Serie A Key Battles to Watch: Juve Champions, Palermo Down, but Who's in Europe?
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With Palermo and Siena joining Pescara as this season's relegated teams, and Juventus crowned as champions two weeks ago, this weekend's final installment of Serie A football will stage a selection of entertaining and pivotal battles.
Top of the agenda is who will qualify for that hallowed third spot and the coveted Champions League football that it yields.
AC Milan are in pole position. They travel to dejected Siena—whose five-game unbeaten run and mini revival in March seems like a distant memory after losing their last five, in which they scored just one goal—knowing that if they avoid defeat, they will be back in Europe's premier competition.
While Mario Balotelli and his Rossoneri teammates will be annoyed that their failure to beat Roma at the San Siro on Monday meant this battle for third went down to the final day, the despicable chants of racism which emanated from the away end should spur them on to make sure profligacy is not an issue in this weekend's game.
What sanction would be fitting to punish racist chanting?
Despite the Italian Football Federation fining Roma €50,000 for their fans' behaviour, FIFA President Sepp Blatter felt tougher sanctions were needed for such behaviour.
If MIlan draw and Fiorentina win by a margin of three goals, their head-to-head record will be taken into account in which case La Viola will emerge the victors: They beat Milan 3-1 back in November and then held them to a 2-2 draw last month.
Lazio's costly run of poor form has been well documented but, of late, they have undergone a renaissance: Unbeaten in four, they have registered 11 goals in their last three games.
Fans of Lazio's cross-city rivals Roma may find themselves willing their foes to victory: with the two teams set to contest the final of the Coppa Italia next week, a win for Lazio would mean Roma receive the cup's designated Europa League qualification spot by default.
Udinese face a seemingly tricky away tie to the San Siro, where they are up against the aforementioned Inter, who can now only finish as high as eighth.
However, it is Udinese who go into this game as the league's in-form team, having only lost four of their 19 games in this calendar year as well as winning their last seven.
Central to this resplendent run of results has been the talismanic Antonio Di Natale. With five goals in his last five games, the Udinese faithful will look to him to fire them to victory.
In other notable games, Genoa—with their Serie A future secure—can play with the shackles off as they look to extend their six-game unbeaten run.
Having raised their game when it truly matters, they travel to 13th-placed Bologna knowing that a victory, compiled with other results, could see them climb as high as 14th.
With automatic qualification cemented for next season's Champions League, Napoli face an away game to reprimanded Roma. Despite star striker Edinson Cavani's future being uncertain, he does have the individual honour of being the league's golden boot winner with his haul of 28 goals.
Saturday, 18 May (All times CET)
Sampdoria vs. Juventus, 20:45
Sunday, 19 May
Atalanta vs. Chievo, 15:00
Bologna vs. Genoa, 15:00
Pescara vs. Fiorentina, 20:45
Cagliari vs. Lazio, 20:45
Siena vs. AC Milan, 20:45
Roma vs. Napoli, 20:45
Palermo vs. Parma, 20:45
Inter Milan vs. Udinese, 20:45
Which game are you most excited about? Will AC Milan be able to hold their nerve and beat Siena? How can racism be stopped in Italy? Will Lazio regret their midseason implosion? Let me know your thoughts—either in the comments section below or via Twitter.
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