Updated: What Serie A's European Representatives Need to Do to Advance

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2013

Updated: What Serie A's European Representatives Need to Do to Advance

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    Gonzalo Higuain puts one of his two goals past Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda in Tuesday's match at the San Paolo.
    Gonzalo Higuain puts one of his two goals past Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda in Tuesday's match at the San Paolo.Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Two weeks ago, I published this article analyzing what Italy's representatives in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League needed to do in order to advance to the knockout stages of their respective competitions.

    In this article, we're going to revisit each of these scenarios to see if they accomplished their goals in Round 4 and whether they've strengthened their positions or if they're in trouble.

    Without further ado, let's delve into what this week's results mean in the race for the knockout stages.

Juventus

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    Fabio Quagliarella and Real Madrid's Sami Khedira chase the ball in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at the Juventus Stadium.
    Fabio Quagliarella and Real Madrid's Sami Khedira chase the ball in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at the Juventus Stadium.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Previous Goal: Points against Madrid, win next two matches.

    Status: ON TRACK

    New Goal: Beat Copenhagen, play to the situation against Galatasaray.

    Juventus are currently propping up Group B after three draws and a loss, but thanks to Copenhangen's surprising win against Galatasaray, they actually control their own destiny—albeit in an indirect way.

    That control is dependent on Real Madrid not getting surprised by Copenhagen or Galatasaray in the last two rounds of group play.

    The Bianconeri played well enough to win against Real Madrid on Tuesday, though the match ended 2-2.  They very well could have won had Iker Casillas not checked what could have turned into unstoppable momentum for the home team with three excellent saves.

    Still, Fernando Llorente's 65th-minute header—his second goal in as many Champions League games—earned a vital point for Juve, and so long as Real helps them, Juve can make sure they go through as runners-up so long as they take care of their business.

    The key to all of this is beating Copenhagen at home on Nov. 27.  If they don't, it would put them on the razor's edge in December in Turkey.

    Juve thoroughly dominated the game at Parken Stadium in September but couldn't convert chances and left with a 1-1 draw.  A win at home seems likely, especially given the fact that the team's recent losses to Real and Fiorentina seem to have lit a fire under them.

    If they do win, the situation will depend on the Real/Gala game at the Bernabeu.  Three possibilities would exist:

    1. Madrid wins.  If this happens, Juve would be two points ahead of the Turks and only require a draw in Istanbul to advance.  If they do draw, Copenhagen could draw level on points if they upset Madrid, but a Juve win in Round 5 would insure that they own the tiebreaker.
    2. A draw.  This would put Juve one point ahead of the Turks, and again the Italians would only need a draw to advance.  Copenhagen could again come level on points if Juve draws, but again Juve would own the tiebreaker.
    3. Galatasaray wins.  This would put Gala one point ahead of Juve going into the final round of group play, forcing the Bianconeri to win away from home to advance.  The Bianconeri are no strangers to that situation—they did it last year in Shakhtar's imposing Donbass Arena.  Copenhagen would be a non-factor here because if Juve draws, they're out. Although they would beat out Copenhagen for third and continue to play in Europe, albeit in the Europa League.

    The first of those scenarios is the most probable, considering the game's locale and Madrid's 6-1 thrashing of Gala in September.  Regardless, so long as Madrid takes care of business, all Juve needs to do is take care of their own and they're through.

Napoli

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    Napoli celebrates a score against Marseille.
    Napoli celebrates a score against Marseille.Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Previous Goal: Beat Marseille at San Paolo, capitalize on whoever falls hardest from Arsenal/Dortmund.

    Status: ON TRACK

    New Goal: Earn a point against BVB, defend home turf against Arsenal for the top spot.

    Napoli again played a tough game against French squad Marseille on Tuesday, and the Italians are assured at least third place in the group.  Tied with Arsenal with nine points, Napoli sits second in the group by virtue of Arsenal's 2-0 win over the Partenopei at the Emirates.

    Two weeks ago, I said that Napoli needed to jump on whomever lost the game between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund.  The losing finalists of last year's competition are now the team in Napoli's crosshairs, and they will meet at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund on the 27th.

    A solitary point for Napoli would seal their place in the last 16.  The Italians earned a 2-1 home victory over Jurgen Klopp's men in the group stage opener and surprised many observers by how easy it came.  Dortmund's only tally was a late own goal, and Napoli bossed the game for long stretches.

