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Home   /   Serie A title race and survival battle: it’s already a historic season

Title race

It had been 10 years, precisely on May 6, 2012, the last time that the league title went down to the penultimate game of the season, with teams separated by less than three points. (The case that if runners-up match the leader’s result, the title goes to the last game).

Milan and Inter, the city rivals, are separated by just two points, with Stefano Pioli’s team holding the head-to-head advantage that would secure a title should both teams finish levelled. 

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The Rossoneri are in the middle of a tour de force, which would have seen them playing Lazio, Fiorentina, Hellas Verona, Atalanta, and Sassuolo in the last five matches. So far, they have been perfect, winning the first three. 

Inter lost a massive chance by losing the game in hand against Bologna, which would have seen them entering the last four matches in first place. Excluding the Matchday 20 blunder in between, they have won every game since Matchday 31. 

The next step will see Milan hosting Atalanta at 5 pm on Sunday, 15, May. Inter will take on Cagliari at 7.45, meaning a win for the Rossoneri could mean the title, should the Nerazzurri not claim all three points in Sardinia. 

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It’s already a historic season, and one to enjoy fully, until the end, whatever way it goes. Italian football desperately needed a title battle to go down to the wire, after witnessing Juventus win nine Scudettos in a row and Inter taking over with proper domination the year after. 

With some isolated exceptions, Juventus were undisputed in the period and, even when they had rivals during the season, nobody was able to extend the title race until Matchday 38. 

It feels special, as to find such a fierce inter-city battle between the Milan teams in the league, we need to go back 29 years. It was May 30, 1993, and Milan would win the league thanks to Inter’s defeat at Parma in the penultimate game of the season.

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Serie A’s closest margins since the expansion to 20 teams in 2004

SeasonLeader on M.36Second on M.36Gap on M.36WinnerRunner-upFinal gap
2011/12Juventus, 78Milan, 771Juventus, 84Milan, 804
2009/10Inter, 76Roma, 742Inter, 82Roma, 802
2021/22Milan, 80Inter, 782???
2007/08Inter, 81Roma, 784Inter, 85Roma, 823
2016/17Juventus, 85Roma, 814Juventus, 91Roma, 874
2017/18Juventus, 91Napoli, 856Juventus, 95Napoli, 914
2019/20Juventus, 83Inter, 767Juventus, 83Inter, 821

The numbers 

0. The number of times the Milan teams finished in the top two in back-to-back seasons.

Whilst the size of the two clubs might fool you, Inter and Milan never managed to finish in the top two positions in consecutive years. They shared the podium 27 times, but only seven times the top two steps. 

2. The points separating the two teams.

It’s the second smallest margin at this point of the season since 2004 between teams in first and second place. 

2. The number of times the title went to the last game of the season since 2004.

Curiously, both between Inter and Roma. This could happen provided Inter remain within two points of their rivals. 

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4. The number of times the two Milan teams were in contention for the title, together, at this stage of the season (1937-38, 1950-51, 1961-62, 1992-93). Milan were the winners the last three times. 

11. The years gone by since Milan last won the Serie A.

It was in 2010/11, with a six points margin over Inter. The Rossoneri have never been closer than this year, since. 

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31. The goals conceded by the two Milan sides.

They share the best defence, with Inter having the best attack. Only three times has a team not won the league whilst having both the best attack and defence. 

2016/2017. The only season, in the last eight years, that Milan finished in front of city rivals Inter.

Returning to doing so, by winning the title, could be huge for the supremacy within the city.

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Relegation battle

Whilst the battle for the title is catching all the headlines, the battle for survival is a major talking point. Six sides still have the chance to be relegated and none of them are already. 

A rare feat for the Italian league, which in recent years has seen teams finishing with less than 30 points, something that happened in every season since 2009-10. 

At this point of the season, only three times (2004-05, 2007-08, 2008-09) no team had yet been relegated. 2005 was crazy, with just four points separating eighth place and 19th place. 

One reason could be that the tally for survival is almost lower than ever, with 17th placed Salernitana on 30 points. 34 was the lowest a team registered after staying up since the big Calciopoli scandal, as the league has seen teams relegated after closing, or surpassing 40 points. 

Venezia’s last-minute winner against Bologna gave them a minimal chance, as Cagliari’s equaliser against Salernitana at minute 99 meant the Lagunari were still within five points of their rivals. 

Sampdoria33
Spezia33
Salernitana30
Cagliari29
Genoa28
Venezia25

Venezia, 25 

After 10 consecutive defeats, only a last-minute winner by Dennis Johnsen in an epic 4-3 against Bologna ensured Venezia had a minimal chance of survival. 

The upcoming game against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico is therefore a must-win, before the last game showdown with Cagliari which could be more useful to the Sardinians than to them.

Venezia must also hope that Salernitana lose all their remaining games and that Cagliari and Genoa score less than three points each. It’s almost a one in a million chance for the Lagunari. 

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Genoa, 28

The Grifoni are still alive, as a last-minute win in what seemed an impossible game against Juventus gave them some chances. The draw between Cagliari and Salernitana was also the best they could hope for. 

Alexander Blessin’s side have only lost four of their last 14 games, but need at least a win against Napoli or Bologna and hope to score more than their rivals. They only got four wins this season, suggesting the odds are against them. 

They escaped multiple near misses in recent years and have been in the Serie A for 15 consecutive seasons, the seventh-best active record.

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Cagliari, 29

A mid-season run of 15 points in eight games injected belief, but Cagliari lost seven of their last nine games since then and blew the chance to overtake Salernitana by drawing 1-1. 

The positive side was that Cagliari equalised with the last kick of the game, but they are in a relegation place and Salernitana are flying incredibly high at the moment. 

The last game of the season will be against Venezia and it could be a do or die, but first, they need to get a result against Inter. 

Whilst the Nerazzurri’s reputation of scoring crazy results in decisive moments of the season might give them hope, Cagliari might find themselves relegated even before they play Venezia. 

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Salernitana, 30

Nobody, if not the players and the staff, probably believed Salernitana would hold the upper hand with two games left. Davide Nicola’s side were last with 16 points (and two games in hand) on Matchday 32, three weeks ago. 

They were nine points off 17th place, but a run of four wins and two draws incredibly overturned the situation. For the first time in their Serie A history, Salernitana completed the feat of six unbeaten games, and what a moment it is to do so. 

What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that, in their two previous attempts, Salernitana never managed to complete a Serie A season by staying up. Upcoming games against Empoli and Udinese will underline the true essence of what a historic match is.           

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Spezia, 33

Thiago Motta’s side were virtually safe last month, having a nine points margin over the relegation zone and occupying 15th place. 

Four consecutive defeats meant the situation remains open ahead of games with Udinese and Napoli. Spezia also hold, with Inter and Sassuolo, the enviable record of zero relegations and will be keen to hold that. 

Spezia have hold the head-to-head advantage on all the teams below them, so the odds to stay up are on their side, but securing a win would mean they don’t have to worry about their rivals’ results. 

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Sampdoria, 33

The Blucerchiati never quite lived a calm situation this season, their form never picked up, only once winning back-to-back games. 

A win in the derby against Genoa on Matchday 35 meant it was almost done for Sampdoria, who have to face Fiorentina and Inter, who could potentially still be in the title race by the last day. 

Like Spezia, they hold the head-to-head advantage over all the teams below, but Cagliari, so the situation could majorly depend on the others to avoid a shock relegation. 

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For the previous Serie A column click here.

For more football content click here.

For more sport content click here.

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