The top leagues all across the European continent will conclude this week, though those seeking drama and suspense probably needn’t bother tuning into the final set of Serie A fixtures.
Matters at both end of the table have already been resolved without the need of any final day thrills and spills, to the displeasure of the neutrals.
Inter’s stranglehold over the Scudetto (Italian Championship) came to an end thanks to arch rivals AC Milan’s capture of the 2010/2011 title, doing so in emphatic fashion with several fixtures to spare as the Rossonerri clinched their 18th Italian league title.
Consolation for Inter Milan comes in the form of second, which they are guaranteed meaning they’ll once again ply their trade in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Joining Inter in Europe’s elite club competition will be Napoli, who at one stage were Milan’s closest pursuer for the Scudetto but predictably ended up fading in the closing stages.
Bari and Brescia were relegated from the top-flight of Italian football after collecting a miserly sum of 21 and 31 points respectively. However, the fact Sampdoria will join them in Serie B next season – this a club who were competing in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League at the very beginning of the term – came as a major shock to everyone, in and outside of Italy.
So there you have it, all the important stuff done and dusted. Perhaps not quite. There is still the small matter of who acquires European football next season.
The fourth and final Champions League berth is a two-way tussle between Udinese and Lazio, with the former two-points clear in fourth and head into the final day needing only to avoid defeat at home to the newly crowned champions AC Milan.
Then there’s the battle for the Europa League. AS Roma are hot favourites as they currently occupy sixth position, the last position which rewards occupants with entry into Europe’s second tier competition, three-points clear of Juventus who need to beat third-placed Napoli and hope already relegated Sampdoria defeat the Romans in the Italian capital.
Juventus V Napoli – Sunday, 22 May 2011 (19:45)
Tip 1: LAY Juventus @ 1.93 Betfair
Napoli’s season has effectively been over for some several weeks now, and boy have the Naples outfit played like a team lacking in motivation. A narrow 1-0 triumph over Genoa at home is their solitary league win in their last five while Sunday will also see them bid to avoid a third consecutive away reverse, having suffered back-to-back 2-1 defeats away at Palermo and Lecce.
Fortunately for Napoli manager Walter Mazzari, who is eager for his side to end a highly successful season – qualifying for next season’s Champions League – on a high, his team face an inconsistent Juventus who are already looking for a new manager for next season after it was confirmed on Saturday that Luigi Del Neri would be relieved of his duties after Sunday’s game following a dismal campaign which is unlikely to be salvaged by entry into the continent’s second tier club competition.
Juventus require a favour in Rome from Sampdoria and victory over Napoli if they’re to sneak into sixth and snatch the final berth into next season’s Europa League. I’m not sure what’s more plausible – relegated Samp, who have won only one of their previous eleven road encounters, beating Roma in the Italian capital or a Juventus side which has drawn its last two home games with mediocre opposition in the form of Catania and Chievo dispatching of third in the table Napoli?
The Turin giants are a club in disarray – especially amid reports suggesting Del Neri has been handed his marching orders, and you’d have to be mad to back them at anything resembling odds-on.
Napoli, meanwhile, have gone off the boil since dropping out of Scudetto contention but haven’t finished third by chance. They’ve been excellent throughout, comprehensively beating Juventus earlier in the season 3-0 in Naples, and will want to end a fabulous campaign on a winning note.
AS Roma V Sampdoria – Sunday, 22 May 2011 (19:45)
Tip 2: 0-0 Draw (Correct Score) @ 21.00 Boylesports OR Draw @ 5.25 bWin
A constant source of frustration throughout the 2010/2011 Serie A term, Roma are a definite no-go at well odds-on to dispatch of relegated, deflated and damn right awful Sampdoria.
It has been a truly miserable campaign for the Romans, who at the beginning of the season had high hopes of challenging for the championship, a top-four finish at the very least. Instead, because of their lack of consistency, they’ll consider themselves a tad fortunate just to seal a top-six finish, and with it Europa League football next season.
Three-points ahead of seventh-placed Juventus with only one match left to play, Roma only need a point from Sunday’s game to guarantee European Football next season. But, after going down 2-1 in Catania last weekend and having won only one of their last four league fixtures at home, I wouldn’t like to think they are worthy of their 1/3 price quote.
Having said that, they are playing Sampdoria who only last week were confirmed as the third and final team to be relegated from the top-flight of Italian football. It has come as a shock considering the Genoa outfit began the season in the Champions League, albeit in the qualifying round.
But their demise came about through their own wrongdoing, with the club’s decision to depart with their two main strikers – statistics would suggest the only strikers at the club who could actually locate the nets – heavily criticised by everyone in the country, especially their supporters who had to endure the heartache of demotion to the second tier courtesy of some ridiculous decisions from the club’s hierarchy.
Both Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini were sold in January, and from February onwards Sampdoria plundered a mere 10 goals in their final 16 games of the season.
Despite their apparent lack of fire-power, Samp have rarely been overawed at the back, certainly in the second part of the term, and there could be value in getting on both teams drawing a blank. After all, the home side need only a point to lock-in a sixth-place finish while the visitors will just want to get Sunday over and done with.
I’d advise very small stakes with this one.