Champions League Qualification: Lazio haunted by history of choking

Hernanes celebrated wounding former club Lazio's Champions League qualification prospects
Hernanes celebrated wounding former club Lazio's Champions League qualification prospects

The Bundesliga's Champions League participants have been confirmed and the Premier League's are pretty clear, but mystery lingers in Italy, Spain and France...

"Lazio have thrown away Champions League qualifying places in three of the past four campaigns. In 2010/11, three defeats in their final five games saw Udinese overtake them on head-to-head away goals; in 2011/12, six losses in 12 turned third into fourth and in 2012/13, a run of eight reverses in 12 saw them sink from third to seventh."

Serie A

Top three qualify
2 - Roma 64
3 - Lazio 63
4 - Napoli 60

Lazio have thrown away Champions League qualifying places in three of the past four campaigns. In 2010/11, three defeats in their final five games saw Udinese overtake them on head-to-head away goals; in 2011/12, six losses in 12 turned third into fourth and in 2012/13, a run of eight reverses in 12 saw them sink from third to seventh.

It seemed fitting then that a veteran of those collapses instigated the latest bout of self-doubt. Former idol Hernanes scored both goals as Inter recovered from 1-0 down to win at the Stadio Olimpico and marked the first with "the saddest backflip of my career", celebrating to stick it to Lazio president Claudio Lotito, who had mocked the midfielder following his slow start in Milan.

At first glance, the Biancocelesti's position remains positive: they are three points clear of Napoli with three to play and Rafael Benitez's men have won just four in 11 in Serie A. However, Lazio have a hideous run-in - sixth-placed Sampdoria (A), second-placed Roma (H) and fourth-placed Napoli (A) - and the Azzurri won in Rome so are likely to hold head-to-head supremacy if they tie on points.


La Liga

Top four qualify
4 - Valencia 73
5 - Sevilla 70

Fate continues to throw Valencia and Sevilla together, but for once it looks like Valencia will finish on top. Their unwise decision to let Unai Emery go in 2012 led to him taking charge of Sevilla in January 2013. He beat them on the final day of 2012/13 to cost them a Champions League spot then sunk them in the 94th minute of their 2013/14 Europa League semi-final second leg.

The cards are surely weighted too firmly in Los Che's favour for the Rojiblancos to crush them again though: they have a three-point lead and a head-to-head advantage with two matches to play, meaning that one more victory - either at home to Celta Vigo or away to Almeria - will suffice.

Yet Sevilla are on course to have the last laugh regardless: if the holders vindicate their 1.865/6 Europa League winner odds, they will saunter straight through to the group stage while Valencia stress themselves with a play-off.


Ligue 1

Top three qualify
3 - Monaco 65
4 - Marseille 63
5 - St-Etienne 63

Ligue 1 didn't muster the gripping title-race finale that it initially promised, but the competition for the last Champions League berth appears destined to compensate.

Monaco had been the form team, going 11 league games unbeaten, but couldn't have picked a worse club to surrender that record to than pursuers Marseille, as they did with a 2-1 loss at the Stade Velodrome. As Ligue 1 uses goal difference as a tiebreaker, Leonardo Jardim's side need two triumphs to guarantee third, though relegated Metz and Lorient (14th) aren't the trickiest opponent.

Following a brutal league start to 2015 (P15 W4 D4 L7), Marseille have recovered with successive wins. Two more are probably required to stand a chance of usurping Monaco and that won't be easy with Lille (eighth) and Bastia (tenth) left to face. St-Etienne are in the same position with a weaker goal difference but slightly friendlier fixtures: Evian (18th) and Guingamp (11th).

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