At some point, the race for Europe will be decided, and the relegation spots finalized. But in Serie A, that point is almost certain to be the last match of the season. With four matches left to play, there are seven clubs -- eight, if you're really generous -- battling it out for two Champions League positions and three Europa League positions. Of course, Roma or Lazio will take one of those Europa League spots by virtue of winning the Coppa, but that just throws a wrench into the mathematics of it all.
Down at the bottom, Palermo, Siena and Genoa are engaged in a brutal battle to avoid the drop. All three have matches they just might win this weekend, leaving Torino looking over their shoulders, nervous that they just might get dragged down as well.
And then there's the tippity top and bottomy bottom of the table. Due to their head-to-head record against second-place Napoli, Juventus need just a point against Palermo to take the scudetto. The rosanero might be in spectacular form right now (or perhaps we should say Josip Ilicic is in spectacular form right now) but it's highly unlikely they'll bring down Juventus in Turin.
As for the bottom, well, "must-win" is a ridiculously overused phrase, but Pescara really must if they want to have any hope of staying in Serie A. The question is, does anyone other than Ivan Pelizzoli actually care about staying up? They're likely all busy ringing their agents to figure out which Serie A side might snap them up for next season.
Saturday, May 4
Chievo Verona v Cagliari (6 p.m. local, 12 noon ET)
Oh, that's ok. There are not about fifteen significant battles in Serie A this week. Let's put a pointless match up first! C'mon, someone put me in charge of the fixture list. Please.
Fiorentina v AS Roma (8:45 p.m. 2:45 p.m. ET)
Quite possibly the battle of the weekend, staged between fourth and fifth. Roma are a good six points back of the Viola, but that doesn't really matter when it comes to these positions. No, the real drama lies in Fior being just a point behind Milan, a crucial point that marks the difference between the chance to qualify for the Champions League and playing your football on Thursdays next season.
Sunday, May 5
all matches at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET unless otherwise noted
Well looky here, once again Udinese have snuck up on the European positions. They're just a point out of fifth, so if Roma lose and the zebrette win, we could be looking at yet another year of Udi qualifying for Europe, selling all their best players and failing to make it past the first round.
Can we say must win for Milan? Yes, yes we can. The purple menace is closing in.
After Catania's loss against Milan last week, this match is really only important for Siena. Sure, Catania could still sneak into Europe, but it's going to take a series of highly unlikely events for that to happen. The robur, on the other hand, are now in 19th, two points behind both Genoa and Palermo.
Anything but a win for the Dolphins makes it official: Pescara will play in Serie B next season. Please, Genoa, put them out of their misery.
Palermo, terrified of Serie B, are unbeaten in their last five, placing them just outside the relegation zone (they've got the advantage over Genoa on away goals). Could they really throw a wrench in Juve's May 5 celebrations? It'll have to be a win in Turin for Palermo. Dare to dream, rosanero supporters!
Whoa, your eyes have to scroll pretty far down the table if you want to find Lazio's position. Remember when they were potential title contenders? That day seems so far away now. If they don't want to rely on a Coppa win to take them into Europa, they best beat Bologna here.
Napoli v Inter Milan (8:45 p.m. 2:45 p.m. ET)
Things aren't so desperate for Napoli right now, now that they've stretched their second-place lead to six points. But never underestimate the power of the partenopei to royally screw things up. Inter might have 11 players on their injury list (and don't be surprised if someone else trips and hurts himself before Sunday), yet Napoli will make the match as difficult as possible for themselves.