Serie A’s Champions League conundrum

Serie A

The business end to the Serie A season is drawing in and its not only the Premier League that has the potential for an exciting end in the race for the Champions League.

As it stands, Roma occupy third place on 56 points and Lazio are just inside the top four on 53 points. The contenders are the two Milan clubs, with Inter sat just outside on 52 points and AC the outsiders looking in on 47.

Roma and Lazio have 10 games left to play, however both the Milan clubs have one extra game to play than the sides from the capital.

With the title shootout just between Juventus and Napoli, both over the horizon compared to the rest of the top six, it leaves Champions League qualification as the only thing left to play for. This brings with it excitement and a battle for two places between four sides.

How will it play out?

Looking at the ‘run-in’ fixtures is the usual go to at this stage when trying to determine how a season will turn out. Looking at the fixtures, Roma are in the driving seat with arguably the easiest run in out of the four challengers.

The Champions League quarter-finalists play the majority of the bottom half in their remaining ten fixtures, with only Juventus & Fiorentina from the top half, however there is a tasty clash with Lazio in April but more on that later.

Inter Milan too have to face Juventus & Lazio but also have tricky trips to Atalanta and Torino to come.

AC are the only side out of the challengers to have to face both the top two in their remaining games. Lazio’s fixtures pose a frightening challenge for Simone Inzaghi’s side, starting with the showdown with Roma on Sunday 15 April. That week also sees Lazio travel to Fiorentina and host seventh placed Sampdoria in what could become a decisive week for the club.

There is also the small matter of Lazio vs Inter at the Stadio Olimpico on the last day of the season which could literally be the Champions League playoff decider.

THE DECISIVE FIXTURES

Juventus v AC Milan – Sunday 31st March
Lazio v Roma – Sunday 15th April
AC Milan v Napoli- Sunday 15th April
Fiorentina v Lazio- Wednesday 18th April
Lazio v Sampdoria- Sunday 22nd April
Inter Milan v Juventus- Sunday 29th April
Roma v Juventus- Sunday 13th May
Lazio v Inter Milan- Sunday 20th May

Lazio’s fixtures suggest a sticky end to the season for them, however the stats fall in their favour.

Its been an impressive season for Inzaghi’s team and they currently lead the ranks for most goals scored in the division (66) and best shots on target accuracy (50%), despite holding the joint highest record for most shots outside the area (10) which is really impressive.

Roma do appear to have all the cards to gain qualification for a competition they have reached the last 8 of this season. They have not lost in their last 5 away games and with the majority of their remaining games away from home (6), this bodes well.

Inter Milan’s inconsistency has cost them this season, despite only losing 3 games they have drawn 10 but are only sat 1 point outside at this moment.

The factor that falls in Inter’s favour is that they are the only side left with no European distraction, although barring a miracle AC will also be in that predicament come Thursday night.

THE STATS

*information from Squawka

  • Roma – over 300 chances created (4th highest)
  • Inter Milan – best defensive record outside of the top 2 with 21 goals conceded
  • Lazio – 17 goals scored from set pieces- joint highest with Juventus
  • AC Milan – 7 defensive errors leading to a goal, second highest behind Sassulo (8)
  • Ciro Immobile (Lazio) – 24 goals in 25 games, top goalscorer in the league.
  • Edin Dzeko (Roma) – 2nd highest shot accuracy (44%)
  • Luis Alberto (Lazio) – 8 assists (3rd highest)
  • Suso (AC Milan) – 54 key passes (6th highest)
  • Stefan De Vrij (Lazio) – 58 interceptions (4th highest)

As the season draws in everything points towards a fascinating end to this wonderful Serie A campaign.

About the Author

Joel Sanderson-Murray
MA Sports Journalism student at the University of Salford. Got a lot of time for a false nine and no time in the world for 11 men behind the ball.