Tuesday May 21 2019
Game of Champions League thrones

As the season finale approaches, Football Italia’s Chief Correspondent Richard Hall considers who from Atalanta, Inter, Milan and Roma deserves Champions League football.

The history of Italy has often been linked to Northern powers and the Papal States. Often in the tussle lies a smaller yet politically-relevant state. While we're not at a time when Sforza’s Borgias vie for power, the struggle for being one of the biggest names in Europe continues. This week in Serie A, the apparent protagonists for Europe’s elite club competition have done their duty, disappointed, imploded and - in one case - fought above their station. Now, as the final week approach, the true character of each will be tested.

Unlike the era of Sforza, Milan now has two openly-warring factions. The Nerazzurri have long been thought to be the third-best team in Italy, but in 2019 this hasn’t seemed the case. The Icardi debacle, a continuous inability to find goals and a general lack of creativity are just some of the issues. The continual failure to dictate the pace of games has voided so much of their good work, too.

The 4-1 capitulation to Napoli in Week 37 was a performance that asked questions of the team’s mentality and, in turn, Luciano Spalletti. With all the Italian papers exercising their right to promote Antonio Conte as his heir apparent, the pressure is on. Add to this the fact that their next opponents Empoli thrashed European hopefuls Torino 4-1, therefore moving closer to safety, and the plot certainly thickens. This could be the game that everyone tunes into on the final day.

Milan, meanwhile, seem to be trying to make Inter look normal this season. Gennaro Gattuso is also a man under the cosh as they (as a business model) rely heavily on Champions League qualification. The former Italy midfielder built up credit but is now duly losing it and it’s unlikely he will remain at the helm next term.

Their 2-0 win against Frosinone was expected, albeit a struggle, yet it still leaves them a point behind Inter and Atalanta. The Rossoneri face SPAL away on the last day and are perhaps favourites to get into Europe’s biggest competition. The drawback for Milan fans, however, would be that Gattuso keeps his job.

If Inter are crazy and Milan are simply negligent then Roma self-harm. In sixth place and three points off fourth, they are relying on head-to-head and will have to beat Parma at home by four clear goals and hope for the best. Parma, in truth, have been average at best recently, but how can the Giallorossi talk? Last time out they managed a tepid draw with Sassuolo and, in reality, finished any chances they had of a Champions League finish. With Claudio Ranieri on his way out and club captain Daniele De Rossi being ousted, the mob are ready to vent their fury.

Atalanta were perhaps most people’s favourites to qualify for the Champions League as they play good football, have a passionate fan base, are a surprise packagge and have been genuinely impressive.

Many thought they would've folded after their Coppa Italia defeat to Lazio, yet they managed a vital point against champions Juventus in the last round. The team from Bergamo have been the talk of the season and will have their fate in their own hands when they take on Sassuolo.

History teaches us that trends and patterns always emerge. Going into the final day, the Romans are making a heroic last dash and the Dea could yet write themselves a fairy-tale. Don’t discredit the Milanese, however. Even though Inter and Milan have both had uninspiring campaigns, they may end up representing Italy on the biggest of stages.

Ask yourself this. Even though this isn’t romantic, isn’t it better for Italian football if they do? Wouldn’t this offer Serie A more longevity in Europe?

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Have your say...
If you read the articles properly, it seems that the dismantling of Atalanta will only occur IF they don't qualify for the Champions League, as it seems with the Castagne and Ilicic deals.

I am a bit sick and tired of hearing the fans of 'elite' teams moaning because they have been outdone by a 'lesser'. If you were good enough you should have won the right yourselves and not have to complain and whine after the fact.

