Title, relegation and European drama | Welcome to the Serie A’s most exciting season in decades
Stefano Pioli and Simone Inzgahi|
It has been a season to remember in the Serie A for the first time many years and for once absolutely nothing is certain and it is a joy to watch. AC Milan and Inter Milan are battling it out for the title while four teams fight for the three European spots and there's a relegation battle to boot.
With Juventus taking their own cool time to re-discover their best, it has allowed the Italian league to thrive again and finds its footing in this chaotic footballing world. So much so, that until a few months ago, the Serie A had a six team title race before most of them fell apart, leaving just two. Inter Milan are the reigning champions and are part of that race with them battling cross-city rivals AC Milan for the Scudetto.
However, that is not all. Because while the Champions League spots have been sealed up and this is the Italian league, we’ve got four teams fighting it out for three spots. Between Lazio, AS Roma, Fiorentina and Atalanta, the question remains who has the guts to take their chance. Then there’s that almighty relegation battle with six teams fighting it out to survive. Right now, Cagliari Calcio, Genoa and Venezia sit amongst the bottom three but with two games left, anything can happen.
They didn’t make this easy but then again, they never do, now they? Let’s get cracking.
The Relegation Scenarios:
With all three spots in the running, it means that absolutely anything could happen over the next two gameweeks and that does include a minor miracle for Venezia. However, the Serie A is not like the others as when it comes to the tiebreaker; it’s head-to-head, then Goal Difference in the head-to-head games, Goal Difference overall and then Higher number of Goals Scored. Even then, Venezia could still make it. Here’s how.
For Sampdoria (15th with 33 points) and Spezia (16th with 33 points) to survive:
This is rather simple.
The maximum number of points that any team currently in the relegation zone can achieve is 35 which means a win from one of their two games left will ensure both Sampdoria and Spezia’s survival. Not only that, they play nobody in the bottom five which means that, for these two, there are no relegation six-pointers. Even then, a win will ensure their place although it is possible both teams survive with two draws from their remaining two games if Cagliari Calcio (18th with 29 points) loses or draws even one game.
However, if Cagliari does manage to win both their games, then even a draw won’t be enough for Sampdoria because of the head-to-head record. Cagliari beat them in both games while Spezia beat and then drew in their games against Cagliari, which means that a draw won’t be enough for Sampdoria especially if Salernitana earn four points. That would put Sampdoria into the relegation zone, in that particular situation, and thus see them drop down.
Lose both games though and things become a lot tougher for both Sampdoria and Spezia. It would mean that they’ll depend on Cagliari losing or drawing a game while also hoping that Salernitana (17th place with 30 points) also loses at least once. Otherwise, four points for Salernitana could send them over Sampdoria and Spezia which makes things that much harder.
In that particular scenario, then they’ll need to hope that Genoa (19th with 28 points) don’t get all six points (or hope that they lose/draw atleast one game) and Cagliari don’t get more than three.
For Salernitana (17th place with 30 points) to survive:
This is also rather simple.
Much like Sampdoria and Spezia, Salernitana are also outside the relegation zone but they sit above Cagliari with only one point separating them. Not only that, Salernitana have the worst goal difference amongst the six sides at -41 and that could be their downfall. However, since they do have the point advantage, all they need to do is either match or better Cagliari and Genoa’s results.
Because two points will be enough to put them beyond Venezia’s (20th with 25 points) reach but with six points left to fight for both Cagliari and Genoa, Salernitana will need more. Winning both their remaining games will confirm their place in the top tier for next season and they have the easier fixtures; facing mid-table Empoli and Udinese who have nothing to play for anymore.
But should they lose one game, then they’ll need to ensure a win in the second and hope that both Cagliari and Genoa drop points. A draw and a loss won’t be enough, unless if Cagliari and Genoa match that, because of their horrendous goal-difference although the head-to-head is in their favour against Genoa. However, against Cagliari, Salernitana drew 1-1 in both games which sends the tie-breaker to goal-difference and the former has a -32 record which is much better than Salernitana’s.
There is the third, and less likely possibility, where all three teams lose their remaining games and absolutely nothing changes which would also ensure Salernitana’s safety.
