Susy Campanale’s Serie A Column: Motivation is everything

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We enter the penultimate round of a positively thrilling Serie A season that has kept us guessing to the very end for the Scudetto, European spots and relegation places. With so much uncertainty, it means going into the final 180 minutes there are only four teams with nothing left to play for. That inevitably creates even more uncertainty, because the races for various targets are intersecting like never before and could provide us with further surprise results.

The biggest risk here is Cagliari-Inter, where a sense of desperation permeates both sides and anything less than victory is disastrous. At the same time, Milan host old nemeses Atalanta, who are fighting back for a Europa League ticket, while Roma, Venezia, Napoli-Genoa and Sampdoria-Fiorentina also cross paths with plenty still up for grabs. In these situations and at this stage, motivation is going to be key.

Sardinian powder keg

It all ultimately boils down to the Unipol Domus Arena in Sardinia, where Cagliari and Inter both need victories. The hosts kept themselves alive with a last-gasp equaliser against Salernitana and remain in the bottom three, while the Nerazzurri have to keep the pressure on Milan, especially if the leaders slip up earlier on Sunday evening against Atalanta. Fatigue is an added element to contend with, as Inter played a dramatic 4-2 extra time Coppa Italia victory over Juventus in Rome on Wednesday night, although adrenaline and joy over lifting a trophy can help neutralise some of those effects.

Milan’s toughest test yet

It was always known that Milan had the most difficult run-in of the top teams and while they recovered from a goal down to win away to Verona, they still have Atalanta and Sassuolo to get past. La Dea have plenty to play for too, as they are in the thick of a very tight battle for places in the Europa League or Conference League, risking failing to qualify for UEFA tournaments altogether. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men might not quite be at their best lately, but they’re still unbeaten in four and fresh from a 3-1 victory away to Spezia.

Sarri’s revenge

Maurizio Sarri was criticised by Juventus fans for only winning the Scudetto, while successor Andrea Pirlo was also dismissed despite the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa, so imagine their smugness now seeing Max Allegri complete the first trophyless campaign since 2010-11. The Old Lady failed again on Wednesday evening, fumbling a 2-1 lead to fall 4-2 in extra time against Inter in the Coppa Italia Final. They have very little chance of catching Napoli in third place and the mood will be sombre on Giorgio Chiellini’s farewell, so Lazio are more than capable of causing another upset here as they try to consolidate fifth. The only worry for Sarri is Ciro Immobile’s fitness, but he’ll do everything to start in Turin.

Salernitana surge

The Davide Nicola miracle-worker effect is in full swing and it’ll be remarkable if they don’t get the victory against an Empoli side who have struggled badly in the second half of the season. The Tuscans have nothing more to play for and their style of play leaves them wide open to Salernitana’s counter-attacks and crosses for Milan Djuric.

Serie A Week 37 fixtures

Saturday May 14

Empoli vs. Salernitana

Udinese vs. Spezia

Verona vs. Torino

Roma vs. Venezia – full betting preview

Sunday May 15

Bologna vs. Sassuolo

Napoli vs. Genoa – full betting preview

Milan vs. Atalanta – full betting preview

Cagliari vs. Inter – full betting preview

Monday May 16

Sampdoria vs. Fiorentina

Juventus vs. Lazio – full betting preview

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