It was a weekend of high drama in Italy as the race for European qualification – and to escape relegation – gave us red cards, manager/player bust ups and some more late, late goals.
At the bottom of the table Frosinone could only manage a 2-2 draw away at Sassuolo that confirmed the club’s return to Serie B next season. But Empoli’s win over Fiorentina in the Tuscan derby – coupled with Udinese only getting a point at home to Inter – means that there is still a lot to decide going into the last few games of the season.
Atalanta did its Champions League hopes no harm at all by coming from one goal down to beat Lazio 3-1 in the Stadio Olimpicio – while Roma had its keeper to thank for saving a last minute penalty to salvage a point against Bologna.
We are now looking forward to match day 36 with the games taking place over three days this week – and once again I’m going to take a look at the fixtures from a betting perspective. I’ve chosen Roma vs Juventus as my featured game of the week.
Featured Game – Roma vs Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo (who else?) scored to ensure that Torino didn’t win its first away Derby della Mole since 1995 last weekend. That draw was all about city bragging rights for Juve as it has already won the league title for the eighth successive season. Roma is still in with a hope of Champions League qualification but needs all three points here.
Here are the latest game odds courtesy of Betway.
Roma to Win
Juventus to Win
With the need greater for Roma it is unsurprising that the bookmakers fancy the home side for this. There are still five or six clubs clamoring to make the top four at the end of the season and it looks like it could go down to the wire.
Before I make my pick and predictions I’m going to take a closer look at both teams.
Roma left it late against Genoa last weekend – and nearly threw away a well-deserved point until Mirante saved a last minute penalty. Claudio Ranieri’s team will be looking at the displays of Atalanta knowing that it needs to do better against the weaker sides in the league if it wants Champions League soccer next season.
The Giallorossi is now six games unbeaten but is still drawing too many to completely ease the worries of the coach and fans. A win here may not be crucial given that the two remaining games are very winnable. But three points would definitely keep the pressure on the other challengers for fourth place.
Juve has now dropped four points in two games since the scudetto was confirmed – but with the European adventure over for another year it is really just a case of seeing out the rest of the season and looking forward to the summer break.
Ronaldo and the others still pose a threat, obviously, but if Roma does manage to take the lead here it is questionable how hard the Bianconeri will try to get back into the game.
Betting Pick and Prediction
Predicting Serie A games at this time of the season is not always as straightforward as earlier on in the campaign. Teams that you think should do well might not put the same amount of effort in – and lesser sides can come away with some surprise results.
Even with its other games I think Roma need to win this to send a message to the other teams vying for fourth – as well as to pick up three more points. Juve will put as much effort in as is required but I feel that the home side’s desire will show through in the end.
My Pick: Roma to Win 2.40
Here is how I think the rest of the weekend’s Serie A games will shape up.
Atalanta vs Genoa
Atalanta to Win
Genoa to Win
Atalanta has picked up form again at just the right time of the season and has now not lost in the last ten games. Last week’s win at Lazio probably shrugged off one of the other challengers for fourth and a victory here could even put pressure on Inter for the third place spot.
Genoa may have picked up a point against Roma last week but will be ruing its stoppage time penalty miss as Cesare Prandelli’s side now sit just four points clear of the relegation zone with three games to play. The way things are going it could go down to the last day of the season when Genoa has to travel to face Fiorentina.
I can’t see anything but a home win here. Atalanta is the team on form in Serie A and seems to have Champions League qualification firmly in its sights.
Cagliari vs Lazio
Cagliari to Win
Lazio to Win
Cagliari has enjoyed a much better second half of the season and even back-to-back defeats at Roma and Napoli (which are nothing to be ashamed of) has not affected the Sardinian club’s mid table finish. The Rossoblu is much better at home than away and could heap more misery on Lazio here.
Lazio’s defeat at home to Atalanta probably means that Champions League hopes will need to be put away for another season. Europa League qualification is still a possibility however, but it depends on whether head coach Simone Inzhagi sees the league or the Coppa Italia route as a better bet.
Lazio should be able to get three vital points here but I have a feeling that this side is content to save its energy for the cup final. A draw is the better value price here.
Fiorentina vs Milan
Fiorentina to Win
Milan to Win
Fiorentina’s woeful run of form continued last week as the Viola lost its third straight game to drop into the bottom half of the table. It has only been its early season victories that have avoided a relegation fight and Vincenzo Montella will have a lot of work to do over the summer to make sure that this season’s performance will not be repeated.