For Cagliari Calcio (18th with 29 points) to survive:
A tough run in doesn’t really help their cause especially since their last two games are against title contenders Inter Milan and fellow dropzone side Venezia. However, the permutations for Cagliari aren’t tough even despite that as all they need to do is better Salernitana’s results. The difference between the two is just one point and Cagliari have the superior goal-difference which means that two wins will ensure survival if Salernitana drop points even once.
Not only that, two draws might be enough if Salernitana loses both their games and so on. It means that essentially all Cagliari have to do is better Salernitana’s results and they’ll be safe. However, even if Salernitana wins both their remaining games, then should Cagliari do the same, they could survive if either Sampdoria and Spezia drop points.
But since they can only reach a maximum of 35 points, that mark goes beyond the Rossoblù if both of them win even once to reach the 36-point mark. Cagliari could make it if, for example, Sampdoria loses both their games but Spezia win both theirs, then the Rossoblù would be safe with two wins or one win and a draw which essentially overcomes the 33-point mark.
The head-to-head only comes into play against Sampdoria, for Cagliari, as they beat them over both games whereas against Spezia, Rossoblù don’t have an advantage. It means they could also survive if they reach the 33 point mark and Salernitana do the same while Sampdoria and Spezia stay at 33. It would mean that Cagliari would survive while Salernitana goes down because of their poor head-to-head and GD.
For Genoa (19th with 28 points) to survive:
Much like Salernitana, Genoa also face two teams in Napoli and Bologna who have nothing to play for anymore but they’ll need to not just better Cagliari’s results but also Salernitana’s. Il Grifone sit two points behind the latter and one behind the former which means they’ll need to win at least one of their games and hope that both teams above them lose both their fixtures.
However, should Salernitana get anything more than 34 points then it puts survival beyond Genoa without them getting a minor miracle. That miracle would occur when Genoa get 34 points while either Spezia or Sampdoria don’t win both of their remaining games. It would put them one point above the losing side and thus ensure safety and that’s only provided Cagliari don’t win both their games as well.
But if Cagliari can’t match Genoa’s 34 points, it would mean should the other two (Spezia and Sampdoria) also earn 34 points alongside Salernitana, then Genoa will go down. That’s because they’ve got the worst head-to-head against Sampdoria, Spezia and Salernitana, losing to all three. But that’s only if Cagliari earn 4 more points or take their total to 33 points (a win and a draw) from their two games. Anything more than will take Cagliari’s tally beyond Genoa and thus ensure relegation.
For Venezia (20th with 25 points) to survive:
A massive, earth-shattering miracle.
That is because the maximum number of points that arguably the best-looking kit in Europe can get is 31 points and that barely puts them in 17th place. It would mean that for Venezia to survive, they’ll need not only Salernitana to lose both their remaining games but also Cagliari and Genoa to not earn more than three and four points respectively.
Things are made slightly easier, or wose, by the fact that they face Cagliari in the final game of the season. However, they also face European football chasing AS Roma in the penultimate game although their hope should be on the fact that Jose Mourinho and Rome also play in the Europa Conference League final. It could see the legendary boss field a slightly weaker side or at least it should see him do so. Not exactly aligned with the stars but then again, football is full of miracles.
The battle for the rest of Europe:
Not as sexy as a Champions League battle but since that’s over, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with a battle for the Europa League and Europa Conference League football. It should be fun to watch especially with four teams fighting it out for three spots which means one walks away with nothing. That’s because Inter Milan won the Coppa Italia and finished inside the top five, which means an extra Europa League spot is handed out.
However, things could get extra tasty if Roma win the Conference League because then they’ll get Europa League football and their spot will go to the next place, 8th. That means all four could, theoretically, get some form of European football.
PS: the same rules apply for tiebreaker as the relegation battle.
For Lazio (5th with 62 points) to play Europa League football:
With three points separating them and AS Roma, all Lazio have to do is get four points from their remaining two games of Serie A football. It is made tougher by the fact that they face Juventus and Hellas Verona but Lazio could still make the cut even if they lose both games.
