Serie A

Serie A: Champions League Race Heats Up into Final Day

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Serie A is not one of the most-watched leagues in the world anymore, but they house some formidable former giants of football. For years, much like the German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1, the Serie A has been a one-team league. This year remarkably saw the crowning of a new team, and the demise of another.

Buoyed by the sensational form of Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan impressed this campaign, coming out the other end with their first Serie A title for 11 years. Juventus, under new manager Andrea Pirlo, have dropped down the table and even face the possibility of missing out on next season’s UEFA Champions League. A shock, especially considering they have reached 2 of the last 6 finals (losing in both). It has been a year to remember for football fans all over the world, and Pirlo will have learned a lot during his tenure at the Italian giants.

For all that football has given us, the 2020/2021 season is closing off as one of the most exciting ends Italy has seen in recent years. Inter have already captured the title this season, but Atalanta, AC Milan, Napoli, and Juventus are only separated by 3 points heading into the season’s final game- all fighting for those lucrative Champions League spots. Fans are also expected back soon and the aforementioned clubs will want to ensure qualification into Europe’s most elite echelon as they aim to recover financially from the turmoil of a Covid-hit season.

Overview

One of the most exciting teams in Italy has surprisingly not one of the notorious giants. Atalanta have sensationalised attacking football and entertained fans in the Champions League for 3 seasons with Gian Piero Gasperini at the helm. They have climbed up the ranks of Serie A and cemented their position as one of it’s most threatening sides. AC Milan has hit a resurgence in form after their fall from grace in the past few years- even spending a while at the top of the table.

Although fans of La Rossoneri will be disappointed that their city rivals beat them to the title, they will no doubt still be excited about the prospects of finishing in the top four having not heard the Champions League anthem in over 7 years.

Napoli will want to cement their place in the UCL as they aim to keep building and challenging for European dominance, whilst Juventus fans won’t be too damning on young coach Andrea Pirlo should they not make the cut. I expect them to put up a tougher fight next year, but for now, the chances of not seeing the black and white giants from Italy are high, and exciting to say the least.

Let’s break down the lead-up to the final match day and dissect each team’s chances of making the elusive top four.

AC Milan celebrate after scoring against Serie A rivals Juventus.
TURIN, ITALY – MAY 9: Ante Rebic of AC Milan Celebrates 0-2 with teammates during the Italian Serie A match between Juventus v AC Milan at the Allianz Stadium on May 9, 2021 in Turin Italy (Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Atalanta FC

Atalanta are in pole position to finish in the top 4 in yet another season. In fact, simply a draw on the final day will be enough to secure their spot in the Champions League. But, they have an extremely exciting affair with AC Milan, who sit only one place behind them. Atalanta will go into the match as the far more relaxed team, although, after losing the Coppa Italia final to Juventus on Wednesday, they will most likely be wanting to end another successful season with a win. Whatever happens, they can look forward to finishing in that Champions League spot even if they do lose, unless Juventus can turn over the 9 goal difference between them!

AC Milan

AC Milan, one of Europe’s sleeping giants, face the prospect of making a rather surprise comeback to Europe’s elite competition- and will be enthusiastic by the prospect of playing in the competition once again. They have a crucial tie against second-place Atalanta and will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic thanks to a knee injury he suffered. It is a must-win for the Red and Blacks, or- at the very least- a draw and prayer that Juventus fail to beat Bologna. Milan manager Stefano Pioli understands the severity of this match following a disappointing draw against Cagliari, but essentially come into that final game in excellent scoring form.

S.S.C. Napoli

Napoli currently sit fourth in the Serie A- by goal difference- equal on points with AC Milan. They will also require a final day victory to secure that Champions League position. They go into their game favourites to beat mid-table Hellas Verona, but their opponents will be motivated to finish the season on a high following a run of disappointing results. Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso will want to close this year’s campaign positively and focus on improving the squad to challenge for the title next season; surely following the blueprint that Inter has set, breaking Juventus’ dominance of the Serie A.

Juventus

Juventus are the dark horse in this Champions League race- a sentence I never thought I would write- as not even a win can guarantee themselves qualification. This is incredibly unfamiliar for the Turin outfit, as they have been so rampant in Italy for the past 10 years. Not only will they be disappointed with no Champions League, but they will also face massive financial hits, especially following the Covid-19 financial crisis that most clubs have been faced with.

That being said, Juventus fans will be understanding of their manager and will give him time with many seeing this season as more of a learning curve for the club hero. Andrea Pirlo will have to learn fast though, as he would be expected to challenge Inter Milan next year and it’s unsure about how much he will be backed in the transfer market.

Andrea Pirlo may not have impressed in the Serie A this season, but have not ended the season empty handed, having won the Coppa Italia this week.
REGGIO NELL’EMILIA, ITALY – MAY 19: head coach of Juventus Andrea Pirlo looks on during the TIMVISION Cup Final between Atalanta BC and Juventus at Mapei Stadium on May 19, 2021 in Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Badolato – Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images)

The Verdict- Who Will Make the Serie A Top 4?

The final match-day of the season is definitely one to keep an eye on, but we’re expecting the table to remain somewhat the same. AC Milan should have enough to get points in that match against Atalanta but they will be wary of the Bergamo-based outfit’s recent record. Napoli have the easiest tie of the top-four hopefuls, whilst Juventus’ spirits will have been lifted by their recent Italian Cup victory.

I predict Atalanta, Milan and Napoli to secure the final four positions and Juventus to narrowly miss out. The season has proved to be exciting, and rewarded us with a new champion- perhaps also new Champions League contestants in AC Milan. Whatever occurs in the Serie A; we will be there to keep you updated.

Who do you predict to finish in the top four? Let us know in the comments below, and get discussing on our twitter page!


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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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A martial arts enthusiasts as well as practitioner of traditional chinese martial arts. I'm an avid mma fan and love writing. I also love football and have great insight into behavior and psychology of athletes.