Padraig Whelan Date: 3rd May 2019 at 6:00pm
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We didn’t get a Scudetto race this season in Serie A and the battle to avoid the drop hasn’t been particularly exciting either.

But at least there is the enthralling battle for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

With four games remaining, Atalanta, Roma, Torino, AC Milan and Lazio are all in with a chance of joining Juventus, Napoli and Inter in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

But who is going to come out on top in the battle for fourth?

Atalanta

Remaining fixtures: Lazio (A), Genoa (H), Juventus (A), Sassuolo (H)

The fairytale that is Gian Piero Gasperini’s time in Bergamo is continuing and if he can carry this side into the Champions League, it will be one of the greatest achievements in recent memory in Italian football.

As things stand, they are in pole position and their destiny is in their own hands, with the Orobici aware that picking up 12 points from 12 will be enough to send them into the Champions League for the first time ever.

However, their run-in is fraught with danger. First up they have a clash with Lazio which pits two teams in direct competition for fourth against each other, much to the delight of the other three.

Something has got to give in that one and that isn’t the last time those two teams meet before the end of the campaign as sandwiched right in the middle of their last four games, Atalanta and the Aquile do battle in the Coppa Italia.

Unfortunately for both teams, that game will almost be a distraction in their assault on the top four but it is also a game that for the respective fanbases, means as much as any Serie A finish. After all, there’s no silverware handed out for finishing fourth.

‘Home’ games against Genoa and Sassuolo are ones in which you would normally expect them to pick up maximum points but the fact that those game take place in Reggio Emilia and not their traditional Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia home due to work in the stadium does negate their advantage somewhat.

As good as this team are, you also factor in the fact that they have to travel to face champions Juventus and although they haven’t lost against them this season, that likely means the Bianconeri will certainly be out for revenge, particularly for their Coppa Italia elimination.

They may be the choice for the neutral given the incredible story that it is, but Atalanta’s road to fourth place is filled with potholes and sharp turns. If they can overcome it all, nobody will ever have deserved it more.

Roma

Remaining fixtures: Genoa (A), Juventus (H), Sassuolo (A), Parma (H)

Perched just one point off their old rivals Atalanta’s shoulder, it will be particularly sweet for the Giallorossi if is they who pip La Dea to fourth.

Given that they also travel to Sassuolo in the run-in, the Mapei Stadium could be the venue which plays the biggest role in deciding the outcome of the race for the last Champions League place.

That is a winnable fixture. As is their trip to Genoa, whose form this season has been disappointing. A home game to round the season off against Parma should mean that the Lupi pick up a minimum of nine more points.

After all, if you can’t put these teams to bed then do you really deserve to represent Serie A on the continent? However, that being said, it should not be forgotten that Roma have done the best job of doing just that of late with their run to the semi-final last season.

A home fixture against Juventus, who face three of the top four chasers in the final four games, is difficult but given that it is a team who have wrapped up the championship and may already be on the beach, you can’t count Roma out of that one.

Given how their fixtures stack up compared to the rest, it seems quite likely that the four teams who fly the flag for Italy next season are the same four who did so during the current campaign.

Torino

Remaining fixtures: Juventus (A), Sassuolo (H), Empoli (A), Lazio (H)

What a 2019 Torino have had and their incredible defensive resilience has resulted in them mounting a serious challenge for a top four finish.

This is also a team with momentum on their side and who are riding the crest of a wave. They face Juventus next and since their narrow defeat against them before Christmas, they have only lost two games since.

That has brought them to the brink of a return to European competition, having been an impressive Europa League performer under Gian Piero Ventura recently.

It may be the Europa League that the Granata have to settle for though as they may just have given themselves a little too much to do and with a three-point gap needing to be bridged, they could do without travelling across the city, where their record is horrendous.

Toro haven’t won at the home of their city rivals since 1995 (although have been extremely unlucky on several occasions) and given their position as chasers, you feel that they may need a minimum of 10 points from 12 to keep the dream alive.

That said, this Torino is made of stern stuff and you wouldn’t put it past them to grit this one through to the end as they seem to have a mental fortitude that teams of the past have lacked.

However, anyone familiar with this club’s history is aware of the tales of heartbreak and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Don’t be surprised if they win against Juventus and Sassuolo before losing at Empoli!

Milan

Remaining fixtures: Bologna (H), Fiorentina (A), Frosinone (H), SPAL (A)

Milan’s final four fixtures are the stuff you could only dream of when chasing enough points to propel you back into the Champions League.

They are the only team who don’t face any other side in the top half of the table, with two of the teams in the drop zone and one of them already relegated.

That’s the good news. The bad news? You wouldn’t back the Diavolo to pick up another point with the way they are playing.

Their fixtures may appear winnable on paper but this is a team who have forgotten how to win football games so you can have no confidence in them suddenly getting things together and finishing on a high.

This is a team who appeared to be in a good position to the Champions League for much of the campaign and their failure to do so is going to lead to some big repercussions this summer.

It is staggering how much their form has fallen off a cliff since beating Chievo in early March to stretch their winning run to five in a row and since then, they have won just once when they edged out Lazio at home.

They have lost four games in that time and dropped points in criminal fashion in draws against Udinese and Parma. This is a team whose confidence is shot and their wait for the Champions League will go on.

Lazio

Remaining fixtures: Atalanta (H), Cagliari (A), Bologna (H), Torino (A)

Another team who may be in the race but who aren’t going to make it. Milan’s one win in their last eight games came against Lazio and was a massive blow to the Biancocelesti’s top four aspirations.

Not only do Lazio have points to make up (they are four off Atalanta with four games to go) but their run-in is also arguably the most difficult.

They face two fellow top four hopefuls in Atalanta and Torino and nothing less than six points there would suffice, while a trip to Sardinia poses its own problems.

Add in the fact that they have a Coppa Italia final against the Bergamo outfit to prepare for and it just looks like there is too much work for Lazio to do and not enough time to do it.

However, they do have an opportunity to ease the potential blow of missing out by lifting the Coppa Italia trophy on home turf.