Serie A Key Battles to Watch This Weekend: Juventus Reign and Milan Gain
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All it took was an Arturo Vidal penalty for Juventus to retain the Serie A title. With Sunday's 1-0 win over Palermo proving enough to capture their 29th league trophy—not including the two confiscated in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal—attention now turns to the other mini battles raging in the league.
After a full midweek programme of fixtures, this weekend provides the penultimate set of league games.
With that in mind, the ambitions of teams—whether that be to qualify for Europe, cement a midtable position or avoid relegation—now is the time when we see who can handle the heat to bake the goods and who is being ushered out of the kitchen.
Beginning at the bottom, there is now one less relegation place available: in noble fashion, Pescara took the first parachute out of Serie A as their plane crash landed (although some may argue it never made it off the tarmac in the first place).
Where will Edinson Cavani be playing football next season?
If that was their execution, then the 4-0 midweek rollicking they received at home to the hands of AC Milan was an unceremonious discarding of the cadaver into the local scrap heap.
With the team from the fishing village now floating out to sea, lest it be forgotten that four teams are fighting the risk of being fodder for the drop.
Following their limp, 1-0, midweek home defeat to Fiorentina, it looks as though Siena will be joining Pescara in Italy's secondary division: despite an, albeit brief, Innocent Emeghara-inspired turn of form, they are now six points from safety with an inferior goal difference to Genoa, the last safe team.
Whether Palermo will complete the triumvirate of relegated teams depends on whether they can win at Fiorentina and Genoa lose to an Inter team that are now certain to miss out on Europe next season through league qualification.
The marquee game of the weekend though is at the San Siro where AC Milan, in third, entertain sixth-placed Roma, who are still smarting from their midweek loss to Chievo.
Now that Mario Balotelli is back in scoring form—in addition to grabbing the winner against Torino last weekend, he poached two against Pescara—the Rossoneri will hope he, along with Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephen El Shaarawy, can score the goals which would secure Champions League qualification for them.
Two points off Europa League qualification, Roma's faithful will look towards captain Francesco Totti and his deputy Daniele De Rossi to help deliver the form which prior to Tuesday's loss saw Roma unbeaten in five.
After scoring his 27th goal of the season, it is not yet known if Edinson Cavani will be there to spearhead the Partenopei's European conquest but it is beyond doubt he has been the league's top performer this season, a real joy to watch.
Lazio, meanwhile, have been resurgent. Having only won three of their previous 15 games—a run which extends back to January—they tumbled dramatically: from pushing Juve close in second, right down to potentially missing out on Europa League qualification in seventh.
Last weekend, however, saw the return of a prolific German striker who had been presumed missing.
Miroslav Klose hadn't scored for the Biancocelesti since securing a 1-0 win over Internazionale back in December of last year. Yet on Sunday, he was like a man possessed, rifling in five goals against an unfortunate Bologna side who incurred his wrath.
On Wednesday, Inter were again the opposition—this time at the San Siro—and it was again Lazio who emerged victorious, although Klose failed to double his tally against them in their 3-1 win.
Saturday, 11 May (All times CET)
Lazio vs. Sampdoria, 18:00
Juventus vs. Cagliari, 20:45
Sunday, 12 May
Genoa vs. Inter Milan, 15:00
Fiorentina vs. Palermo, 15:00
Catania vs. Pescara, 15:00
Napoli vs. Siena, 15:00
Chievo vs. Torino, 15:00
Parma vs. Bologna, 18:00
AC Milan vs. Roma, 15:00
Which game are you most excited about? Are Pescara and Siena in good enough shape to bounce back? Can the old guard of Totti and De Rossi thwart Balotelli and El Shaarawy? Which fringe players will get a run-out for Juventus? Let me know your thoughts—either in the comments section below or via Twitter.
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