Saturday February 3 2018
Relegation battle escalates

Will we see another miracle escape, or are some unexpected big names being dragged into the relegation dogfight? Ramez Nathan analyses the situation.

With Juventus sealing their sixth Scudetto title early, Roma and Napoli both booking their Champions League spots, two acts highlighted the final round of Serie A last season, namely Francesco Totti's retirement and that miraculous Crotone escape from relegation.

By the start of April, Crotone were standing 19th in the table with only 14 points to their name, ready to head back to Serie B after their first ever top-flight campaign. By May 28, I Pitagorici collected 20 points from a possible 27 with wins over Inter and Lazio on the last game day, to arguably write the most sensational comeback story in the relegation battles of Italian football.

Now, Crotone along with seven other teams are not far from facing a dark relegation fate. After the resignation of Davide Nicola, new boss Walter Zenga has collected only seven points from seven fixtures, as he bowed down to Sassuolo within a few days of his appointment and lost to Serie A giants Lazio, Napoli and Milan.

Lying on the opposite side of Crotone's bed are Verona, who have also collected seven points since December 10, but their only two wins were big three-goal margin upsets for Milan and Fiorentina.

Speaking of seven points, that is how many Benevento collected throughout the whole season.

From the heaven of making their top flight debut, the boys in red and yellow stripes fell into hell as they set new negative records. A last-gasp 2-2 draw with Milan earned by their goalkeeper’s header was their only point until a brief run of two straight home wins, but that is already looking like a blip. Le Streghe are increasingly likely to play the Pescara role of entertaining but doomed side this season.

SPAL have been the most consistent of the three newcomers, unbeaten in five of their last seven games, successfully making comebacks in all of them. Alberto Paloschi came off the bench to snatch a late equaliser with Inter last week, confirming impressive strength in depth.

Diego Lopez seemed to be the Cagliari saviour upon his arrival, collecting three Serie A wins in the span of one month. However, the only foreign Coach in the league has grabbed only one triumph since November 25, and is edging closer to that battle for survival.

Lopez is the only non-native, as Ivan Juric was fired earlier after Genoa hit the bottom league positions. The Grifone brought in Davide Ballardini as a representative of pure calcio, brilliantly implementing his stiff defensive style of play, depending on moments of brilliance from his players to secure a goal or two, a philosophy that served Genoa well, yet they are still only four points away from the relegation zone.

Another team that switched Coaches are Sassuolo, with Eusebio Di Francesco no longer on the helm of their side, Cristian Bucchi was off to an awful start, turning a recent Europa League participant to a team barely sitting in the safety zone, as he grabbed only three wins from 14 ties.

New Coach Giuseppe Iachini formed a significant improvement for the Neroverdi, including a draw with Roma, and two wins over Sampdoria and Inter.

Chievo haven't had a change of management since 2014, which is rare thing for top flight teams. Rolando Maran has been in charge for more than three years now, and the past two months may have been the driest in his long spell, as he only collected two points and failed to achieve any Serie A win since last November.

All the odds do not seem in Benevento's favor to continue their journey in Serie A, and Verona are simply too inconsistent, which makes them a very high contender to drawn back to Serie B with the Streghe.

The only newcomer likely to compete for its place appears to be SPAL. With their new masterful tacticians, Sassuolo and Genoa could soon enough be out of this war, leaving Chievo, Crotone and Cagliari fighting the Spallini for safety. 

Have your say...
Serie A needs a reduction to 18 teams.
on the 7th February, 2018 at 5:03pm
The more the relegation battle intensifies, the better the motivation for the Clubs involved to do well, and in this way contribute to a fairer Serie A.
on the 5th February, 2018 at 6:55pm

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