Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The Easter weekend fixtures only reinforced the realisation that the title race will go down to the wire this season.
It was as you were for Inter, AS Roma and AC Milan, with all three picking up maximum points but it is the chase for fourth place where the jitters are really setting in.
Inter’s continued progress in the Champions League should ensure that Serie A still has a fourth representative for another season when the competition gets underway with the preliminary round in August.
And four teams have a realistic chance of taking fourth spot – Palermo, Sampdoria, Napoli and believe or not Juventus while Fiorentina and Genoa are outside hopes.
However, it seems that none of the pretenders can actually grab the opportunity to open up a gap heading into the last six rounds.
Palermo looked odds-on favourites to pull away from the pack a couple of weeks ago but lost the Sicilian derby to Catania, in what was their worst performance since the Valentine’s Day massacre at Roma.
On Saturday evening, a desire to play from the back was punished by their eager hosts who took advantage of shoddy, dawdling on the ball to enable Maxi Lopez to nip in for two quick-fire goals.
Quick-draw McLopez celebrates v Palermo
However, Palermo’s remaining away games are more than winnable – at Cagliari, Siena and Atalanta - with the latter two probably already doomed to relegation when those encounters come around.
Delio Rossi’s side can draw encouragement from their excellent home form; they have not lost at the Barbera Stadium so far and have only failed to win there once since the turn of the year – drawing with Inter.
Pivotal to the final push will be Fabrizio Miccoli: the diminutive striker was quiet for once at the weekend but the Romario of Salento is undisputed king-pin of the side.
His seven goals in the last three weeks demonstrate he can be the little man for the big occasion. Up in Genoa another mercurial showman could also have a major say in the European outcome.
Indiscipline, erratic form and general sloth seemed to have put an end to Antonio Cassano’s season, but the errant striker has found himself back in demand thanks in part to injury to Nicola Pozzi.
The gamble has paid off with the Bari Bawler now the Bari Buddha - such has been his on-field calmness that he has now become the decisive factor in why Samp are equal with Palermo on 51 points.
Napoli have also had a brief flirtation with fourth but after drawing at Milan and downing Juventus, the Partenopei have been off-song in the last two games despite picking up a narrow win over Catania and a draw at Lazio.
Cassano didn't wash his hands after eating his Wotsits
Once again, however, there can be few real complaints in terms of the fixtures ahead, with the likes of Parma, Bari and Chievo coming up – and Walter Mazzarri’s hopes may come down to the final game at his old club Sampdoria.
By that time Juventus may not even be in the running for a Europa League spot and it would be too easily taking a cheap shot at the Old Lady but really she needs a complete makeover from top to bottom.
The humiliation at Udinese at the weekend was another public insult to their long-suffering followers just when they thought that the team could not find new depths in which to plummet.
Despite all the shortcomings, Juve are still just three points off the pace for fourth but then again the vacant looks that accompanied the performance at Udine the question has to be asked, is there any life left in the team?
Things are so bad that they are even unrecognisable from Ciro Ferrara’s tame time in charge – and not in a positive way either.
Alberto Zaccheroni cannot even inspire the substitutes to warm up anymore as he tinkers with formations and systems to make even the more ardent Claudio Ranieri detractor long for last season.
In the meantime, the club have taken a vow of silence until further notice which is fine because no one was making any sense anyway.
The run-in does not give much hope of a late revival: of the bottom nine teams Juve have only beaten Bologna and Atalanta in the second half of the season.
With that in mind, they will probably have to take something from trips to their two trips to the San Siro over the next month, which would be something worth talking about.
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