Serie A, Week 32 preview and fixtures: Battle for second overshadows everything else

Giuseppe Bellini

On Saturday, Pescara and Siena meet in a relegation six-pointer, but the true focus of Round 32 is Sunday's late match. Milan host Napoli, with second place the trophy that dangles above their heads.

Let's face it: unless Juventus have a complete meltdown following their elimination from the Champions League, Serie A has been decided. The real fun now lies in determining who will be in second place, and, if you're particularly masochistic, watching to see which sides will slide down to Serie B.

Week 32 is particularly helpful at highlighting both those battles. The week kicks off with a relegation six-pointer on Saturday, while the two clubs competing for that coveted second position do battle on Sunday night. It all ends with Lazio hosting Juventus on Monday, but we've already established that that one's just a yawn.*

*Yes, Lazio fans, I know Vladimir Petkovic believes his side can still make it to the Champions League. You need to let go of this crazy man's delusion.

Saturday, April 13

Pescara v Siena (6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET)

Props to Pescara -- or more accurately, to goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli -- for not being thoroughly humiliated by Juventus last weekend. Of course, with the delfini currently six points from safety, it was probably more important to get a win than to save face. Siena have reached the point where they just want a mere point, drawing their last three and scoring just two goals. It's been enough to get them to safety, but only by virtue of their head-to-head with Palermo.

Atalanta v Fiorentina (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Six points back from third place, I'm sure Fiorentina still have delusions about winning the Champions League as well, but Vincenzo Montella is allowed to do and say whatever he wants, so they'll get a pass on that one. The trouble is, the Viola have an injury list that takes up more space than Montella's sweater collection. With both Stevan Jovetic and Luca Toni out, Adem Ljajic will need to step up. After Atalanta's spectacular come-from-behind victory over Inter last week, complete with a German Denis hat trick, the Viola won't be able to let down their guard for a second.

Sunday, April 14

All matches at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted

Palermo v Bologna (12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET)

Palermo have won not one but two matches in a row, something that hasn't occurred since January 2012. Obviously they're not safe yet, but considering how long they languished at the bottom of the table, this upswing has given the rosanero something to smile about. It seems Josip Ilicic has finally awoken from his coma, and he'll be the key if Palermo want to make it three in a row.

Cagliari v Inter Milan

Cagliari managed to keep Catania to a scoreless draw last week, extending their unbeaten run to four matches and putting themselves even with Parma in 10th. Now that safety is assured, you'd think the Sardinians would be nice and let those with real goals step forward and get points -- but where would be the fun in that? Cagliari would no doubt take pride in preventing Inter from moving back into the European positions.

Chievo Verona v Catania

You know, this match would have been a lot more interesting had Catania won last week, keeping the hope of Europe alive. Now, the elefanti are six points out of fifth, while Chievo are eight points above the drop. Yawn.

Genoa v Sampdoria

A derby! With a little relegation drama added in! Sampdoria, freshly returned from a season in Serie B, now have the opportunity to ensure that their rivals spend a little time in the lower division. With Genoa, Palermo and Siena all sitting on 27 points, it's almost certain only one will escape the drop. Samp's going to do their best to make sure that one isn't the rossoblu.

Parma v Udinese

Eighth vs ninth. Double yawn.

Torino v AS Roma

Roma should be better than seventh. But they're not. Maybe next year, guys. But hey, at least we'll have the thrill of watching Toro eke out draws again in Serie A next season.

AC Milan v Napoli (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Ah, here's the fun one. Napoli have lost just once in 2013, but some unimpressive draws leave them nine points back of Juventus. Still, they're four points ahead of Milan in second, and know it's absolutely crucial to get all three points if they want certain Champions League action. The partenopei will be encouraged by the fact that Mario Balotelli misses out due to suspension, but with Stephan El Shaarawy, who scored both rossoneri goals in the reverse fixture, anxious to return to his goal scoring ways, this won't be an easy match for the visitors.

Monday, April 15

Lazio v Juventus (8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET)

Both sides will be battling post-European hangovers, with Juventus getting knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich, and Lazio failing to come back against Fenerbahce in the Europa League. This could lead either to a dull, scoreless draw or a spectacular blowout by the side most intent on proving themselves. With Lazio barely clinging to the last European slot, a win is crucial -- but Juve will undoubtedly be looking to clinch the scudetto sooner rather than later.

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