The Champions League gets back in full swing this week with an amazing line-up of games, highlighting exactly why qualification for the tournament is so coveted. This season’s Serie A race for fourth spot is as close as it has ever been, with Roma and surprise package Genoa hot on the heels of Fiorentina. Football Italiano’s finest writers tackle yet another Calcio question, answering who will be qualifying for next season’s Champions League?
Dan Cooper: This is a tough one. Anyone in the top half could potentially challenge for the coveted fourth place spot, although I feel it will be a three horse race between Fiorentina, Genoa and Roma.
La Viola, despite their position, have looked vulnerable in recent weeks and have Adrian Mutu to thank for salvaging crucial points against both Genoa and Chievo. The UEFA Cup may prove a distraction and despite Mutu’s heroics, I think they may just miss out this term. Genoa has surprised many in Serie A this season and have proved they are more than capable of holding their own against the big boys. The Rossoblu will have been bitterly disappointed with losing a crucial three-goal lead at home to Fiorentina last week. However, and despite their torrid start to the campaign, I’m going with Roma to snatch the final Champions League spot. The surprise defeat at Atalanta last week was the first time i Lupi had lost this year. With the perfect blend of experience and youthful talent at his disposal, Luciano Spalletti can again bring Champions League football to the club.
Tim Doel: Genoa has been the surprise package of the season so far. A lot of this has depended on Diego Milito, the main new signing this year who has gone on to outscore the likes of Di Natale, Ibrahimovic and Pato.
However, they do not have the squad nor the experience to qualify for the Champions League. Fiorentina, after a sticky start, has been clawing out results without even playing their best football. There are the foundations of a great team there, and the next years will see the continued improvement of hot prospects like Kuzmanovic, Jovetic, and Montolivo. They are my tip for 4th place next year. This year, experience, quality, and even the form of Spalletti’s Roma, will in my opinion be enough to allow the Giallorossi to take that last Champions League spot, something that looked impossible earlier in the season, but is now only two points away.
Ross Howard: Roma should have the experience and quality to secure fourth spot. Totti is still missed when not there, but they do not rely on his goal tally as they have previously.
Since recovering from a miserable start, players like Baptista, Vucinic and when given the chance, Menez have really torn some teams apart this year. That new attacking assembly, in addition to the wealth of midfield talent they always possessed, should see them through. Fiorentina, despite their good fortune of late, do not convince me as a team mentally strong enough to avoid dropping points at the season’s pressurised end – and while I hope Genoa make it, they have yet to hit a slump and I suspect nature to take its course there. Ultimately, I just think the Giallorossi will win more games than any of their closest rivals from now until the end of May.
Mark Jones: If we assume that the current top three will stay there (a dangerous policy but probably the right one) then we are left looking at Fiorentina, Genoa and Roma, and even the three below them, Atalanta, Palermo and Napoli.
Of the Champions League chasers, Roma have the experience and quality to reach the top four. Depending on how their meeting with Arsenal in this season’s competition goes, Roma will be focused and determined to reach Europe’s top table again. With seasoned Champions League performers like Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic, Julio Baptista, John Arne Riise and Philippe Mexes on board, Roma has the quality to finish in the top four again.
Chris Sloley: Fiorentina to edge it over a rising Roma, growing Genoa and a nervous Napoli.
The chase for the fourth spot is one of the few things in Serie A that could go right down to the wire and has offered continued excitement throughout the season. Despite Spalletti’s men having an amazing late surge up the table, Roma dragged their heels too much at the get-go, while Genoa have been punching above their weight for the entire season and become over-reliant on Argentine hitman Diego Milito. Unfortunately, Napoli have slipped away after an initial drive to crack the top four. Claudio Prandelli has done well at Fiorentina to give the outward impression that last season wasn’t an anomaly as Milan struggled to find their post-calciopoli feet. This season both Gilardino and Mutu have found their shooting boots and given la Viola every chance of getting back into the Champions League mix next season.
Paolo Cabrelli: I cannot see Fiorentina stringing together enough consistent results to pull clear of Roma.
La Viola’s young team hasn’t quite come together in the way that Prandelli had hoped. Roma, on the other hand, despite the odd blip, seem to come good at this stage of the season. Totti should now get a run of injury-free games, which almost guarantees goals. In the end, they’ll qualify with room to spare.
Rich Oldale: After a disappointing start, Roma put together a spectacular run which has put them back in contention for a Champions League spot.
Another three points at the weekend against Siena briefly lifted them into fourth place, although they had to concede their position in the table with both Fiorentina and Genoa picking up wins. Of the three sides battling for fourth place, i Lupi have the strongest squad and in the Last 16 of this seasons competition have the taste and experience to qualifying for the Champions League. In fact, the capital side are in such fine fettle, they may even make up the five point deficit and pip Milan to third. The Rossoneri have a formidable home record with ten wins, but look vulnerable at the back, particularly in the air. Couple this with their injury concerns and we may just see the star-studded outfit falling from the skies.
Puds: I think that La Viola’s revival since their demise in 2002 is fantastic story to tell, the stuff of fairytale.
Most people would say the Top Three is as already settled and that its just a matter of who wins the title, but don’t count Fiorentina out of grabbing third spot ahead of Milan. They can boast one of the best strike partnerships in Serie A, capable of scoring 40+ goals this season. To overhaul Milan they will need a couple of results to go their way but more importantly they must learn to grind out important results. Genoa is showing just how strong a side they are but experience will be key and they are in unfamiliar territory and will settle for a UEFA Cup spot which is something they should be very proud off. Roma should pip them to fifth and possibly go one better since they have put their dreadful start behind them. The safe money will back Champions League action to return to the Stadio Artemio Franchi, but good value can be found backing the Giallorossi.