The race for Champions League qualification in Serie A this season promises to challenge the thrills and spills provided by Tottenham, Newcastle and Chelsea’s intriguing battle for fourth in the Premier League.

FIVE teams - Lazio, Udinese, Roma, Napoli and Inter Milan - are separated by just SIX points.

Poor showings from Italian sides in Europe over recent years saw the Bundesliga move ahead of their counterparts in the UEFA co-efficients - meaning that only three teams from Serie A now qualify for Europe's elite club competition.

A quick glance at the table shows Juventus and AC Milan going toe-to-toe for the Scudetto, leaving the host of heavyweight names fighting for that elusive third and final place.

Three will have to settle for the Europa League, while one team faces a season without any European football at all.

With just six games remaining, GMF takes a look at the teams in the hunt.

Lazio: 54 points

Lazio are currently leading the way.

Edy Reja's side are three points clear of the pack despite a 2-1 defeat at the hands of league leaders Juventus on Wednesday.

Having held third spot for much of the season, results have stuttered of late.

But the indifferent form of others mean they are in the driving seat to secure Champions League qualification for the first time since 2006-07.

Reja reportedly resigned after disagreements with the club's hierarchy in February, and that preceded the Biancocelesti's dip.

The manager's long-term future remains unclear but, for now, Lazio face games against relegation-threatened Novara and Lecce before a potentially decisive trip to Udinese on April 29.

Games against Siena and Atalanta follow before a final-weekend showdown with Inter Milan.

Udinese: 51 points

Udinese are probably the most exciting team to watch in Serie A and their attacking brand of football has left them hot on Lazio's heels.

After the summer departures of Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Zapata and Gokhan Inler, many expected Francesco Guidolin's side to struggle this season.

But another glut of goals from Antonio Di Natale - the captain has 20 in Serie A - means they can still go one better than last year's fourth-placed finish despite just one win in seven.

Udinese - who were unfortunate to lose out to Arsenal in this season's Champions League qualifying stages - host seventh-placed Inter this weekend.

They then travel to Chievo before welcoming Lazio to the Stadio Friuli for another fascinating game in the race for third.

A home game with Genoa is sandwiched between away trips to Cesena and Catania in their final trio of fixtures.

Roma: 50 points

The evergreen Francesco Totti inspired Roma to a vital 3-1 victory against Udinese last Sunday to keep the Giallorossi in the hunt for third.

The win moved Luis Enrique's side up to fifth in Serie A and just four points behind arch rivals Lazio.

President Thomas Di Benedetto's arrival last summer and the promise of investment had Roma fans dreaming of a return among the elite of European football for the first time since 2008-09.

Former Barcelona star Enrique's plan to build his own Barca in Rome will not happen overnight, but Champions League qualification could be the start of a new chapter in the club's history.

The team from the capital meet Napoli at the Stadio Olympico on April 28 before ending their season with games against Chievo, Catania and Cesena.

Napoli: 48 points

Napoli revelled in their Champions League debut this season but three defeats in their last three suggest those European excursions may have taken their toll.

Wednesday's shock home loss against Atalanta has left Walter Mazzarri's side six points behind Lazio and struggling to keep pace with their rivals.

They have the chance to get back to winning ways with games against Lecce and Novara before travelling to Roma as the season reaches its climax.

Palermo, Bologna and Siena provide a testing run of fixtures before they meet Juventus in the Coppa Italia final.

Inter Milan: 48 points

Just two years after Jose Mourinho guided Inter to their first Champions League triumph since the mid-1960s, the Nerrazzuri face the real possibility of no European football next season.

A dismal start under newly-appointed manager Claudio Ranieri and embarrassing home defeats to Novara and Bologna saw them fall well behind in the Serie A title race early on.

Results failed to improve and big-money signings Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate - who have managed just three goals between them - have flopped.

Ranieri was sacked following Champions League exit at the hands of the unfancied Marseille and youth team coach Andrea Stramaccioni was tasked with rescuing a season in tatters.

An astonishing 5-4 win against Genoa in the 36-year-old's first game in charge started a run of three without defeat to leave Inter seventh, six points behind Lazio.

They have games against fourth-placed Udinese, Fiorentina, Cesena and Parma still to come.

Their penultimate fixture of the season sees them host city rivals Milan before ending with a mouthwatering trip to Lazio.

Topics:
#European News
#Football
#UEFA Champions League