Ahead of the final day of the Serie A season, Dave Farrar takes a look at some of the key games left to be played and sums up what we now know as the campaign draws to a close...
"So that's it for a another Serie A season, and what have we learnt? We've learnt that Juventus are the best team in Italy by some distance, and that if anyone is to challenge them for the title next year then they'll need consistency above all else."
If you think that the normally dramatic final day of the season in England will be a little dull this year, then spare a thought for Serie A fans. We know that Juve will finish top and Napoli second, and that Palermo, Siena and Pescara will be relegated. All that there is to be decided is whether AC Milan or Fiorentina go into the Champions League qualifying round, and whether Lazio or Udinese grab up the final Europa League spot. Milan look certain to win at Siena and make sure of their Champions League qualification, and it's no surprise to see them trading at [1.2] for the victory.
Siena have been saying all of the right things about helping their Tuscan friends, but shocks like this happen very rarely in Serie A. I'll be amazed if they deny Milan, as I will be if Fiorentina fail at Pescara at the same price of [1.2]. I don't think that the Champions League "battle" offers us any betting opportunities.
Inter v Udinese
The same can't be said of the games with Europa League relevance though. Francesco Guidolin has done a fabulous job yet again to have Udinese on the brink of a 5th placed finish, and they seem set to complete the season with eight wins in a row and another shot at Europe on the horizon.
Udinese are [2.28] to win at Inter, and if you bear in mind that they must win to be sure of 5th (Lazio have the better of the head to read record with them) then I think that's a sporting final day price. The problem for Udinese backers is that Antonio Di Natale is doubtful, but the good news is that he's not definitively unavailable, and he seems likely to be on the bench and ready if needed.
With Inter injury hit and desperate once again, I think that Udinese's motivation makes them far and away the likeliest winners. We have the chance to back the form team in Serie A at odds against versus a demotivated giant. I think that we should jump in.
Back Udinese to beat Inter @ [2.3]
Roma v Napoli
One of the greatest shames of this final day is that this great fixture is reduced to also-ran status. The Derby of the South has provided some real thrills in recent years, but with Roma concentrating on next weekend's Cup Final and Napoli already sure of second place, there's bound to be an element of anticlimax at the Olimpico.
With Max Allegri getting closer and closer to the Roma job, this is likely to be Aurelio Andreazzoli's last Serie A game in charge, and he deserves enormous credit for steadying the ship and stopping Roma from sliding to a mid-table finish. His problem ahead of the weekend is the Cup Final. Francesco Totti is suspended, and a whole host of first teamers are likely to drop to the bench, with only Erik Lamela from the regular strike force reportedly starting this one.
That makes Napoli look like massive value at [2.94], with Walter Mazzarri and Edinson Cavani keen to finish with a flourish. There's a strong possibility that both manager and star player will leave the club in the summer, and they won't want to end with a defeat in Rome. In my opinion, Napoli should be favourites for this, and that makes them the value bet of the weekend.
Back Napoli to beat Roma @ [2.94]
Palermo v Parma
It will be a strange old atmosphere at the Renzo Barbera on Sunday, with Palermo's stay in Serie A coming to an end, and Fabrizio Miccoli possibly playing his last game for the Rosanero. Both Miccoli and Josip Ilicic are being linked with moves away from Sicily, and for all the emotion that's in the air, it will be hard for the home players to motivate themselves.
Parma have been poor away from home this season, and Roberto Donadoni must be relieved that his team's home form has been good enough to keep them away from the relegation zone. They lost a derby at home against Bologna last week, but won their previous away game in Cagliari, and I don't see any reason why they're as big as [3.4] to win in Palermo. Motivation is a question mark, of course, but Parma will be keen to secure a Top Ten finish, and they did win here against a better Palermo side last season. This is a match in which to keep stakes low, but the attractive price means it's a game to throw a small bet on.
Back Parma to beat Palermo @ [3.4]
So that's it for a another Serie A season, and what have we learnt? We've learnt that Juventus are the best team in Italy by some distance, and that if anyone is to challenge them for the title next year then they'll need consistency above all else. This is the season in which Napoli blew it: Juve gave them chances, but every time the door was open Napoli trapped their fingers in it. With Mazzarri and Cavani likely to be on their way, they may not have a better chance in years to win the title.
Fiorentina have been the revelation of the season, and missing out on the Champions League may be no bad thing. They are building the kind of squad that could challenge for the title next season. Milan paid the price for a desperately slow start, while Roma are maybe the team which under performed more than any other. If Max Allegri does take that job, then they too could lay down a challenge next season. Inter have suffered with injuries, but been largely inept, and Lazio kept their challenge going for a long time before fading.
Once again, Francesco Guidolin's Udinese have worked late season wonders. It's been fun, but Juve remain the team to beat. I just hope that next season someone can match them.