Last weekend produced an abundance of upsets as teams continue to fight for a place in Europe as well as another season in Italy’s top flight. Every team from fifth to ninth place on the log mathematically have a chance to make the Europa League, whilst Napoli, and city rivals Roma and Lazio battle it out for a place in club football’s most prized cup competition – the UEFA Champions League. Napoli failed to capitalise on Roma and Lazio’s defeats, having to settle for a point away to relegated Parma. Cesena were yet another side confirmed relegated last weekend after a 3-2 loss at home against Sassuolo but a return to Serie B looked inevitable. Cagliari are on the brink of relegation and only a win for them this week will keep them afloat. The countdown continues as just three games remain; who will survive and who is worthy of a place among Europe’s elite?
Saturday 16 May
Inter Milan 31/20
Inter Milan moved up to seventh with a 2-1 win away to nine man Lazio. Inter are now unbeaten in their last seven matches and have won their last three away games. Paul Pogba made a sparkling return to action for Juventus, scoring a goal as the Serie A champions warmed up for the return leg of their Champions League semi-final at Real Madrid with a 1-1 draw with Cagliari on Saturday. It was clear that Wednesday's tie with Real is all that matters to coach Massimiliano Allegri since only Claudio Marchisio was fielded again from the side which defeated the Spaniards last Tuesday. Inter need this win to stay in contention for a place in Europe next season. It’s unsure how Juve will line-up against Inter on Saturday and should they play a weaker side like they did against Cagliari, Inter should get up for the win.
Midfielder Roberto Soriano struck twice as Sampdoria halted a six-match winless run with a 4-1 triumph at Udinese on Sunday to boost their European qualifying hopes. The outcome, Samp's first victory since March 22, was much needed. Lazio had two players sent off as Inter Milan came from behind to win in Rome. The defeat means Lazio remain one point behind city rivals Roma in the race to finish second in Serie A. Sampdoria’s first home loss came a fortnight ago as newly crowned champions Juventus edged them 1-0 in a hard fought battle. Lazio have managed just one win from their last five games and have registered only one victory away to Sampdoria in the last eight meetings. The home win is tipped.
Sunday 17 May
AC Milan 5/4
Sassuolo came from two goals down to edge Cesena 3-2 in an action packed fixture. However, they are not safe from relegation just yet and with a home tie against AC Milan next, Sassuolo will have to put in another brave performance. AC Milan picked up their first win in more than a month to deal Roma's Champions League qualification hopes a blow at the San Siro with a 2-1 victory. Milan will be buzzing with confidence and the win also revives their slim hopes of qualifying for Europe next season. They won the reverse tie 2-1 and judging by their performance against Roma, Milan should be backed for the win.
Ten-man Atalanta boosted their Serie A survival hopes with a 3-2 triumph at Palermo on Sunday afternoon, their first away victory since January 18. The outcome in Sicily lifted Atalanta, who hold the last position of safety, eight points clear of Cagliari, who are eighteenth, with three games remaining. Genoa thrashed Torino 5-1 at Marassi to move within a point of Sampdoria in sixth. Both sides went into the match harbouring Europa League ambitions, though Genoa face a battle to secure a UEFA licence if they do manage to qualify. The Grifone are the only club to have failed in their bid to get a licence, having turned in paperwork late and also not given a suitable stadium for their home games. Genoa have won five of their last seven matches whilst Atalanta are unbeaten in their last seven games. The draw looks the best bet.
Cagliari had to settle for a point against a second string Juventus side. Nevertheless, the relegation bound club rolled up their sleeves and earned a hard fought 1-1 draw away to the champs. Palermo extended their winless run to four games and have dropped to twelfth place after a disappointing 3-2 loss on home soil against Atalanta. They have managed just two wins from seventeen travels; only the two relegated sides Parma and Cesena have registered fewer victories on the road. The reverse tie ended 5-0 in favour of Palermo. This time there is more at stake and with home advantage, Cagliari are tipped to get a taste of revenge.
Hellas Verona 14/10
Hellas Verona drew 2-2 with Chievo in Sunday's city derby with all of the goals scored in a thrilling first half. The outcome has left Hellas thirteen points adrift of the drop with three games remaining. Empoli went down 3-2 on their home ground against Fiorentina last time out. They have travelled poorly with two wins from seventeen matches. Hellas Verona and Empoli sit fourteenth and fifteenth on the table respectively, with just goal difference separating them. The teams have drawn the last four meetings but I’m backing Hellas to edge the victory.
Torino come off the back of a humiliating 5-1 hammering away to Genoa. It was their second loss in as many weeks, further denting their chances of a Europa League spot. The team is low on confidence and their manager needs to instil hope and fighting spirit back into his side. Chievo took the lead, then fell behind and then fought back to earn a 2-2 draw at home against city rivals Hellas Verona. They are now unbeaten in their last six matches and will be looking to build on that. Back Chievo on the win/draw double at 9/10.
Champions League hopefuls Roma fell to a 2-1 defeat against AC Milan at the San Siro on Saturday. It was a consecutive defeat on the road for Roma and they will return to their home fortress where they have lost just once. Udinese come to town off the back of a humiliating 4-1 defeat on their turf against a ruthless Sampdoria side. Three losses from their last four home games is as poor as it gets for Udinese. Both sides will be looking to pick themselves up from their defeats last time out. However, Roma have won the last three meetings against Udinese and are tipped to add to that.
Monday 18 May
Fiorentina edged a topsy-turvy Tuscan derby meeting with Empoli to remain in the frame for a fourth-place finish in Serie A. They have now won back-to-back games and a home tie against a relegated side in Parma should see them claim a third straight victory. Relegated Parma put the brakes on Napoli's bid for Champions League football by holding the visitors to a 2-2 draw on Sunday. Parma have put on a show for their loyal supporters despite being relegated and Fiorentina won’t take them lightly here. Parma have managed just one win from seventeen travels, scoring only twelve goals and conceding 43. Fiorentina to win halftime-fulltime is the way to go at 6/10.
Napoli had a chance to close in on the top three at a crucial stage, but threw it all away with an abysmal performance. They came out arrogant and cocky and got punched in the mouth for it, slumping to a 2-2 draw against Parma and thoroughly embarrassing themselves in the process. Cesena's relegation from Serie A was confirmed as they let a two-goal lead slip to lose 3-2 at home to Sassuolo. The team nicknamed the Seahorses would have been condemned to an instant return to the second tier even if they had held on to win at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi, given seventeenth-placed Atalanta beat Palermo by the same scoreline on Sunday afternoon. This is a must-win for Napoli to remain in contention for a Champions League place and they should do just that with a victory over a vulnerable Cesena team who have managed only one win from seventeen travels this season. The home team to win both halves has some value at 11/10, I suggest you get on that.