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Africans in Serie A: What's at stake?

Roma ace Mohamed Salah has been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League.
Roma ace Mohamed Salah has been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League.

With three Serie A games to play, KweséESPN run down the key issues still outstanding for Africa's stars in the Italian top flight.

Juventus have appeared destined for a sixth successive Scudetto for much of the campaign, with Massimiliano Allegri bouncing back from a defeat by Fiorentina in mid-January to guide the Old Lady on a seven-game winning streak, putting  distance between themselves and their nearest rivals.

With nine points still to play for, the title is not secure -- the reigning champions are currently seven points clear of second-placed AS Roma -- although they would clinch the league if they avoid defeat against their nearest challengers away on Sunday evening.

Even if Mohamed Salah's Giallorossi pull off the victory -- extending Juve's winless streak to three games -- Allegri's troops would have a four-point advantage with two to play.

After two injury ravaged campaigns, Kwadwo Asamoah has returned to prominence in some style this season. He's largely been used as a deputy left-back for Brazilian Alex Sandro, but with Juve fighting on various fronts, the Ghana international has made 16 appearances.

Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah
Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah

Putting this into context, this is the most league outings he's managed since the 2013-14 campaign, before the worst of his fitness problems began.

While 'Asabob' is still to confirm his return to the international arena with the Black Stars, he's reaffirmed his class with a series of outstanding displays -- notably in the 1-0 victory over Sampdoria, when he contributed an assist and made a sublime last-gasp tackle to preserve Juve's lead.

Medhi Benatia and Mario Lemina have also played their parts -- albeit in largely peripheral roles -- and appear on course to win their first Italian titles.

Salah, at Roma, has arguably been the outstanding African player in the division this term, overcoming his mid-season Nations Cup final disappointment with Egypt to score 13 goals and contribute 10 assists.

Putting this return into perspective, only two other players in the division (Atalanta's Alejandro Gomez and Jose Callejon of Napoli) have registered double figures in both categories this campaign.

Keita Balde
Keita Balde

In third on 77 points, Napoli surely have too much to do to overhaul Juventus, but it would take an almighty collapse for them to drop beneath fourth-placed Lazio (70 points) and miss out on the Champions League.

Defensive stalwarts Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam can look back on fine campaigns, although don't expect both to still be at the club beyond the summer as suitors circle.

The Europa League qualification spots aren't yet sewn up, although AC Milan -- sixth on 59 points -- surely have too much to do to overhaul Atalanta, who are six points ahead of them.

Lazio, with Keita Balde netting six in his last three, are ending the season strongly, and considering their remarkable recent form in front of goal, will fancy their chances of putting Juve to the sword in next week's Coppa Italia final.

Kessie action Atalanta 2 TT
Kessie action Atalanta 2 TT

Atalanta are the success story of the season, with influential Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie powering them to the brink of a Europa League spot. The West African scored four in his first three outings, and looks set to be the subject of intense transfer interest this summer -- even if his disciplinary record sometimes lets him down.

At the foot of the table, Pescara's relegation has become almost a footnote in Sulley Muntari's season after the recent racist abuse he received at the hands of Cagliari supporters made headlines around the world.

They'll be joined in the second tier by Palermo and Bissau-Guinean wideman Carlos Embalo, who's contributed one assist in 12 outings this season.

A month or so ago, Crotone appeared destined to drop as well. However, the Sharks have staged an astonishing comeback since mid-March.

They've taken 14 of their total 28 points from their last six matches and haven't lost since falling to a 1-0 defeat by Fiorentina at home on March 19.

Nigeria's Simy netted an 81st-minute equaliser against Torino and an 80th-minute winner at Sampdoria last month, and will surely be key if Crotone are to complete an eye-catching survival act.

Genoa and Empoli, in 16th and 17th respectively, could yet be caught by the Pythagoreans. Ghana's Isaac Cofie, Olivier Ntcham of Cameroon and Morocco maverick Adel Taarabt are all on the books of the former, while Empoli can call upon Assane Diousse of Senegal and another Moroccan, Omar El Kaddouri.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.

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