Huge permutations at the top and bottom of both leagues should make for an exciting end to the season
With most of Europe's top leagues either finished for the season or grinding to a slow and uneventful halt, all eyes will be on the Italian Serie A and the English Premier League this Sunday, where that is anything but the case.
The scheduling of some final Serie A matches has caused a stir, but more on that later. First, let's look at who could win the league and who could get relegated from Serie A.
What do AC Milan need to win Serie A?
In Italy, city rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan are still fighting for the Scudetto. Milan take a two point lead into their away game at mid table Sassuolo, while Inter will host Sampdoria. Neither opponent has anything to play for so it's asking a lot for them to spoil the party. If two teams finish level on points in Serie A, their positions in the table are decided by head-to-head record, where Milan have the advantage, having picked up four points from a possible six against Inter this season. That means that Inter need to beat Sampdoria and hope Milan lose, in order to secure a second consecutive title. Meanwhile, Milan can win their first Scudetto since 2011 with only a draw.
Milan need to draw or win, or hope Inter don't win, in order to lift the Scudetto.
Inter need to win and hope Milan lose, in order to win the title.
What do Salernitana need to stay up?
At the other end of the table, things are equally exciting. Two points separate 18th placed Cagliari and 17th placed Salernitana. Having spent much of the season rock bottom, few would have foreseen the late surge which has seen Salernitana, enjoying only their third ever season in the top flight and first since 1999, climb out of the bottom three. Captained by 39-year-old legendary French winger Franck Ribery, Salernitana are on the brink of pulling off one of European football's greatest escapes.
With two points separating the sides, a draw for Salernitana at home to mid table Udinese and a win for Cagliari away against already relegated bottom side Venezia would leave the two on equal points. With their head-to-head record and head-to-head goal difference record being identical (because they drew both games against each other this season 1-1), they would be separated in this instance by traditional goal difference. Salernitana, having had a dreadful first half of the campaign, are way behind on that metric and would therefore be relegated. To survive, they need to either beat Udinese, or hope Calgiari fail in their efforts to beat Venezia. if Cagliari win and Salernitana draw or lose, Cagliari will stay in the Italian top flight.
Salernitana can stay up if they win, or if they draw and Cagliari don't win.
Cagliari must win and hope Salernitana fail to win, in order to stay in Serie A.
Serie A matches and Premier League matches to air at the same time
The broadcasting controvery around this enthralling final day in the Serie A came about earlier this week when the league announced its scheduling plans for this Sunday's fixtures. The title deciding matches involving the Milan clubs are set to kick off at 17.00 GMT. This means they will begin just as the final round of Premier League matches for the season are starting their second half. This decision was made with full knowledge of the EPL schedule, meaning Serie A could have chosen to put the Scudetto deciding matches later on in the evening.
The scheduling has been widely criticised by fans as this broadcasting clash is likely to drastically diminish the global audience for the first half of Inter and Milan's games. While the situation at the top of Serie A is fascinating, it will now have to compete with the Premier League, which has its own exciting permutations. There's the battle for the title between Man City and Liverpool, the race for the final top four spot involving Spurs and Arsenal, the chance for either Man United or West Ham to clinch the final Europa League place, and the three-way relegation battle involving Everton, Burnley and Leeds. It's a lot to compete with, and instead of the games kicking off later in the evening with no conflict whatsoever, fans will now have to chose between the second half of the Premier League and the first half of the Milan clubs' matches, and it's highly likely that millions of them will chose the former and only tune back into the Serie A for the second half.
Final Premier League fixtures to take place on Sun 22 May 2022:
- 16:00 Arsenal v Everton
- 16:00 Brentford v Leeds
- 16:00 Brighton v West Ham
- 16:00 Burnley v Newcastle
- 16:00 Chelsea v Watford
- 16:00 Crystal Palace v Man Utd
- 16:00 Leicester v Southampton
- 16:00 Liverpool v Wolves
- 16:00 Man City v Aston Villa
- 16:00 Norwich v Spurs
It is believed that this bizarre decision was made to ensure that wild title winning celebrations in Milan are started as early as possible in the evening, to avoid having them go on through the night. This may be a valid concern in the region but, from a broadcasting point of view, it's not ideal.
Final matches in the Serie A title race to be played on Sun 22 May 2022
- 17:00 Inter Milan v Sampdoria
- 17:00 Sassuolo v AC Milan
The relegation matches will instead take the slot later in the evening, when there will be no major clashes with other leagues.
Final matches in the Serie A relegation battle to be played on Sun 22 May 2022
- 20:00 Salernitana v Udinese
- 20:00 Venezia v Cagliari
This conflict comes as an even bigger surprise given the league's recent approach towards football broadcasting and innovation, in which they seem to be doing anything possible to broaden the scope of their global fanbase. Only time will tell how much damage this decision will have on the viewing figures for this final run of games.
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