With games running out and a crucial relegation clash imminent, Luca Cetta assesses the situation at the foot of the table.
Four teams for three places. It doesn’t make for a perfect fit. With only nine matches remaining, the trio of relegated clubs is set to arrive from a quartet of candidates. Each have experienced trials and tribulations this season to be placed in this unenviable position. They don’t look likely to reach the mythical 40-point mark and that has a number of teams just above breathing a sigh of relief.
Palermo – 21 points – have made more coaching changes than earned victories this term – four to three – but incredibly could still survive. Giuseppe Sannino – who President Maurizio Zamparini now admits he should never have sacked – lost his comeback match in Milan, but is eyeing a ‘masterpiece’. “I was called to aid a patient who was moribund, but while we still have a chance then we ought to believe.”
The Sicilians have a squad that should comfortably be in mid-table, but the sheer instability around the club has been their downfall. The chop and change nature has hit not only the coaching staff, but directors and players. It helps nobody. Without a win since November, Palermo may be just five points from safety but their finale includes matches versus Roma, Catania, Inter, Juventus and Fiorentina.
Likewise, Pescara – also 21 – have a difficult run home. Only once in five previous Serie A campaigns have the Delfini achieved safety and to do so in 2012-13 they’ll have to overcome a monster finish. They face Juve, direct rivals Siena and Genoa, plus Roma, Napoli, Milan, Catania and Fiorentina. This after picking up just one win in 2013. Defender Francesco Modesto still believes in safety and hopes a positive result this week versus Parma “could trigger something.”
From free-scoring Serie B showmen, Pescara have forgotten what to do inside the penalty area. The Delfini hold the top flight’s worst attack – 21 goals – and the leakiest defence, conceding 58. Cristian Bucchi’s co-Coach Bruno Nobili says the lack of goals is a real concern given they cannot keep a clean sheet. “We are struggling to score goals and this prompts us to close up so that we don’t concede. At the end of the day, we tend to let a goal in anyway.”
Hovering above are a host of clubs from 16th place Atalanta – 33 points – to 10th placed Sampdoria, two points ahead. They appear safe. This leaves two sides aiming to dodge the final spot.
Siena – 25 points - currently occupy 18th. One point and place above is Genoa. The Tuscans would be clear if not for the six-point deduction and their football under Serse Cosmi and now Beppe Iachini suggests this. They’ve picked up 11 points from a possible 21 recently and despite drawing with Cagliari, the tactician is confident they can still save themselves. Their last three weeks will be tough and consists of games against Napoli, Fiorentina and Milan.
Genoa went five matches unbeaten under new tactician Davide Ballardini but lost their last three. Their position is precarious, but the Rossoblu have perhaps the most favourable run home, consisting of matches mostly against bottom half sides. This leaves destiny in their hands. Despite the recent run of defeats, President Enrico Preziosi is confident of safety, while defender Daniele Portanova is ready for “nine cup finals.”
A clearer picture may emerge this Sunday as Genoa host Siena. The crucial ‘relegation six pointer’ could push the Grifoni clear or propel the Robur out of the drop zone for the first time this season. They share two Stadio Luigi Ferraris wins apiece, with Siena last season infamously triumphing 4-1 in the match held up by crowd disturbances. The tension around this clash is high given its importance and Ballardini is hoping his side can approach it with clear heads.
Eight games still remain following the crucial Marassi meeting, but Sunday could well determine the identity of likely duo Palermo and Pescara’s unwilling cadetti compatriot. They look doomed, but whether Siena’s points penalty or Preziosi’s constant meddling will be the cause of a damned season remains to be seen.