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Serie A Review: Six For Atalanta Keeps Top Four Hopes Alive

Saturday saw an action-packed finish to Serie A in 2018. There were high-pressure clashes in the Europa League race, while Juventus broke more records. On top of that, there was relief for Chievo at long-last. They were close to finishing 2018 without a victory this season, until a 1-0 win over second-bottom Frosinone.

From top to bottom, there were dramatic twists in Italy this weekend. As the league wraps up for a break until 2019, we’re looking back at this final round of the year. Here’s our rundown of all the major results and talking points from Saturday’s Serie A offering.

Atalanta Mark Top Four Territory

Atalanta may have finished the year in eighth, but this weekend they marked their top four intentions. They claimed a 6-2 victory at Sassuolo – just the second time the Neroverdi have lost at home this season. The hosts have been among the Europa League contenders this season, but Atalanta pulled them apart with ease. The nature of their thumping victory leaves them looking like genuine contenders for the top four.

We said back in August that their lack of European football was a boost. They put together a deep squad, capable of juggling Europa League football with a top seven push. Crashing out in the qualifiers means they are fully focused on Serie A, leaving them to push for a Champions League spot. Two seasons ago they managed to finish fourth before that came with a place in Europe’s top competition.

Atalanta have added to a young side since then, and they’re now only four points shy of the top four. After starting the season in awful form, getting back in contention is an achievement. If they can continue with results like this and the 4-1 demolition of Inter Milan, then the top four is a real possibility.

Gattuso’s Stay of Execution?

A 2-1 win for AC Milan brought Serie A to an end for 2018. After a goal drought, Gonzalo Higuain came to Milan’s rescue, securing a victory over SPAL to end a poor run of form. They had fallen out of the top four and the Europa League this month. That led to speculation that Gennaro Gattuso was on the way out. Given Arsene Wenger was already linked to take charge in 2019, the manager’s job security has been questionable.

Gattuso needed that winner from Higuain. It guarantees nothing for the club, and little for the manager who is working under nervy owners. There’s just a point between the Rossoneri and fourth place, meaning everything is on the table for the club. Obviously, there’s more work to do, but Milan are still in with a chance of reaching their goal. For the time being, Gattuso can still lead them back into the Champions League, but he’s still not certain of leading the club in next month’s Super Cup clash with Juve.

Juventus Remain Untouchable

The champions will go into that clash with a nine-point lead in Serie A. Juventus broke a record in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Sampdoria, recording the best ever first half of a season. They claimed 53 points from a possible 57, winning 17 of 19 games this term. That means that the Old Lady basically have the title wrapped up, despite meeting brave opposition in Turin. With a nine-point lead over Napoli at the half-way stage, it’s tough to see how anyone could catch the leaders now.

Sampdoria came close to securing a draw after a fantastic second equaliser was ruled out. Their young side challenged the champions, who needed a penalty to edge the victory. While they had one of their toughest workouts at the Allianz this season, which suggests that Samp are going to be real European contenders this term. They sit seventh after their latest defeat, which they’d take at the end of the season.

Roma in the Running

Roma managed to end their rotten away form with a victory at Parma. A 2-0 win lifted them into the top six, they’re only two points shy of the top four. This has been one of the Giallorossi’s worst campaigns in years, yet they’re in touching distance of fourth after a few too many slip-ups. They did finish the year on a high, claiming a vital victory to stay on the Champions League trail.

Winning at Parma is a solid achievement for Eusebio Di Francesco, his side have struggled in lesser matches. Going into 2019 on the back of a victory is a boost, while they have a winnable Champions League clash with Porto to look forward to. It’s been a tough few months for Eusebio Di Francesco, but he has something to build on in the second half of the campaign. With a young side in need of a boost, this victory and the break which follows could help push the Giallorossi on for a successful campaign.

Of course, the season is still wide open. There are just five points between sixth-placed Roma and the Parma side they beat, who are in 12th. The fight for Europe will continue to be a test, as shown in Lazio’s 1-1 draw with Torino. The pair looked evenly matched, despite the pair being placed fourth and ninth overall. That clash in the capital was an entertaining one, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scoring an equaliser for the hosts, with both sides finishing with 10 men.

Both Napoli and Inter Milan finished on wins, as they continued to stake a claim for their Champions League spots. After a late 3-2 win over Bologna Napoli sit 13 points clear of fifth, while Inter opened up a seven-point lead over fourth-placed Lazio this weekend.

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