May 3, 2018 / 2:08 PM / 20 days ago

Soccer: Serie A could go out with a whimper rather than a bang

MILAN (Reuters) - Serie A is threatening to go out with a whimper rather than a bang as Juventus could wrap up their seventh successive title at the weekend with two matches to spare.

Soccer Football - Serie A - Inter Milan vs Juventus - San Siro, Milan, Italy - April 28, 2018 Juventus players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/Files

One week ago, Italian fans were revelling in one of the most enthralling titles races in years after Juve’s lead at the top was cut to one point over Napoli.

Excitement mounted even further when Juve trailed Inter Milan 2-1 at San Siro last Saturday — but within 24 hours the momentum had shifted dramatically.

First, Juventus struck twice in the last five minutes to beat Inter 3-2, then Napoli slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Fiorentina, leaving them four points behind with three games to play.

Juve now need only to win home games against Bologna and Verona, both in the lower half of the table, to clinch the title, no matter what happens in their visit to AS Roma.

The title could even be theirs on Sunday if they beat Bologna on Saturday and Napoli then lose at home to Walter Mazzarri’s Torino.

Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain, who headed the winner against Inter, said that game had been a potentially decisive moment in what has been a memorable title race.

“It was fundamental to beat Inter, in the last few minutes we knew how important those moments were for us and for the Scudetto,” he said. “To come back in that manner gave us a vital boost in the title race.”

Napoli, meanwhile, have struggled in recent home matches against modest opposition.

They scraped past Genoa 1-0, needed two goals in the last two minutes to beat Chievo 2-1 and twice came from behind in a 4-2 win over Udinese.

There has also been speculation about the future of coach Maurizio Sarri, even though he is under contract until June 2020.

Italian media have reported the talks over a new contract have broken down and that he could leave the club at the end of the season.

Elsewhere, Inter Milan need to win at struggling Udinese to maintain any realistic chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season and ending a six-year absence from the competition.

The defeat to Juventus left Inter in fifth place, four points adrift of the top-four finish they need to qualify.

Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Toby Davis

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