Italian four battle for third
Routine four-goal wins for frontrunners Juventus and AC Milan this weekend may have added the slightest weight to the argument that Serie A is a mundane, predictable league, but evidence to the contrary lies just below the leading duo in the table.
With just one other Champions League place up for grabs, the battle for third place intensified on Matchday 35 with a series of results that has left four teams – Napoli, Udinese, Inter Milan and Lazio – locked together on 55 points with three games to play.
Inter look the form outfit of the quartet. Their 2-1 victory over Cesena, a scoreline that relegated the Romagna club, was their fourth win in an unbeaten six-game spell. Yet they are still Bet365’s outsider to break into the top three with the Milan derby still to come, and are priced at 5/1.
Even money favourites, Napoli, were held to a 2-2 draw by Roma while 10/3 Udinese defeated 4/1 Lazio 2-0 in controversial circumstances at the Stadio Friuli. The Zebrette led 1-0 deep into injury time when the visitors, who had committed all 11 players forward, reacted to a whistle from the crowd, believing it to be the call for full-time. Roberto Pereyra played on and converted beautifully from the touchline, provoking angry scenes in which Biancocelesti defender Andre Dias was sent off by referee Mauro Bergonzi, who was also pushed by goalkeeper Federico Marchetti.
Back at the top, Juve’s 4-0 win at Novara moves them closer to the Scudetto, while all but relegating the Biancoazzurri after one season in the top flight. The undefeated Old Lady are no bigger than 1/12 to take the title with the Rossoneri, 4-1 victors at Siena, a 15/2 shot with Ladbrokes.
It’s a similar story in France where, after months of two sides neck and neck at the top, one has finally broken free. 17/10 Montpellier forced themselves five points clear in Ligue 1 on Friday night when Younès Belhanda’s third-minute goal did for Toulouse, and La Paillade then took great delight in seeing Paris Saint-Germain turned over 2-1 at Lille two days later.
The Parisians had led at the Stade Lille-Metropole through Javier Pastore’s 48th-minute header, but two goals in eight minutes completed the comeback for Rudi Garcia’s men. PSG substitute Mamadou Sakho was dismissed for a foul in the area and Eden Hazard converted from the spot before Nolan Roux bravely nodded in from close range. It means Montpellier are as short as Paddy Power’s 1/8 to win Le Championnat with PSG a 5/1 quote.
Bottom of the table Auxerre boosted their hopes of survival by crushing fellow relegation candidates Brest with four first-half goals at Stade de l'Abbé-Deschamps, making light of their 6/5 odds. Just four points separate the bottom six sides with four games remaining, and AJA have been cut from 1/33 to 1/9 for the drop.
Real Madrid and Barcelona bounced back from their Champions League disappointments with convincing La Liga wins. The Catalans thumped sinking Rayo Vallecano 7-0 in Vallecas, while Jose Mourinho’s men eased past Sevilla 3-0. A victory for Los Blancos at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday will see them take league honours.
At the other end, Villarreal, despite drawing with Osasuna, are not safe yet because Sporting Gijon (9/2) and Real Zaragoza (9/4) took maximum points. The Yellow Submarine have a four-point buffer above the bottom three, but travel to 19th-placed Sporting on Tuesday and are 15/4 with SportingBet for relegation.
German champions Borussia Dortmund confirmed their credentials with a 5-2 triumph at relegated Kaiserslautern but, with European matters all settled in the Bundesliga, it’s the battle at the bottom between Koln and Hertha Berlin that is the main focus going in to the last week of the season.
Both lost again on Saturday meaning that Hertha will trail the Billy Goats by two points when they welcome Hoffenheim on the final day. Koln will be hoping to avoid automatic demotion by taking the play-off spot they currently occupy but have the tougher task of hosting Bayern Munich. Bwin go 4/7 that Koln finish 17th and 13/10 about Hertha.
Results: Bayern Munich 2-0 Stuttgart, Freiburg 4-1 Koln, Hamburg 0-0 Mainz, Hoffenheim 2-3 Nuremberg, Kaiserslautern 2-5 Dortmund, Leverkusen 1-0 Hannover, Monchengladbach 0-0 Augsburg, Schalke 4-0 Hertha Berlin, Wolfsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
Results: Betis 2-2 Atletico Madrid, Espanyol 0-3 Sporting, Getafe 1-3 Mallorca, Levante 3-1 Granada, Malaga 1-0 Valencia, Rayo Vallecano 0-7 Barcelona, Real Sociedad 3-0 Racing, Real Madrid 3-0 Sevilla, Villarreal 1-1 Osasuna, Zaragoza 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Results: Auxerre 4-0 Brest, Lille 2-1 PSG, Lorient 2-1 Marseille, Nancy 1-1 Caen, Rennes 3-1 Ajaccio, Saint Etienne 1-0 Dijon, Sochaux 0-3 Bordeaux, Toulouse 0-1 Montpellier, Valenciennes 2-0 Nice
Results: Atalanta 2-0 Fiorentina, Bologna 3-2 Genoa, Cagliari 0-0 Chievo, Inter 2-1 Cesena, Lecce 1-2 Parma, Novara 0-4 Juventus, Palermo 1-1 Catania, Roma 2-2 Napoli, Siena 1-4 Milan, Udinese 2-0 Lazio
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