Milan’s win at home to Bologna was marred by an apparent bust up between coach Gennaro Gattuso and Tiemoue Bakayoko after the on loan midfielder seemed to take too long getting ready to come on as a sub. Bakayoko has insisted that wasn’t the case but he may have played his last game for the Rossoneri.
A victory in Florence is very possible for Milan, given the home side’s current difficulty in picking up points. Gattuso’s team will want this more and I expect them to be rewarded.
Torino vs Sassuolo
Torino to Win
Sassuolo to Win
Torino was unlucky that Ronaldo was on hand to head the equalizer last week as the Granata looked to grasp a famous victory that would have helped the push for European qualification. Walter Mazzari’s side now sit two points behind Milan and Roma and know that every point is crucial.
Sassuolo ended Frosinone’s stay in the top flight last week but looked like it was only doing just enough as its season winds down to a close. Mid table respectability has been achieved once again and the Neroverdi do not seem to be too bothered about picking up many more points before the end of the campaign.
Torino is unbeaten in seven games and although a draw against Juve should be considered a good result, the more points are needed at this time of the season. Luckily, three more should be achieved here against Sassuolo.
Frosinone vs Udinese
Frosinone to Win
Udinese to Win
Frosinone’s two year stay in Serie A is almost over and it may be difficult for the Canarini to come straight back up again given the level of competition in the second tier now. Two victories at the start of April proved to be a false dawn but this is a team that might want to go out on a high.
The Zebrette is not the only side in danger at the moment but Igor Tudor’s team has not been performing well in the last few weeks and has now not won a game since the start of April. A draw against Inter would normally be considered a good result but three points are needed now and it just isn’t happening for Udinese.
Even with Frosinone already relegated I don’t see Udinese profiting from this game. With the visitors so desperate for a win I feel the pressure might get to them and this could end in a draw.
Sampdoria vs Empoli
Sampdoria to Win
Empoli to Win
A terrible April ended Samp’s hopes of European qualification but a top half finish should be seen as an achievement for Marco Giampaolo’s side. The goals of Fabio Quagliarella have been a highlight of the season and it would not be too foolish to expect at least another one in this game.
Empoli’s win over Fiorentina has suddenly given the Azzurri some hope after four games without a win. The remaining fixtures will be tough for Aurelio Andreazzoli’s side but at least it knows that it is still in with a chance of staying up.
As much as an Empoli win would really make things interesting at the bottom of the table I think Samp should be able to get at least a draw at home.
SPAL vs Napoli
SPAL to Win
Napoli to Win
SPAL’s 4-0 demolition of Chievo last week ensured its Serie A status for another season so the pressure will be off ahead of the visit of Napoli. Just being able to compete in the top flight is an achievement for Leonardo Semplici’s side and only one defeat in its last eight games shows what talent and determination there is at the club.
Napoli’s win at home to Cagliari last weekend assured the club of second place in the league but it has been a disappointing season for the Partenopei. Carlo Ancelotti will have wanted to sustain a challenge for the scudetto much further into the season – as well as a longer European adventure.
With SPAL having nothing really to play for, the amount of talent on show should assure an away victory for Napoli.
Bologna vs Parma
Bologna to Win
Parma to Win
Although not mathematically clear of relegation, Bologna has created enough of a gap between itself and the bottom three that Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side can just about rest easy now. The manager was disappointed with the defeat at Milan last week but three points should be achievable here.
Parma is anything but boring – and a share of the spoils in a six-goal thriller was just another example of how Roberto D’Aversa’s side has brightened up Serie A this season. That was actually Parma’s fifth draw in a row but that trend could come to an end in Bologna.
Sinisa Mihajlovic is a manager who demands a certain amount of fight from his sides and it is likely that a home win will be the result here. He will probably be happy at the end of the game.
Inter vs Chievo
Inter to Win
Chievo to Win
Inter bring the week’s soccer in Italy to a close by hosting already relegated Chievo on Monday. Luciano Spalletti’s side is not assured of Champions League soccer next season yet but three points here could do the trick. Even the most pessimistic of Inter fans should expect a win from this one.
Chievo has actually picked up four points from the last three games but still only have two wins to show from the entire campaign. With little in the way of support in Verona, the Flying Donkeys may find Serie B tough next season.
Inter should win this without much trouble at all and give itself a very good chance of Champions League soccer next year.
Juventus may have won the title at a canter but the battles for European qualification and against relegation continue at quite a pace in Serie A.
There are some more fascinating looking encounters taking place this weekend – and we may have to brace ourselves for some final match day excitement the way things are going at the moment.
As ever, let me know what you think of my predictions and picks – and enjoy the games.