Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 3 June 2009

Europe: The Final Countdown (Part 5)

France / Ligue 1

Bordeaux are the new Ligue 1 champions following their 1-0 win over Caen at the weekend. Yoan Gouffran's goal after 49 minutes not only sealed his team's first championship win in ten years but also confirmed Caen's relegation to Ligue 2.

Olympique Marseille went into their final game knowing they could only win Ligue 1 if they beat Stade Rennes and Bordeaux lost to Caen. To Marseille's credit, they kept their side of the bargain by beating Rennes 4-0, but it was to prove ultimately futile.

Both Bordeaux and Marseille now take their place in the Champions League for 2009/10 while outgoing champions Lyon ensured a place in the qualifiers by finishing third after a goalless draw at Toulouse.

Alain Casanova's side ended a remarkable campaign with a fourth-placed finish that means they'll be taking part in the Europa League next season. Quite a turnaround for Toulouse who last season finished just one place above the relegation zone.

Lille are the last team to earn a shot at European glory next season. They'll enter the Europa League qualifying round thanks to a 3-2 win over Nancy which left them level on points with Toulouse and PSG (who miss out on Europe due to goal difference).

At the foot of the table, there was an exciting finish as next-to-bottom Nantes won against the odds 2-1 at home to Auxerre but sadly for them they were relegated anyway. After a 'will-they-won't-they' saga that's lasted for several weeks, Saint Etienne picked up an excellent 4-0 win over Valenciennes to reach safety and Le Mans scrambled to a vital 1-1 draw at Lorient.

With Caen losing to Bordeaux, it meant they were confirmed as the third team to go down to Ligue 2 and they, along with Nantes and Le Havre will be replaced next season by Lens, Montpellier and Boulogne who come up to Ligue 1. Particularly notable, there, is the inclusion of Boulogne who have just reached the top flight for the first time in their 111 year history, so congratulations to them.

Italy / Serie A

A pair of 2-0 wins for Juventus and Milan ensured the former snatched second place in the final Serie A table ahead of the latter.

Juve's victory at home to Lazio was earned on the back of two goals from Vincenzo Iaquinta who ended the season with twelve in total. Over at Fiorentina, however, the home side only just managed to hang on to fourth place as Kaka and Alexandre Pato bagged one each to give Chelsea-bound coach Carlo Ancelotti a fitting send-off.

Luckily for Fiorentina, their head-to-head record over Genoa was good enough to keep them in fourth place, especially given Genoa's final day 4-0 win over relegated Lecce. By way of consolation, Genoa (along with Roma) go into the hat for next season's Europa League competition.

As mentioned last week, the final relegation spot was due to go to either Bologna or Torino with Il Toro arguably facing the tougher task of having to beat Roma to stay up. And so it proved to be despite Tommaso Vailatti putting Torino 1-0 up after just nine minutes. In the end, however, Roma's fight-back proved too much as Menez, Vucinic and Totti all got their names on the scoresheet to run out as eventual 3-2 winners.

With Bologna predictably winning at Catania, Torino finish up as the third team (along with Lecce and Reggina) to drop into Serie B after a three-year run in the top flight. Coming up to take their place in Serie A next season are Bari and Parma along with the winner of the promotion play-offs which will feature Livorno, Brescia, Empoli and Grosseto.

Spain / La Liga

Sevilla finally confirmed their place in the Champions League next season with a 2-0 away win at Numancia... mind you, they left it a bit late. Diego Perotti finally came up with the first goal for his side with only two minutes left on the clock, and even then there was still time for a Juan Carlos Moreno own goal to double the margin of victory.

That win for Sevilla ensures a third place finish in this season's Primera Division while Atletico Madrid are left to settle for fourth despite a 3-0 victory over Almeria. One of those goals was scored by Diego Forlan who ended 2008/09 as leading scorer with 32 in total. That averages out at about a goal per game where he's concerned - a fabulous achievement and one which will have the Atletico fans licking their lips with anticipation for next season.

At the bottom, the battle to avoid the last relegation place was lost by Real Betis after an amazing escape act by Sporting Gijon and Osasuna. Both teams won 2-1 in their final games to finish with 43 points - one more than Betis and Getafe. In the end, the margin of defeat for Real Betis was agonisingly just a single goal as they and Getafe both played out 1-1 draws in their respective matches against Racing Santander and Real Valladolid.

So it's Real Betis, Numancia and Recreativo Huelva that fall through the trap door to be replaced by three as-yet-unknown teams (they're still playing out the last few weeks in the Segunda Division) although Deportivo Xerez currently lead the way there and look likely to be one of the promoted sides.

And that just about wraps up our end-of-season focus on what's happening in the major European leagues. We hope you'll agree it's been fascinating seeing how matters were concluded across the continent... let's hope we get more of the same next season!

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