Europa League Race: Contenders, Pretenders and Dark-Horses

As the season draws to a close, the race for European places intensifies. If the season were to end today, Juventus, Inter, Lazio, and Atalanta would represent Italy in the Champions League while Roma and Napoli would have to content themselves with Europa League football.

Currently, the table could not be tighter as just four points separate sixth-place from eleventh. Let’s now take a look at the main contenders, pretenders and dark-horses for the Europa League.

Contenders: 

Roma and Atalanta: As it stands right now, one of Atalanta and Roma are pretty much guaranteed to occupy one of Italy’s two Europa League spots. Gasperini’s men are six-points ahead of the giallorossi in the fourth and final Champions League place and will be eager to maintain their advantage to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Given Roma’s recent form, they may slide further down the table, but it’s difficult to see them finish outside the top six. As a result, expect Roma to make the Europa league leaving one last spot for the rest of the pack.

Napoli and Milan: After rough starts to the season, Napoli and Milan sacked their managers and almost immediately witnessed an upturn in their fortunes. Napoli have now won four of their last five and seem primed for a strong finish while Milan are finally playing with an identity. With Roma almost surely occupying the first Europa League spot, Napoli and Milan will likely duke it out for the remaining place. Napoli, however, will need to be better against sides under them as they have demonstrated complacency in those clashes. Milan, on the other hand, have taken care of Italy’s provinciali, but struggle against Italy’s elite.

Pretenders: 

Parma and Cagliari: Both sides got off to the season in fine form, but have recently struggled for results. Rolando Maran’s Cagliari haven’t won any of their last five clashes while Parma have proven to be far too inconsistent. In addition to their goal-scoring woes, Parma lack creative depth across the midfield, which will come back to haunt them in their hunt for European football. Cagliari, by contrast, benefitted by some incredible finishing earlier in the year; exploits that cannot be sustained throughout a full season. Expect both sides to slide further down the table as the season wears on.

Dark-Horses: 

Bologna-Hellas Verona: These two are here for vastly different reasons. On one hand, Hellas Verona have one of the league’s best defences propelling them into the race for European football while Bologna have scored freely all season and have shown no signs of slowing down. While Mihajlovic’s men have struggled in their last two games, they possess more quality in the final third than their counterparts and could go toe-to-toe with anyone in Italy. The same applies to Verona, who recently overcame Juventus in a game where they largely dominated. Milan and Napoli may be favourites for the last European spot, but Verona and Bologna will make it interesting over the next 12 match-days.

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Juventus-Hellas Verona: Team news, stats, and prediction

After a tough defeat against Napoli, Juventus bounced back with a commanding win against Fiorentina and reinstated their three-point lead atop the table over fierce rivals Inter. Hellas Verona, by contrast, are unbeaten in their last seven and most recently recorded a clean sheet against Simone Inzaghi’s high-flying Lazio.

While the bianconeri are going into Verona as favourites, the hosts have proven tough to break down and can go toe-to-toe with any side. In their first game against each other, Juventus came out narrow winners, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo spot-kick. With the return game taking place in Verona, expect it to be a tight affair.

Since making the leap to Serie A, Ivan Juric has implemented an extremely solid 3-4-1-2 formation and has relied on his water-tight defence to get results. Kumbulla, Gunter and Rrahmani have formed an incredible partnership at the back and have led Verona to an unlikely push for European football.

In fact, only Italy’s top three have conceded less goals than Verona this season. Goalkeeper Marco Silvestri deserves his fair share of credit as well, and has been one of the league’s better shot-stoppers this season. With Juventus coming into town, Juric’s resolute defence will have every chance to prove themselves.

TEAM NEWS

Sarri will have to do without Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral at the back while Federico Bernardeschi is a doubt going into Saturday’s affair. Brazilian international Danilo is also expected to miss the clash against Verona.

According to recent reports, Sarri will deploy Douglas Costa alongside Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the only certainty in attack is their Portuguese superstar as Higuain and Ramsey could also get the nod, as per Gazzetta dello Sport.

Otherwise, Sarri appears to be sticking with the midfield trio of Rabiot, Pjanic and Bentancur, with Matuidi making way for his fellow compatriot.

As for Verona, their classic back three of Gunter, Rrahmani and Kumbulla will get the nod. In the midfield, Juric is not looking to shake things up and will likely field Veloso, Lazovic and Amrabat. In attack, it’s currently a toss-up between Zaccagni and Borini while the former is currently rumoured to start.

Probable XI’s

Juventus: 4-3-3 Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Sandro; Bentancur, Pjanic, Rabiot; Costa, Dybala, Ronaldo.

3-4-2-1 Silvestri; Rrahmani, Gunter, Kumbulla; Faraoni, Veloso, Amrabat, Lazovic; Pessina, Zaccagni; Verre.

STATS 

- In their last six clashes against each other, Juventus have emerged victorious four times while Verona won once.

- There have been over 2.5 goals in Juve’s last ten Serie A games.

- Ronaldo has fourteen goals in his last nine Serie A games.

- Verona’s leading goalscorer has three goals on the season. Defence.

PREDICTION

While Verona have been resolute at the back all season, they’re coming off a tiring game away from home against Lazio and now have to host an in-form Ronaldo. Considering this, I expect Juventus to extend their lead at the top with a narrow win over Verona. It may not be pretty, but the bianconeri will get it done.

Juventus-Verona: 1-0.

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vecino

The final round was a fitting end to a very entertaining season.

Standings implications. Inter won the battle of Olimpico and qualified to Champions League over Lazio thanks to the head-to-head record. Milan battered Fiorentina and held onto the sixth-spot, so Atalanta will have to go through the lengthy Europa League playoffs this summer. Crotone are the third relegated team after Benevento and Hellas Verona: SPAL, Cagliari, Chievo and Udinese all ended up winning, so they would not have avoided the drop even if they had prevailed against Napoli.  Continue reading

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The two most balanced match-ups of the round 19 of Serie A, Fiorentina-Milan and Inter-Lazio, felt a little flat in terms of spectacularity, so the nod here goes to the highest scoring game of the week: Hellas Verona-Juventus.

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There are few intriguing fixtures in the upcoming Serie A round, here are the suggested players to pick.

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Hellas Verona FC v AC Milan - Serie A

Some shocking results in the last Serie A round: let’s take a look at the best performances by the single players.

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