So, it all goes down to the last day of the season with the incumbent leaders just needing a win in round 38 against a mid-table side with nothing to play for to guarantee the domestic title. Sound familiar?
The title race in Italy has had its fair share of similarities with its English counterpart this season. Three teams were still in the race going into the last bend before AC Milan (read Arsenal) dropped out of the race after some uncharacteristically poor results.
Thus there were a top two left squabbling it out on their own with the long-time leaders and favourites, Inter Milan, (read Chelsea) failing to take real charge of their own destiny and dropping silly points. Meanwhile, AS Roma’s (read Manchester United) dogged resistance was still not enough to secure top spot due to one iffy result – the home defeat to Sampdoria (or United’s draw at Blackburn).
But the end result might not be quite the same as that in the Premier League not least because it is hard to see a team managed by Jose Mourinho scoring eight goals in one match. Whilst both the contenders for England’s crown played their last match of the season in the comfort of their own stadia – further diminishing the possibility of an upset – their Italian brethren must each go on the road and win in alien surroundings in order to taste success.
On paper, Inter have the easier of the two fixtures as they travel to Tuscany to take on a Siena team that has already been condemned to life in Serie B. But the Nerazzurri would do well to remember the last time they faced the same opposition at the San Siro in January when late goals from Wesley Sneijder and Walter Samuel turned a 3-2 defeat into a 4-3 win, saving the Special One’s 7 year unbeaten record in domestic league football in the process.
Former Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone found the net twice that day – including an absolute belter from 30 yards to open the scoring – and he will be keen to put himself in the shop window with another impressive display.
In another diversion from the Serie A/Premier League comparison, the title will be decided on the head-to-head record between the two clubs rather than goal difference which – to me, at least – seems the best way of determining which is the better team.
It means that if Inter drop points and Roma win at Chievo then it would be the team managed by Claudio Ranieri that would lift the Scudetto due to their 2-1 win over their rivals in March – the first encounter ended in a draw.
But as Inter themselves can confirm, Chievo are tough opponents. Just last weekend the Milan club were cruising at 4-1 against the Flying Donkeys only for their visitors to grab two goals back to set up a grandstand finish. The Veronese might have nothing ostensibly to play for but neither did they at the San Siro and Inter were left hanging on.
But perhaps the most startling fact of this weekend is that a match between two clubs of huge standing in Italy, and across the world, will meet in a match that means absolutely nothing.
AC Milan host Juventus who between them have won nine European Cups and 44 league titles yet neither have anything to play for in their final fixture. The Rossoneri are in third and cannot move up or down a place while Juventus’ fall from grace has been so spectacular that they cannot even qualify for next season’s UEFA Europa League.
Siena and Verona will instead be the focus of the nation’s attention at the weekend and at 4pm on Sunday we will know whether Ranieri has defied the odds to lift the first league title of his career or whether Mourinho has completed the second step on his way to a historic treble.