With eight teams all facing the very real prospect of sliding in to Serie B, Football Italia analyses a fierce relegation battle.
Words: Elio Salerno
The 2017-2018 edition of Serie A is proving to be one the most intriguing and intense the peninsula has observed in a number of years.
It is arguably the most hotly contested league in Europe with everything still left to decide as we round the final bend toward the finish line.
There is a well-documented title race, while the clamour for Champions League and Europa League qualification is wide open, but it is the relegation dog fight that is perhaps the most difficult to call.
There are currently seven sides scrapping to stay in Italy’s top flight and that is discounting the all but relegated Benevento. Genoa and Bologna have given themselves just enough breathing room, but with tough games to come and teams below them still to play, they could yet get dragged in with the others.
The next week could prove pivotal, with three games in the space of seven days and nine points on offer, the picture at the bottom could change drastically. This weekend sees a number of those teams at the bottom face off. As the pressure builds, we take a look at the relegation run in. Part one of our round-up is here.
Spal (17th on 27 points)
Spal have collected 10 points from the last 18 available and are in the top half of the form table. Coach Leonardo Semplici deserves the majority of the credit for this current run, the 50-year-old is proving to be an astute tactician.
Spal have taken four draws and two wins from the last six, but an away game against an improved Fiorentina on Sunday will test that unbeaten run.
Semplici’s men will look to games against Chievo, Verona and Benevento as an avenue to collect the priceless points that would see them avoid relegation. After a 49 year absence from Serie A, staying up would go down as one of the club’s greatest achievements.
Crotone (18th on 27 points)
Crotone were last season’s calcio fairytale,as in their first ever appearance in the top division they pulled off a miraculous recovery to maintain their Serie A status on the final day. Walter Zenga is in charge this time around and he will need to call on all that fighting spirit from last season in order to survive again.
Currently third bottom but level on points with Spal, their season will be defined by games against Genoa (which they lost 1-0), Udinese, Sassuolo and Crotone.
With their last two league games coming against Lazio and Napoli, the Calabrian outfit will need to get their work done before then or face a return to Serie B.
Verona (19th on 25 Points)
Second-bottom Verona’s next four games will decide the outcome of their season.
With Bologna, Sassuolo, Genoa and SPAL to come in the near future, the Gialloblu will not need informing that winning those contests will see them sustain Serie A existence.
Last weekend’s win against Cagliari was crucial and will give them a significant boost of confidence as they go into a key period of matches. Coach Fabio Pecchia will not want to travel to Juventus on the final day needing a result in Turin.
Benevento (20th on 13 points)
This is mission impossible. Four wins and 13 points from 31 games ensures relegation is a formality. Had Coach Roberto De Zerbi been in charge from the start of the season then The Streghe may not be in such a dire situation.
They realistically need 18 points from a possible 21 remaining, which would be the greatest comeback Italian football has ever witnessed.
When the inevitable does happen, Benevento will go down as having supplied one of the calcio’s best moments in recent years. Goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli’s stoppage time, equalising, flying header against Milan will go down in history.