If Atalanta qualify, they have earned it, I go for the same for anyone!
on the 22nd May, 2019 at 12:39pm
I cannot understand why Italy has 4 spots in CL, while i.e. Netherlands (Ajax) have to play their long route to qualify to group stages.
on the 22nd May, 2019 at 8:45am
Table before last run:

1 Juventus 37 28 6 3 70 / 28 90
2 Napoli 37 24 7 6 72 / 33 79
3 Atalanta 37 19 9 9 74 / 45 66
4 Inter 37 19 9 9 55 / 32 66
5 Milan 37 18 11 8 52 / 34 65
6 Roma 37 17 12 8 64 / 47 63
7 Torino 37 15 15 7 49 / 36 60
on the 22nd May, 2019 at 8:41am
While I am not a fan of Gattuso's style of play, he has made Milan a difficult side to beat. The only team to beat us by more than 1 goal was Torino and we've only lost 7 games all season. The biggest issue has been dropped points against Cagliari, Empoli, Frosinone and Parma. Had we won any of those games we'd be in the Champions League. Had Higuain scored his penalty against Juve. Had Lazio not scored a last minute goal. We are inches away.
on the 22nd May, 2019 at 2:36am
@ Those people having a dig at Atalanta - so what if they get to the Champions League and fail? Inter and Napoli got to the Champions League and failed. If they finish in the top 4 they deserve it.

@ St Ambrose I am not sceptical that Milan are ready for the Champions League for the simple reason that no team has managed to convincingly beat Milan this season including Juventus. If Milan fail to qualify for the Champions League it'll be because we failed to beat Frosinone away from home...
on the 22nd May, 2019 at 2:32am
And after I wrote my first post, I noticed the article about Castagne and Ilicic going to Napoli. So the dismantling of the Atalanta squad has already begun...
on the 21st May, 2019 at 7:39pm
This blog title could be revised to "who deserves to be humiliated 7-1 in the Champions League next season?".

Giving Serie A a fourth spot was a mistake. Their teams can't even qualify for knockout stages of the Europa League.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 7:29pm
Atalanta deserve it. However, it's concerning that there are rumors that Gasp has agreed to join Roma, and that some players will transfer out. I think the comparisons to Samp, Lazio and Udinese are fair. Milan and Inter would be better able to retain their players, or even improve their squads if they qualify. Roma is in complete disorder from top to bottom, and can't hold onto key players anyway. Nevertheless, a season is 38 games and I suppose that in the end the best two teams will qualify.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 7:21pm
Anything without your two hands. Both are equally important so does inter and milan to italian football. Keep that in mind when talking bad about inter; we are the ONE gave you hope by winning treble where people believed its no longer possible for italian club to do so well. We beaten the best barcelona side of decades among the path to clinch the ultimate glory. Yes its matters, WE WERE THE FIRST TO DO IT BIGTIME.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 5:14pm
Spot this year only for some weakness still exist in milan clubs. Next year its obvoius both clib will do far better than this year. Look untill 2010 its all inter milan then its all ac milan where juventas crawling to finding its feat then came the juve era. But do you really think it will run 100 years?!. Milan clubs in their best forms never disappointed in cl unlike napoli and roma. And mark one word without us inter and milan italian football wellfare is never be possible. Your cant do anyt
on the 21st May, 2019 at 5:04pm
Dont know what to expect next esp topic on inter article. This one is mix of humongous and sweat coated. Funny that haters cant feeling great about atlanta going in cl. Again you have to lookout for loophole about excluding the two milanese club out of equation. In one side inter being called snake where actually we are become bitten black and blue by venom filled haters and other side milan being pushed away in no where by calling them history itself. Funny that both club about to clinch cl spo
on the 21st May, 2019 at 4:52pm
Terribly written article, flows poorly and several grammatical errors.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 3:41pm
I am heavily sceptical that Milan are ready for Champions League football next term. A year out with relatively little change on the transfer market would surely benefit the team. Whether or not they are better off without Gattuso leading them for that is a difficult question.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 1:35pm
The problem with Atalanta is that they will sell all the best players, probably Gasperini will leave and people will laugh at Serie A for having a shitty team in CL. Like people laughed when likes of samp and lazio failed there.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 1:12pm
Given the football they've played and their much smaller budget, Atalanta certainly deserve the CL spot more than the two Milan's or Roma

But if they don't even have the capacity to hold onto their manager and their best players for next season when they would be receiving tens of millions from the CL and theoretically shouldn't have to sell, then it's better if they fail now.
on the 21st May, 2019 at 12:58pm

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