Continent gripped by ups and downs

Published: Friday 16 May 2008, 19.05CET
The headlines may belong to the title-chasers but fans across Europe's leading leagues are biting their nails as relegation and promotion battles reach their climax.
Continent gripped by ups and downs
PSG defender Zoumana Camara shows the tension ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 16 May 2008, 19.05CET

Continent gripped by ups and downs

The headlines may belong to the title-chasers but fans across Europe's leading leagues are biting their nails as relegation and promotion battles reach their climax.
The headlines may usually belong to the title-chasers but fans across Europe's leading leagues are biting their nails as relegation and promotion battles reach their climax.

Title ramifications
Nowhere is that truer than in Italy, where the struggle to avoid the drop will be inseparable from the title race when the season concludes on Sunday. Calcio Catania are the only team outside the bottom three still threatened with relegation and they will need to be in top form to deny an AS Roma outfit desperate to overtake leaders FC Internazionale Milano. Catania's only consolation is that Inter will be visiting 18th-placed Parma FC at the same time, with the Gialloblù two points back and having sacked coach Héctor Cúper on Monday.

Serie B drama
Should both strugglers lose, Empoli FC could climb to safety by overcoming already-doomed AS Livorno Calcio. In the campaign to win a place in next year's top flight, meanwhile, AC Chievo Verona and US Lecce occupy the two automatic promotion spots but UC Albinoleffe, Bologna FC, Brescia Calcio and Pisa Calcio can all still overtake them with three matches remaining.

Lens alert
In France, Ligue 2 matters have been resolved with Grenoble Foot 38 due to return to the top flight for the first time in 45 years along with champions Le Havre AC and FC Nantes Atlantique. The situation is anything but clear in lower reaches of Ligue 1, however, despite FC Metz and RC Strasbourg already consigned to relegation. Above them, RC Lens, Toulouse FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC could all sink in the final round of fixtures this Saturday in which 18th-placed Lens entertain a FC Girondins de Bordeaux team still holding an outside chance of capturing the title.

Four-way scrap
A quartet of clubs will be battling to avoid the last relegation berth in Spain on Sunday, with two points separating 15th-placed Real Valladolid CF and Real Zaragoza in 18th. Having boosted their chances with wins last time out RC Recreativo de Huelva (16th) and CA Osasuna (17th) will not want to slip up at the last hurdle, although all hope evaporated some time ago for Levante UD and Real Murcia CF. In a similar vein, CD Numancia, Málaga CF and Real Sporting de Gijón also know what lies in store - Primera División football next season.

Wembley date
Top-tier action likewise awaits England's West Bromwich Albion FC and Stoke City FC, with Derby County FC, Birmingham City FC and Reading FC all relegated from the Premier League. The regular season now over, all that remains is for Bristol City FC and Hull City AFC to contest the play-off final at Wembley Stadium on 24 May for the right to rub shoulders with the country's finest next term - something Hull have never done.

Weekend climax
In Germany either DSC Arminia Bielefeld or 1. FC Nürnberg will join MSV Duisburg and FC Hansa Rostock in the 2. Bundesliga come August. Nürnberg occupy the last relegation berth and their season ends at home against FC Schalke 04 on Saturday, while Arminia will look to protect their two-point cushion at VfB Stuttgart. A division below, VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1. FC Köln are already looking forward to returning to the top tier, with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim two points ahead of 1. FSV Mainz 05 and SC Freiburg as the race to join them comes to a head on Sunday.

SSI Err
Last updated: 17/05/08 1.10CET

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