    That win ensures that the Italians would hold any tiebreaker between the two so long as they take home a point later this month.

    A point against Dortmund would allow them to focus on their group finale at home against Arsenal, a game which will likely have first place in the group hanging in the balance.

    Dortmund has happy memories for Italian fans, who will well remember Italy's 2-0 extra-time win over the host Germans in the semifinal of the 2006 World Cup.  Napoli will hope that they can create similar memories and book their second trip to the round of 16 in three years.

AC Milan

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    Lionel Messi battles for the ball as Milan's Philippe Mexes (far left) looks on.
    Lionel Messi battles for the ball as Milan's Philippe Mexes (far left) looks on.David Ramos/Getty Images

    Previous Goal: Let the Barcelona game fall where it may, get at least four points from the final two.

    Status: UNCHANGED

    New Goal: Hedge against any surprises from Barca, get at least four points in the next two.

    Barcelona's 3-1 defeat of Milan on Wednesday made them one of four teams to have already booked a place in the last 16.  They aren't assured the group win, however, so it's unlikely they let up on the gas in two weeks against Ajax.

    Milan is sitting in second, and assuming that the Blaugrana win in Amsterdam and handle Celtic at the Camp Nou, they could conceivably draw both of their remaining matches and still go through.  It will be better, however, if they win at least one to make sure that they can withstand a scenario where someone shocks Barca.

    That win may not come in Round 5.  Celtic Park is a difficult place to play, and with the way Milan is playing, there's really no way to definitively say that they are the superior side.

    With Rangers languishing in the lower reaches of Scottish soccer after their forced relegation, Celtic lacks real competition in their league.  That allows them to focus a lot of their power onto matches like this one.  Beating Milan would put Celtic in control of their own destiny, so with Barca playing Ajax. a point is vital.

    They can then defend home turf against the Dutch side and get themselves through.

Fiorentina

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    Massimo Ambrosini exhorts his teammates during Fiorentina's September Europa League match against Pacos de Ferreira.
    Massimo Ambrosini exhorts his teammates during Fiorentina's September Europa League match against Pacos de Ferreira.Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    Previous Goal: Keep on doing what you're doing.

    Status: ACHIEVED

    New Goal: Hold off Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to win group.

    Moving on to the Europa League, we come to Fiorentina.  La Viola and Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk have dominated Group E of the competition, and both sides have already advanced to the round of 32.

    What's important now for Fiorentina is maintaining the three-point gap that separates them from the Ukrainians.  Their next match will be against Pacos de Ferreira—who they beat 3-0 in the group stage opener—before hosting Dnipro in December.

    If they beat the Portuguese side, a draw is all they'd need to go through—though given the way they've dominated group play, it's easy to see them going through the group perfect.

Lazio

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    Sergio Floccari (99) heads home his second in Lazio's 2-1 victory against Apollon Limassol on Thursday.
    Sergio Floccari (99) heads home his second in Lazio's 2-1 victory against Apollon Limassol on Thursday.Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    Previous Goal: Beat the minnows.

    Status: ON TRACK

    New Goal: Beat Legia Warsaw to set up showdown with Trabzonspor.

    Two weeks ago, Lazio dominated Apollon Limassol in Cyprus but was unable to score a goal and settled for a 0-0 draw.  The capitol club had been having trouble with the group's two minnows, Limassol and Legia Warsaw, which prompted their previous goal.

    The Italians fared better at home against the Cypriots on Thursday.  Sergio Floccari scored twice in the first half to secure a 2-1 victory, putting the Italians four points ahead of Limassol with two games to play.

    A victory in Poland on Nov. 28 would assure Lazio of going through and would keep them a minimum of two points behind Turkish side Trabzonspor, who travel to the Stadio Olimpico in December.

    Home-field advantage has been a somewhat uneven factor for Lazio in recent times.  Fans were supposed to be banned from this match, but the Italians successfully appealed that ruling to a partial closure.  Racist chanting caused the closure of the stadium for the home legs of the round of 16 and quarterfinal in this competition last year, and anything could happen in an empty ground.

    Top of the group or not, however, Lazio control their own destiny in the race to advance to the knockout stages.  A win against Warsaw is a must.  If not, results elsewhere could mean that all bets are off.