Serie A Weekend: Drama Saved for Final Day
With just one week to go in the Serie A season, we can expect high drama. Four clubs are left with just three points separating them as they fight for a place in next season’s Champions League. Atalanta and Inter Milan are currently in the UCL on 66 points, AC Milan sit fifth on 65, and Roma are sixth on 63. With one game left to go each of these clubs face significant problems if they fail to qualify.
Serie A Weekend: All Set for Drama Filled Final Day
Atalanta Have a Golden Chance
Let’s start with Atalanta, the darling of this race. The team with the third-lowest wage budget has been flying for a few years now. They even made the UCL qualifying round a few years ago, a massive achievement for such a tiny club from the north of Italy. But this season has been Gian Piero Gasperini’s masterwork.
This Atalanta side could not play more as Gasparini wants; attack, attack and attack again. They already lead Serie A in goals scored this season, and have put together one of the best attacking trios money can buy. As mentioned in this space before, Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez have all had fantastic seasons.
They now face a home game against Sassuolo, knowing that victory will guarantee Champions League football. There is no way to overstate how big of an achievement this is. Remember, this is a team with a lower wage bill than Fiorentina, Bologna, Udinese, Genoa and Empoli. One of those teams will be going down to Serie B next weekend.
For as much joy as there is in Bergamo, there is even more disgust in Milan. Inter have been in third place comfortably all season. But draws in three out of four games coming into this one had Inter back in the fight for fourth. This game, getting absolutely smoked from the opening whistle, was not the performance they needed in this trying time.
Because from the moment they stepped onto the field against Napoli they looked second class. Napoli spent the whole first half cutting them open, but their passing wasn’t even that intricate, Inter just forgot to defend. It was schoolboy stuff, Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik just dragged Miranda and Milan Skriniar around the pitch. Napoli’s midfielders just entered the vacated space all night, with golden chances and golden goals.
Inter still have it in their hands to keep hold of fourth place though. A home game against Empoli, currently 17th, but on three straight wins. They smashed Torino’s hopes of Champions League football 4-1 at the weekend. If Inter are not careful, Luciano Spalletti’s men could get caught all the same.
Speaking of Spalletti, his job status does not seem to be helping this team. Inter Director Giuseppe Marotta wants to hire Antonio Conte as the head coach of Inter Milan next season. And since that news has started circulating the team have taken a nosedive in form. Marotta better hopes his ambitions don’t cost Inter the Champions League next season.
Milan and Roma played out two equally uninspiring games against two uninspired opponents. First, Roma travelled north and played out an awful 0-0 draw away against Sassuolo. Sassuolo stuck right in the middle of the table, are basically on holiday already. Yet Roma travelled north with no ideas, no incision and no creation.
But to say one good thing about Claudio Ranieri’s Roma, he has absolutely steadied the defence. This team struggled to defend for two years under Eusebio Di Francesco. Last season they had Allison Becker to bail them out. But Ranieri’s decision to change goalkeepers to Antonio Mirante has given them a chance.
However, when Milan confirmed their 2-0 win at home over Frosinone, that chance got much slimmer. Even with Milan playing terribly, they did get a world-class free-kick out of Suso. The Spaniard has had an ok season, seven goals and ten assists in 34 Serie A games this season. The free kick on Sunday by far his best moment of the season.
With all that said, these two sides are likely looking at Europa League positions, unless Atalanta or Inter drop points. AC Milan still have to travel to SPAL and win, not an easy task but something they should do. While Roma will have the emotional farewell to Daniele De Rossi on Sunday. No matter the result that will be a moment no Roma fan will miss.
With only one relegation spot left the great escape is on for Empoli. Their 4-1 win against Torino saw them leapfrog Genoa into safety headed into the final game. The drama and the pressure will be incredible when Empoli kick off at the San Siro against Inter. But even their eyes will be turning to the drama going on in Florence.
Fiorentina is in an abysmal run of form. Six straight losses have put them three points above the drop going into the final game. What’s worse, is that their final game is against Genoa, the team set to relegated right now. With both games going on simultaneously, the tension and drama will be breath-taking.