Let's talk it out: Addressing Serie A - Relegation, Europe and Juve's dominance

Valerio Pennicino

Juventus are on the cusp of a third consecutive Scudetto. However, the race to qualify for Europe and the battle to avoid relegation are scenarios far from being cut and dried. With Serie A entering its final three rounds, SB Nation's Italian correspondents offer their thoughts on how they see the season panning out.

Shaun Best: Five teams are currently battling the drop to Serie B. Catania are five points adrift at the bottom, with Livorno just two points better off. Bologna and Sassuolo are locked on 28 points, with Chievo Verona (30) also in the mix. Simply put, who's going down?

Jack Sargeant: I'm going to say Catania, Livorno and Sassuolo. Catania's situation is all but irreparable given how far they are adrift. Livorno have been on a horrible run of form for a long time now and have a pretty tough run-in (UdineseFiorentina and Parma), while Sassuolo's looks even more difficult (Fiorentina, Genoa,AC  Milan). Bologna have the 'easiest' of the three (Genoa, Catania, Lazio) and I fancy them to just have enough. They're an experienced bunch, and that could be a decisive factor.

Kirsten Schlewitz: I'd say Catania, Livorno and Bologna. Catania have looked absolutely horrible the entire season. Livorno have one point in seven, so their last three matches matter little. Bologna might save themselves, as it's Genoa up next, who have nothing to play for and are in terrible form. Sassuolo's games don't look easy, but they face Fiorentina straight after the Coppa Italia final and by the last round, at the San Siro, Milan might have nothing but pride. Chievo will hang on, alas, because after Torino it's Cagliari and Inter - so expect a bunch of draws that keep the Flying Donkeys alive.

Iain Cannell: I'd go with Catania and Livorno, who I think are already doomed, and Sassuolo, for the simple reason that I think Bologna and Chievo have more winnable games. Bologna have got Genoa, who have little to play for, followed by Catania, who should already be relegated. Lazio on the final day will be Bologna's toughest test, but even that may be eased if they are out of the race for Europa League qualification.

Uros Popovic: Catania, Livorno and Bologna. Catania look doomed. They went from one of the most organised teams in Italy to one of the most chaotic. They went into panic mode early and sacked Rolando Maran, which was probably a mistake. Now, they look like they have given up. I don't think they will win a single game until the end. Livorno just lack quality. I think they are the weakest team of the league, they are in bad form and have tough games ahead. Sassuolo have more tougher games than Bologna, but they have a better team and they aren't playing badly. Bologna just don't seem good enough to stay up.

SB: The consensus seems to be Catania, Livorno and Bologna. I would have to agree. Bologna have really struggled to find goals since the sale of Alessandro Diamanti and are only just keeping their heads above water. Livorno, Catania and Sassuolo have all suffered from constantly chopping and changing their managers. Remarkably, Livorno and Sassuolo have found themselves back with the tacticians they started the campaign with, while poor Rolando Maran suffered the indignity of being fired from Catania twice in the same season. What are everyone else's thoughts on clubs sacking coaches only to bring them back again?

KS: Italy's tendency to blame everything on the coach makes it difficult to build a stable foundation. That being said, only Sassuolo have found success when bringing back their mister - and that's because Eusebio Di Francesco never should've been sacked in the first place. For the rest of the sides, their former coach's return hasn't done much, and that's because they're still playing with an inadequate squad that wasn't able to use those methods to actually get points. It's ridiculous. Clubs should take a chance and hire new blood.

JS: The motivation to change coach is pretty understandable, with the presidents looking desperately for the short-term shakeup you occasionally get. In theory, sacking coaches makes a bit of sense; a tactical change could combine with greater motivation among the players -- some of whom may have struggled to break into the team under the former boss -- to improve performances. We saw it at Livorno, when they briefly improved after hiring Mimmo Di Carlo. But when those performances don't last, it's easier to see the grass was greener when the old man was in charge. I sympathise with the struggling clubs who have to do it, but bringing the ex-coach back when he wasn't doing the business to begin with doesn't make sense. Unless you replaced him with Alberto Malesani. Then you should bring him back as fast as you can.

IC: I thought this was a Maurizio Zamparini only move after he did it with Gian Piero Gasperini atPalermo last season. I was surprised to see Sassuolo pull it out of the bag. As Jack says, the jolt that sacking a manager has can give a side extra impetus however I would question the wisdom of bringing the old manager back if the new one doesn't work out.

