot as their rivals have a better head-to-head record.

Genoa will be eager to beat Atalanta in Bergamo in the hope of leapfrogging Napoli in the standings to finish eighth and qualify for the Intertoto Cup - a pre-season tournament which opens a route into the UEFA Cup.

Napoli, two points ahead of Genoa, face a tricky trip to the capital to meet Lazio and the Azzurri know a win will definitely secure European football next season.

Elsewhere on Sunday, the game in Sardinia between Cagliari and Reggina will be a celebration with both sides having guaranteed themselves top flight football next season, while in-form Siena will have an added motivation to take a positive result against Palermo as they are one point away from beating the club's Serie A record of 43 points.

The final round begins on Saturday afternoon with Sampdoria welcoming Juventus. The fixture in Genoa was brought forward due to the celebrations that will be held in the city to mark the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday.

As both clubs have secured their objectives - Juve back in the Champions League and Samp qualifying for the UEFA Cup - and with no other club having an interest in the outcome of the match, there is no further disruption to the rest of the traditional simultaneous kick-off times to the fixture list.

The only other battle that remains for the final weekend of the season is the race for the Capocanonniere crown - the top goalscorer in Serie A. With one match each to go, the battle will go right down to the wire with four players in contention.

The Juventus duo of David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero and Genoa's Marco Borriello have all scored 19 goals. The trio are closely followed by Udinese's Antonio Di Natale and Fiorentina's Adrian Mutu on 17 goals - although the latter is out suspended and misses out on the prestigious title.

1 comment:

  1. I just hope we get one mores season of Maldini! Came across this great post on him here: