Serie A Weekend: The Champions League Race

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 06: AC Milan coach Ivan Gennaro Gattuso looks on during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 6, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

The Champions League race in Serie A took another wild twist this weekend. First, there was a massive clash at the Stadio Olimpico between Lazio and Atalanta. Then, later that day, Roma travelled to Genoa needing all three points. Finally, AC Milan took on Bologna with a jump back into the Champions League race,

The Champions League Race

Lazio 1-3 Atalanta

It was a vital game at the Stadio Olimpico as Atalanta travelled south to Rome to take on Lazio. Atalanta had just taken over the fourth place last weekend and they were looking to cement their hold while knocking a rival out of the running. Lazio knew their chances for top four likely died without three points in this game.

The game could not have started better for Lazio when Marco Parolo fired in the opener in the third minute. However, Lazio made the classic mistake of allowing Atalanta into the game after scoring the opener. When Atalanta get sustained possession Josip Ilicic and Alejandro Gomez will pick you apart.

So, after 25 minutes, Atalanta got the equalizer through their target man Duvan Zapata. It was Zapata’s 22nd goal in Serie A this season, good for second in the league’s goalscoring charts. In this game, it was exactly what Atalanta needed to get control of the game. They went on to win 3-1 because of their quality probing, creating two goals from smart play.

That smart play means that Lazio is likely out of the race for Champions League football. Nothing too surprising for fans of the fascists, but this was the ceiling on their team. Headed into a wild summer, it will interesting to see what Lazio look like at the start of next season.

Genoa 1-1 Roma

This was not a game that anyone, even the Genoa fans, would want to remember. For 75 minutes these two teams did next to nothing in possession. It is a crime that Claudio Ranieri continues to play Nicolo Zaniolo out wide. The revelation of the first half has been relegated to bit role on the wing since Ranieri took over.

Ranieri must be given credit for fixing the Roma defence as it’s the only reason they are still in the Champions League race. Changing goalkeepers from the awful Robin Olsen to the steady-but-not-spectacular Antonio Mirante has made the biggest difference. It is amazing how much better defence will play with confidence in their keeper.

However, dropping points at this point in the season are the biggest issue. They were caught by a 91st-minute header on a corner and were almost beat but Mirante saved a penalty kick. Those dropped points, coupled with Atalanta’s victory really hurt Roma in the race for fourth place.

AC Milan 2-1 Cagliari

It was nice to AC Milan show up to this Champions League race with a little urgency. After an awful performance against Torino last weekend they had to bounce back at home against Bologna. They did, they came out strong, getting at Bologna and creating chances. For what seems like the first time in 2019, Milan got the Suso they were expecting.

Suso was brilliant in the first half, creating chances coming in onto his left foot as if anything else. His good work eventually earned him a lovely curling goal with, you guessed, his left foot. His play would have been the headlines to come out of this game if not for the wild second half of this game.

Milan were ahead 2-1 when Lucas Paqueta entered a bit of madness. He had been knocked down by Bologna’s Erick Pulgar and was very upset about it. When the referee gave him a yellow for his reaction, and then when he tried to calm him down Paqueta slapped the referee’s hands away. This earned him a lovely second yellow and his marching orders, but Milan still held on for all three points.

Derby Della Mole

The Derby Della Mole features the two sides in Turin, Juventus and Torino. This was a particularly special game because it was played the day before the 70th anniversary of Il Grande Torino. The plane crash in 1959 that killed all the members of the Torino first team squad. The terrible tragedy is remembered in Italy much like the Munich Air disaster is in England.

The game itself went a lot differently than many might expect. Juventus, having already won the title came out flat and seemingly disinterested. Like when Miralem Pjanic failed to control Joao Cancelo’s back pass, gifting the ball to Sasa Lukic, who scored his one-on-one easily. That was the story of the first half, Torino outplayed their Scudetto-winning rivals.

Torino was doing all the things you would expect from Juventus. They were defending as a team, working for each other, and covering each other. Juve was playing like a really nice collection of talent. Sadly when these two sides meet the talent gap is all Juventus need.

Because the talent gap finds you in a situation where you only need one good cross.  And Cristiano Ronaldo will be there to head it home.  Like clockwork when his team needs a goal, Ronaldo is always there.  And he headed home a lovely cross Leonardo Spinazolla in the dying moments to split the points.

Champions League Race

So with three weeks left in the Serie A season, this is how the table looks. Inter Milan are in third with 63 points after a 1-1 draw with Udinese. Atalanta are in fourth with 62 points, AC Milan are tied with Roma in fifth and sixth with 59 points. Finally, Torino are in seventh with 57 points and Lazio are eighth with 55. Check back next week for more of the chaos.

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