Serie A Matchday 38: Race for Champions League takes centre stage

Will Evans
Can AC Milan secure Champions League qualification this weekend?
Can AC Milan secure Champions League qualification this weekend?

After 37 rounds and 370 matches, Italy’s top four contenders remain separated by the finest of margins.

The race for Champions League football is going to the wire in Serie A, with AC Milan, Napoli and Juventus all in with a chance of joining Inter Milan and Atalanta in qualifying ahead of the campaign’s final weekend.

There is also a spot in UEFA’s inaugural Europa Conference League still to be decided, as Roma and Sassuolo stake their claim for the right to play European football next season.

Today's games

Cagliari vs Genoa (7.45pm)
Crotone vs Fiorentina (7.45pm)
Sampdoria vs Parma (7.45pm)

Atalanta vs AC Milan (Sunday, 7.45pm)

AC Milan know a win in Bergamo will secure them a seat at Europe’s top table for the first time since 2013-14.

The Rossoneri have a better head-to-head record than both Napoli and Juventus and are a point ahead of Andrea Pirlo’s side in fifth.

But they undoubtedly face the toughest fixture of the trio — Atalanta are unbeaten in 11 league games, dropping points just twice.

La Dea are also enjoying a run of seven consecutive home wins but may just take their foot off the gas having already ensured Champions League qualification.

Bologna vs Juventus (Sunday, 7.45pm)

It is hard to make a case for Juventus dropping points in Bologna — Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men are safely in mid-table and on a terrible run of form, having picked up just one win in their last nine.

But Milan’s shock goalless draw with Cagliari last weekend will serve as a useful reminder of Serie A’s unpredictability.

The Bianconeri have also struggled against the league’s smaller sides this season, picking up just two points from four games against Benevento and Fiorentina, while drawing with Crotone, Verona and Torino.

After an energy-sapping Coppa Italia final in midweek, this match is less of a foregone conclusion than it may initially appear.

Napoli vs Hellas Verona (Sunday, 7.45pm)

Lorenzo Insigne has fired Napoli to within touching distance of Champions League qualification
Lorenzo Insigne has fired Napoli to within touching distance of Champions League qualification

Napoli could not ask for a better fixture to finish the season against a Verona side that have completely collapsed since securing safety.

There are doubts over the future of manager Ivan Juric after a sequence of eight games without a win and eight defeats in their last 12.

In contrast, Napoli are flying. They have kept more clean sheets than any other Serie A side (14) and are the division’s second-top scorers (85), thanks in part to 19-goal frontman Lorenzo Insigne.

He has found the net in the Neapolitans’ last two fixtures, helping them to maintain a sequence of eight matches without defeat.

Expect Napoli to make the top four and mark Gennaro Gattuso’s final game as head coach in style.

Spezia vs Roma (Sunday, 7.45pm)

Roma’s pre-season aspirations were greater than a place in the new Europa Conference League but they will have to be content with European football of any kind after a disappointing campaign.

A two-point advantage over Sassuolo means a draw on Sunday is likely to get them over the line — but they will be going all out for a win in Paulo Fonseca’s last match in charge.

A morale-boosting 2-0 derby triumph over Lazio last week means Roma head into this one in high spirits, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan has now scored in each of his last three outings.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in sensational form for Roma this season
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in sensational form for Roma this season

Sassuolo vs Lazio (Sunday, 7.45pm)

A top-half finish already represents an outstanding achievement for relative minnows Sassuolo — but qualifying for Europe would be the cherry on the cake after a hugely impressive season.

Serie A’s possession kings have passed their opponents into submission throughout 2020-21, attempting (585.81) and completing (514.59) more passes per 90 minutes than any other team.

Beating a Lazio side still reeling from their recent derby defeat and Ciro Immobile’s midweek penalty miss against Torino will be a tough task.

But Sassuolo can be satisfied with a job well done, regardless of whether or not they sneak into Europe on Sunday.

Sunday's other games

Inter Milan vs Udinese (2pm)
Torino vs Benevento (7.45pm)


Serie AAtalantaAC MilanBolognaJuventusSSC NapoliHellas VeronaSpeziaRomaSassuoloLazio
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