Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Matthew Coccoluto On May - 1 - 2012

By the Numbers: The Race for Third

Only three games remain and the race for third only continues to get tighter. Last weekends result saw Napoli draw Roma, Udinese take 3 points from Lazio and Inter climb back with another win. Currently Napoli, Udinese, Lazio and Inter are all level with 55 points. As I said last week, this race has been completely unpredictable but with only three games, I believe this race is Napoli’s to lose.

Napoli are currently sitting in third. They have a goal differential of 19 compared to Udinese’s 12, Lazio’s 5, and Inter’s 5. They have a better head to head record with Udinese and Inter. The three remaining games for Napoli are Palermo, Bologna, and Siena with only Bologna being away from Naples. Palermo have been dealt a massive blow and will be without top scorer Fabrizio Miccoli. The only concerning factor with Napoli has been their defense at home. They rank in the bottom third for goals allowed and draws at home with 21 goals against and 6 draws. At this stage, a draw can prove decisive. Still, there is no reason for Napoli not to take 9 points from the remaining three fixtures, as they are simply a better team. Although they have been inconsistent throughout the season, with the Champions League, and the futures of star players, on the line Napoli should earn that third spot.

Udinese also have an easy schedule remaining with Cesena, Genoa, and Catania, but only Genoa is at home. Udinese may have won last week against Lazio but no one should put too much confidence in an Udinese side that needs to play 2 of the last 3 on the road. Udinese have a very poor record on the road, only managing 3 wins all season. The last, possibly most decisive game will be at a Catania, that have 11 wins all season, 9 of which have been at home. Even that Genoa game could be a challenge as they are currently fighting to stay in Serie A. On paper, it looks like Udinese will not be playing in the Champions League next season.

Lazio probably have the longest odds to earn the third spot. Their three remaining matches see Siena at home and a trip to Atalanta, before welcoming Inter on the last match day. Regardless of the late controversial goal against Udinese, they have now lost in consecutive matches, the first being against relegated Novara, their sixth win of the season. The trip to Atalanta is a tall task for any team, as the fans at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia have only seen defeat three times there this season. To make matters worse, starting keeper Federico Marchetti and defender Andre Dias are suspended for the remainder of the season for their reaction to the late goal from Udinese. Lazio are also without their top two strikers, Miroslav Klose and Hernanes. Klose has been injured for a number of weeks and Hernanes was ruled out for the rest of the season prior to the loss to Novara. With all these factors stacking against them, Lazio will be lucky to play any European football next year.

Inter may still have something to say about the third spot. After struggling for most of the season, Inter have somehow climbed their way back into relevancy and are enjoying the best form of any of the teams in contention. In their last 6 matches Inter have not lost. They have 4 wins and 2 draws, with a very impressive 3-1 win at Udinese. Unlike Napoli, Inter have a much more difficult schedule for the remainder of the season. They first travel to Parma, currently 9th with only 4 losses at home, before the massive Derby della Madonnina. Assuming Milan win their midweek matchup against Atalanta (which isn’t actually a safe assumption) Milan will need a derby win to even hope for a chance at the Scudetto, making it that much harder for Inter. The last game of the season at Lazio is an always-difficult match as Lazio rank as one of the best teams at home with 3 defeats and only 14 goals allowed. Even if Inter can win out they will need Napoli to falter.

The third and final Champions League spot should go to Napoli, as the statistics point in their favor. However football is not predictable, it is not scripted. These four teams have proven that through their inconsistency. One result could change everything but at this moment it looks like Napoli will have the chance to play in the Champions League.

Matthew Coccoluto

Originally from Boston now in LA. I work in production but football is my passion. I bleed black and white. Proud member of the Juventus Fan Club of Southern California. Forza Juve, Sempre Sara.

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