Four clubs still jockeying for position in Serie A
Udinese is one point away from qualifying for the Champions League and completing an impressive turnaround after losing its opening four matches in Serie A.
"We’re at the door to paradise, but we haven’t entered yet," said coach Francesco Guidolin. "We need a point against Milan and we’ve got to maintain our focus."
However, since AC Milan clinched its 18th Italian league title two weeks ago, Udinese is widely expected to get the point it needs to wrap up fourth place and entry into the final round of Champions League qualifying.
"If everything goes like we hope I’ll dance at the Friuli (stadium) like Boateng did at the San Siro," Guidolin said. "I’ll have my South American players teach me the moves – they’re experts."
Milan midfielder Kevin-Price Boateng performed an impressive Michael Jackson imitation during his squad’s title celebration last weekend.
Udinese is one of four clubs still jockeying for key positions in the final Serie A round Sunday. Besides fourth place, two Europa League entries – fifth and sixth place – are also yet to be determined.
Udinese enters fourth with 65 points, followed by Lazio with 63, Roma with 60 and Juventus with 57.
Lazio visits Lecce, which staved off relegation last weekend; Roma hosts Sampdoria, which was already relegated; and Juventus hosts Napoli, which has already clinched third place and direct access to the Champions League for the first time since Diego Maradona led the club into the elite competition 21 years ago.
The four matches that will determine the positions will be played simultaneously at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, while the other six matches will start at 6 p.m.
The other matches are: Bologna vs. Bari; Brescia vs. Fiorentina; Cagliari vs. Parma; Genoa vs. Cesena; Inter Milan vs. Catania; and Palermo vs. Chievo Verona.
Inter is assured of finishing second, while Brescia and Bari have also been mathematically relegated. Also, Palermo clinched a spot in the Europa League by reaching the Italian Cup final against Inter, since Inter will enter the Champions League.
Udinese holds the tiebreaker over Lazio due to goal difference.
"Our season was extraordinary but fourth place would be a miracle," Lazio coach Edy Reja said. "I don’t think Milan is going to play the match of their lives in Udine – they’ve already been celebrating for two weeks."
Juventus holds the tiebreaker over Roma due to a better head-to-head record this season. But Roma needs just one point to take the final Europa League spot.
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli was fuming after a 1-0 loss to Parma last weekend.
"It’s very disappointing, because at the end of the season it has emerged that a series of new players haven’t understood what Juventus is and the players that we had have forgotten," Agnelli said.
Juventus has reportedly already reached an agreement for Antonio Conte to replace Luigi Del Neri as manager, and midfielder Andrea Pirlo is expected to transfer from Milan. Many more moves are also expected for the 27-time champions.
Milan’s management has also been active this week, extending the contract of center back Thiago Silva through to 2016; while deals with defender Alessandro Nesta, midfielder Mark van Bommel, striker Filippo Inzaghi and third-choice goalkeeper Flavio Roma were extended through to next season.