Serie A preview: Juve eye perfect season, fourth up for grabs
By Football News
Juventus returned to the summit of Italian football last Sunday with a 2-0 win at Cagliari putting them four points clear of AC Milan, ahead of their last fixture with Atalanta.
But, it is the battle for third place between Udinese, Lazio, Napoli and Inter Milan that is intriguing this weekend.
Udinese are in the box seat with a two-point gap over Lazio and Napoli, and three over Inter, needing only a draw away at Catania on Sunday to take third place and the final spot.
If Udinese draw, a win for Lazio in their clash with Inter would still not be enough to take them through given the league decided to use head-to-head records when sides finish level on points, rather than goal difference.
However, an Udinese loss would bring Napoli and Lazio back into the fold.
Despite being a point behind Lazio, Napoli has a superior head-to-head record with Udinese meaning a win over Siena at home, provided Udinese lose, would ensure their passage to European's top competition.
Complicating the equation further is the fact Inter too has a superior record over Udinese.
Their hopes hinge on defeating Lazio, Udinese losing and Napoli failing to win.
Udinese have had another remarkable season under head coach Francesco Guidolin, accommodating for the loss of key players Gokhan Inler (Napoli) and Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona).
"Nothing is decided, everything is still to be achieved," Guidolin said on the race for third spot.
"We just have to prepare well and be ready in our head, legs and heart. There is still a long road ahead of us."
If Juventus avoid defeat for a 39th consecutive game in the league, against Atalanta, they would become only the second team to win Serie A without losing a match.
Fabio Capello's AC Milan were the last team to achieve the feat in the 1991-92 season while Perugia also went unbeaten in 1978-79 but finished second in a 16-team league.
Antonio Conte's side can also seal the double if they defeat AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final on May 20.
At the other end of the table, the relegation fate of Novara and Cesena has been sealed with Lecce the final side set to go down, barring a combination of results to resign Genoa to the drop, albeit very unlikely.