There are some real parallels between Serie A and the EPL heading into the final few matches of the season.
Both feature heavyweight rivals still duking it out for the title, which is likely to come down to the last day in both leagues.
Each has a few teams still clamoring for the last Champions League qualification spot, with 4 teams still having a realistic chance in Italy.
And both leagues still have yet to confirm the three sides who will drop out of the top flight. England’s relegation fight still looks a bit more heated, but don’t tell that to Lecce fans.
Yes, there’s still plenty of drama to be had on the Apennine Peninsula. More than enough to rival the birthplace of the game.
With just two weeks left to resolve it all, we are sure to be in for quite a round this weekend.
Saturday, May 5
Lecce v. Fiorentina – The hearts of Milan fans everywhere are with Lecce after the Apulians took points off Juventus on Wednesday after a stunning and rare howler from Gigi Buffon.
I’ve been saying for some time now that they could crawl out from the bottom three and with Genoa facing a much more difficult task away to Udinese, Lecce must find a way to dispatch a Fiorentina club in crisis.
Even in Italy you don’t usually see managers getting the sack this late in the season. But then you don’t usually see managers physically assaulting their own players on the sideline.
Delio Rossi, allegedly provoked after subbing off Adem Ljalic, was fired from La Viola and banned for 3 months for his actions.
None of this bodes well for a side still sitting in 15th and sure to lose some of its best talent in the offseason.
Forza Lecce! The home side take it 2-0.
AS Roma v. Catania – The lack of stakes in this game may actually make it more entertaining. Roma have little chance of still reaching Europe in any capacity and Catania have settled in comfortably mid-table.
These two open, dynamic attacks should therefore have time and space to show their stuff at the Stadio Olimpico and we could be treated to an abundance of goals.
With both sides also lacking any real organizational awareness at the back, they might not necessarily be wonder goals, but expect the scoreboard technician to be busy nonetheless.
3-3 at the final whistle.
Sunday, May 6
Siena v. Parma – On the strength Sebastian Giovinco’s tiny shoulders, Parma have climbed all the way to 8th after flirting with the danger zone earlier in 2012.
Siena too look safe and will be a welcome return participant in Serie A next year.
Neither plays the flashiest football but both currently employ some young talent that could easily find its way to bigger clubs this summer. Catch them in black and white while you still can.
1-1 in an evenly played match.
Atalanta v. Lazio – Lazio ultras make it really hard to feel bad for Lazio the club. The Roman Eagles should have wrapped up third spot weeks ago but continued to lose just like those around them and finally got pipped for third during the past week of action.
Edy Reja’s man just can’t seem to get over the hump, and a season of hard work might still end up without their participation in either European competition.
Klose has been sorely missed but they can still join Milan and Juve in the CL next season.
As for Atalanta, I sound like a broken record, but even after starting with a 6 point deficit, La Dea has secured salvation and will wind up in a very respectable position.
There’s more in it for the visitors here though, and I expect them to act like it.
Bologna v. Napoli – After a dreadful, inconsistent early season Napoli have found themselves on the doorstep of Champions League football once again. 3rd place is theirs to lose now.
Lavezzi’s knocks have even been a blessing in disguise, as able replacement Pandev has been instrumental in the Partenopei’s recent successes.
I can’t believe Bologna have risen as high as 9th but there they are after a 6 game unbeaten run.
This is no gimme for Napoli, so expect Mazzarri’s men to be up for it and ready to display the attacking power that has turned many football fans onto the squad over the past 2 years.
1-3 to the visitors.
Cagliari v. Juventus – Speaking of no gimme…
Would I rather Juventus face a squad like Udinese or Napoli in these late stages? Of course.
But Cagliari have been hard to beat at home and the Old Lady proved more than capable of stumbling to inferior opponents against Lecce on Wednesday.
Health has been one of Juve’s main assets all season and it’s no different this weekend.
Do they have the nerve to see off the hosts before welcoming a more challenging Atalanta side in the season’s final round?
But a man can dream, can’t he?
Novara v. Cesena – Both of these teams are already relegated. The hosts showed some real pluck, and while they just don’t have the quality to stay up, they acquitted themselves far, far better than woeful Cesena and will take some memories of shocking big clubs back with them to Serie B.
This one’s for pride, and Novara have shown they have much more of it than the Seahorses.
3-2 in a match where neither side has anything left to fear.
Palermo v. Chievo Verona – This gets my vote for ugliest match of the week. Palermo have simply dropped off the map and Chievo have no right to be as high as 12th with the second worst offense in the top flight.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see American Michael Bradley plying his trade in Serie A. I just wish the Flying Donkeys didn’t play with the “grace” and “flair” USMNT fans have come expect from the pugnacious midfielder.
Full disclosure, I won’t even watch this one.
1-0 to the Sicilians, making them finally mathematically safe.
Udinese v. Genoa – Udinese are level on points with Napoli but will have to surpass their point total as the Azzurri have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Genoa are fighting for their Serie A lives, and will not want to risk the further wrath of their fans should they suffer the drop.
Both clubs are heavily reliant on their aging, talismanic strikers, but the real difference is defense.
Udinese have given up nearly half as many goals as their visitors. If Di Natale can bulge the net first, it will be a long day for Genoa.
2-0 to the hosts.
Internazionale v. AC Milan – The Derby della Madonnina is always a big deal. But recent results have added extreme levels of importance to this match.
Milan are just one point from leaders Juventus and with only relegated Novara to come this looks like the last match where they might slip.
And wouldn’t Inter just love to be the side to break Rossoneri hearts?
Events elsewhere could also render this match’s results less impactful, but Il Diavolo simply can’t take that chance.
Both sides have had injury problems and the final line-ups may not be what either manager would prefer.
Excuses go out the window however, when there is this much pride, along with a scudetto, still on the line.
What a shocker. I’ll take Milan, 3-1. Cassano secures his Euro 2012 place, and shows the world exactly what the Rossoneri have been missing.