UP: It's all ridiculous to me, especially since in some cases, if not most, the initial sacking is just so obviously wrong [like Palermo last season, Catania this]. I, frankly, do not understand why the presidents are so trigger happy [except in cases of Zamparini and other crazy guys]. I firmly believe in having patience and letting the coach do his job in peace. Bringing back the coach that was already sacked - I think it also has to do with the fact that it's cheaper than getting a completely new coach. It's still a shock therapy, they can hope it will shock players into playing better.

SB: Shifting gears towards the top of the table, six teams (Inter, Torino, Lazio, Hellas Verona, Parma, Milan) are currently fighting for two places to join Fiorentina playing in next season's Europa League. Inter look strong favourites to claim one of those places thanks to a five point advantage over Torino, Lazio and Hellas who are all tied on 52 points. Parma and Milan lie a further point back. With so many of these teams having to face each other in the closing weeks, who's going to nick the coveted European places?

KS: This one is tough. Serie A sides actually seem to care about Europa League, and there's a fierce battle going on. Inter won't fall out, but unfortunately, it looks like it might be Milan, who have the easiest run-in with Inter, Atalanta and Sassuolo on deck. Torino and Parma face off in the penultimate match, Lazio and Hellas this week. If I could choose I'd want Torino, for some new blood that doesn't play terribly conservatively (Parma) and isn't racist (Verona).

JS: Because I'm slightly (a lot) biased, and because surely they're going to have to win another game soon, I'm going to back Parma to make a late surge into sixth.

IC: I think Torino will nick the qualifying place as, although they have tough matches with Parma and Fiorentina left, they are in by far the best form of all the contenders with Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile both looking to impress in the final few matches to secure their respective places in the Italy World Cup squad.

UP: Parma will snatch the last place because they have Antonio Cassano and he is awesome, but they also have a lot of experienced players and a great coach. Torino are in better form, but I think the pressure with get to them.

SB: One team who haven't really felt any domestic pressure is Juventus. They've seemingly retained this year's Scudetto at a canter. My final question for now is can anyone stop their dominance going forward?

KS: I think it's possible. Andrea Pirlo can only go so long. An injury to any one of the back line could be deadly - as demonstrated by Angelo Ogbonna against Sassuolo last Monday. And if they decide to accept crazy money for Paul Pogba or Arturo Vidal and aren't able to replace them, it could let their rivals back in.

UP: Napoli will be Juve's main rival next season. They have a great squad already and if they manage to get two quality defenders [CB and RB] they will be great.

IC: Agreed. Napoli have, on paper, a brilliant squad and with a quality centre-back to go in alongside Raul Albiol and a right-back to replace Christian Maggio, they could certainly challenge Juventus next season.

KS: Napoli have certainly slipped a bit this season, as injuries have hit them hard. Now that they've grown accustomed to Rafa Benitez's methods, a few smart buys in the summer could mean they're actually challenging for the title next season.

IC: Talking of slips, Roma have been hugely impressive under Rudi Garcia and but for a couple of lapses could still be in the title race at this point. With some extra strength they could be very decisive next season.

JS: I think Roma can definitely challenge next year. This season they've actually been very close to matching Juve, but just a handful of mistakes have let them down. Should they keep their midfield together and add some squad depth, they stand a great chance of toppling the bianconeri. The summer window will reveal all.

UP: I am not 100% sure about Roma. They might lose Miralem Pjanic and Francesco Totti will be another year older. It will depend a lot on how  Kevin Strootman recovers from injury, but they will have a lot more tough games next year. It will be a huge factor - they did suffer a little in January and February, when they had midweek Coppa Italia games.

KS: I think we'll truly see Roma's strengths next season, when they need to juggle European play. 

UP: There will be teams that concentrate mainly on the Champions League, but like Jack says it also depends on the transfer market. I am obviously biased, but think Fiorentina can challenge as well. They're not far individually behind Roma and Napoli, however, just like Napoli, their defense needs reinforcements. I wouldn't rule out neither Inter nor Milan next season. Again, it will depend a lot on transfer market, but Milan will likely have no European competition. Roma and Fiorentina performed great in the seasons without European commitments. 

KS: Both Milan clubs need a complete makeover. Milan arguably more so, but Inter, too, need to replace aging talent and find some more firepower up top.

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