Friday, 29 May 2009

Serie A - Week 38: Final Day Preview

The Serie A season comes to a close on Sunday with both the struggle to avoid relegation and the fight for automatic UEFA Champions League spots still to be resolved.

At the bottom of the table, Bologna and Torino are both in danger of finishing in the last relegation spot, above the already demoted Lecce and Reggina.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina host AC Milan in a match that will decide which of the two teams will qualify automatically for the Champions League groups stage and which will enter the qualifying play-off round.

In the relegation battle, Bologna are tied with Torino on 34 points but are ahead by virtue of their better head-to-head record this season - a 5-2 victory at home and a 1-1 draw in Turin.

Torino also have the tougher opponent on the final day, playing Roma at the Stadio Olimpico, while Bologna host mid-table Catania at the Stadio Dall'Ara.

Bologna also have one of Serie A's best strikers in Marco Di Vaio, who is tied with Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the league's top scorer with 23 goals.

Toro, meanwhile, will be without seven players who are suspended after a brawl that marred last weekend's last-minute 3-2 loss to Genoa.

Defenders Angelo Ogbanna, Marco Pisano and Francesco Pratali, midfielders Ignazio Abate, Aimo Diana, Blerim Dzemali and striker Rolando Bianchi will all be watching from the stands.

In addition, Eugenio Corini, Cesare Natali, Paolo Zanetti and Roberto Stellone are all out with injuries.

Bianchi will be a big loss as he has scored nine goals in an injury-plagued season and demonstrated his ability by scoring against Genoa.

Victory at home to Catania, who will say goodbye to coach Walter Zenga, will ensure Bologna stay in the top-flight but a draw or defeat will leave the Rossoblu nervously awaiting the result of Torino's match in the Italian capital.

At the top end of the table, Fiorentina need a two-goal win to overtake third-placed Milan and qualify automatically for the Champions League for the second year running.

Cesare Prandelli's side go into the final match on a run of four wins and a draw in their last five matches, while Milan appear fatigued and have failed to win in three games.

The match will also be Milan captain Paolo Maldini's last before retiring after 24 years with the Rossoneri.

In the build-up Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, a reported target of Chelsea, insisted the outcome of Sunday's clash will have no bearing on whether it is his last match in charge.

Milan plan to announce who will lead the team next season after the match in Florence.

Inter, who this week announced the contract extension of coach Jose Mourinho until 2012, have already secured a fourth straight Serie A title, and will get a chance to celebrate their latest Scudetto with their home fans when hosting Atalanta at the San Siro.

Juventus fans still do not know who will guide their team next term, however. Ciro Ferrara was appointed interim coach earlier this month following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

Juve won 3-0 at Siena last week to end a run of six consecutive games without a victory and secure an automatic Champions League position. The Bianconeri take on Lazio in Turin looking to hold onto second place.

Sunday's game against already-relegated Lecce will be the last for Genoa pair Diego Milito and Thiago Motta as both are joining Inter this summer. Gian Piero Gasperini's side have already secured a UEFA Europa League spot after a successful second season in Serie A.

Palermo and beaten Coppa Italian finalists Sampdoria square off at La Favorita with both sides failing to secure European football next season.

Udinese, who are the hottest team in Italy after collecting 19 of a possible 21 points, also miss out on Europe but will hope to continue their great form against Cagliari in their last game.

With Napoli having managed just one win in their last 19 league games, Partenopei coach Roberto Donadoni will be glad to see the end of the season.

The Naples-based club head into this weekend's home match against Chievo in 13th position in the standings with nothing to play for except pride.

Finally, Reggina bid farewell to Serie A after six consecutive years in the top flight when they host Siena. The Amaranto are bottom of the table and were the first team to be relegated this season.

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