A struggle to avoid relegation. A frantic battle for second place. Fighting for a Europa League position - or fighting to avoid one. And wondering just what week Juventus will be crowned champions.
Yep, that'll be the next nine weeks of Italian football. Settle in and enjoy the ride...
Saturday, March 22
Monday's last minute loss to Napoli was Torino's fourth in a row, moving the Granata from "outside shot at Europe" to "we've got nothing left to play for this season". The visitors, on the other hand, definitely have everything left to play for. Last week's win over fellow strugglers Bologna lifted Livorno into safety...but they're barely hanging on.
Chievo Verona vs. AS Roma8:45 p.m. local, 3:45 p.m. ET at the Bentegodi, Verona
Chievo have scored in their last five games! Yes, it really is some sort of miracle, deserving of an exclamation point. Two wins from those four matches have them a point above the drop. Roma returned to winning ways with victory over Udinese on Monday...but another three points is essential to keep Napoli at bay.
Sunday, March 23
Nothing left to play for? Surely you must be joking, as Genoa are just a point above Sampdoria, and even if there's no battle to avoid relegation, finishing above local rivals is always a worthy reason. Parma, with three wins in a row, are comfortably in the Europa League places, thanks to an unbeaten run second only to Juventus's. A result against Genoa would extend that streak to...we've stopped counting.
In 15th and just six points clear of the drop, Cagliari nevertheless look safe, thanks to the quality of the sides below the isolani. Like, say, Bologna, who've scored once in five matches. The rossoblu couldn't even get an equalizer against nine man Livorno last weekend...we're starting to hope less baloney in Serie A next season.
Inter Milan vs. Atalanta3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET at the San Siro, Milan
Atalanta have now won three in a row, including a vital road game. Which might make their fellow nerazzurri nervous, except the hosts are unbeaten in six. And should Inter manage to keep capitalizing on others' struggles, they just might pip into Champions League after all. Sure, there's a 10 point gap between them and Napoli...but wouldn't Walter Mazzarri just love to put one over on his former employers?
How the mighty have fallen. Verona, once a lock on fifth, haven't scored in their last three matches, and while they're safe, they no longer look viable contenders for Europe. Sampdoria, also safe, have no reason to win other than to protect their ears from another Siniša Mihajlović outburst. And for the sake of our sanity, the hosts need a decent result...because really, we don't need to hear Siniša quoting Dante (apparently to inspire his players) ever again.
Francisco Guidolin has finally lost his touch, with Udinese unable to beat anyone (Milan don't count) and sitting 14th in the table, 15 points away from European riches - and unlikely unable to make more than a few bucks selling off the current zebrette side. Even Sassuolo, three points from safety, could give Udinese trouble...now that they've got Eusebio Di Francesco back where he belongs.
Napoli vs. Fiorentina6:30 p.m. local, 1:30 p.m. ET at the San Paolo, Naples
Oh look, the two sides that bowed out of Europa on Thursday get to face each other in a semi-early Sunday game - so a match that had the potential to be a fun, attacking battle between two clubs fighting for a Champions League spot now is likely to become a dreary affair between tired players afraid to make a mistake...thanks FIGC.
Top, meet bottom. Odds on a Catania win? 7/1...but we wouldn't recommend taking that bet.
Both sides changed coaches partway through the season. But the switch has only helped Lazio, who, with the return of Edy Reja, have at least managed to pick up a few points and now sit just five back of Europe. Milan, however, haven't experienced a great revival under former star Clarence Seedorf...perhaps it's time to admit that maybe, just maybe, Max Allegri wasn't the problem?