However, that’s if Fiorentina lose both their two games while both Roma and Atalanta lose their ties because of the head-to-head record which is in Lazio’s favour against the Viola. They could also make it via the same margin if either Fiorentina or Atalanta win one game and lose the other but they’ll need to better La Dea’s goal difference (+20 to Lazio’s +19) to do that.
Yet Roma have the head-to-head advantage against Lazio which means the Biancocelesti will need to better Jose Mourinho's results and stay ahead of them to keep their Europa League spot.
For AS Roma (6th with 59 points) to play Europa League football:
Thanks to their performances in the Europa Conference League, Roma have two routes. They could win the Conference League final and play Europa League football next season or keep the exact same pace in the league and finish sixth eventually to play Europa League football. However, things could get worse for Jose Mourinho’s team especially if they lose both their remaining games.
They face Venezia and Torino, which shouldn’t be tough, and yet should they lose both their games while both Fiorentina and Atalanta win both theirs, Roma could drop into 8th. It wouldn’t matter if they win the Conference League final in that case but if they don’t, then that means no European football next season. Beyond that, they will finish above both Viola and La Dea especially if the points are the same because of their superior head-to-head.
Roma could also finish above Lazio, if they manage to overcome the three point deficit, and if they finish on the same number of points once again because of their superior head-to-head.
For Fiorentina (7th with 59 points) to play Europa League football:
Not as tough an ask as many believe especially since the Viola have the same amount of points as Roma and Atalanta. However, they face Sampdoria and Juventus in their final two games which is a lot tougher than they would have liked but even then, it should be a simple ask. As it stands, Fiorentina will play Europa Conference League football next term but Europa League football is a tougher ask.
They have the worst head-to-head record against everyone but Atalanta which doesn’t help their cause and thus it means the Viola will need to earn more points. A win won’t simply be enough because Lazio have that three-point cushion but a win and a draw from their last two games, provided that both Roma and Lazio don’t earn any points will be enough. However, since Roma also already sits in a Europa League spot, doing better than them will also be enough.
Plus, there’s the added bonus of Roma being in the Conference League final which means that either way, Jose Mourinho’s side could earn Europa League football. However, since guaranteeing things help make managers happy, the Viola could do that by simply overtaking Roma. They’ll need at least one point more than whatever Roma gets because of the head-to-head but it’s possible.
For Atalanta (8th with 59 points) to play Europa League football:
With a head-to-head record as bad as Fiorentina’s, the only difference between the Viola and Atalanta is the fact that they have a better head-to-head with Lazio. It would mean that bettering Roma and Fiorentina’s results while overcoming that three point buffer that Lazio have, would give La Dea 5th place and Europa League football.
However, bettering Roma’s results will be enough because of the fact that 6th place in Italy also gets Europa League football. Plus, they’ve got that added bonus that Roma have the Conference League final to concentrate on. Not only that, should Jose Mourinho’s side win that tournament, then even an eighth-place finish will be enough for Conference League football for La Dea.
The Scudetto battle:
Not even close to being as complicated as the rest but no less fun to watch even if there are two teams in the running with two games left. Let’s dig in, shall we?
For AC Milan (1st place with 80 points) to lift the Serie A title:
It’s simple. AC Milan beat Inter Milan once and drew to them in the games that they played this season which means that they’ve got the upper hand when it comes to head-to-head. And thus, four points will be more than enough as it is the most Inter Milan can get this season.
So even if the Rossoneri draw one game and win the other while Inter win both, it will hand Stefano Pioli’s men the title. Two wins will guarantee the title but should AC Milan lose both games, then they’ll need to hope that the Nerazzurri replicate their results to lift their first Scudetto in more than a decade.
For Inter Milan (2nd place with 78 points) to lift the Serie A title:
With the head-to-head in AC Milan’s favour, it means that Inter Milan will need their rivals to lose or draw both their games while they overcome the two-point gap that separates them. It means that the Nerazzurri need to win at least one game, in order to leapfrog AC Milan while the Rossoneri gain nothing more than three points from their two fixtures.
So very simple but sometimes football is like that.