Wednesday April 18 2012
Down to the wire

The relegation battle is heating up and Luca Cetta looks at those hoping to avoid joining Cesena and Novara in the cadetti.

Just six games to go and so few points separate those towards the foot of the table. Little wonder Coaches, players and fans alike will endure sleepless nights in the upcoming weeks. Of the three relegation spots, two look finalised. Cesena’s fate could be sealed next time out and Novara are not too far off. On 21 and 25 points respectively, their Serie A stints are all but over. Yet for a number of teams just above, that one remaining spot is the poison chalice.

Lecce (34 points) currently lie in the final relegation spot. Their revival under the cap-wearing master motivator Serse Cosmi has dragged the Salentini nearly clear of the mire and offered a chance at safety. That looked to dissipate with a run of five matches without a win, but Lecce showed their willingness to fight with successive victories versus Roma and – quite dramatically – Catania.

David Di Michele and Luis Muriel form a dangerous attacking partnership and have netted just under half of Lecce’s 37 season goals, whilst Cosmi can rely on a settled line-up which has remained relatively injury-free. Their run home includes a potential decider with Fiorentina, but also trips to Lazio and the Juventus Stadium.

Genoa (36) appear in freefall and President Enrico Preziosi is hoping Alberto Malesani – the man he lost faith in last December – can lead the Grifoni to safety. The President claims he sacked Pasquale Marino because “the team had totally lost confidence” but having called it one of the best squads ever assembled under his reign in September, Genoa have not won in nine matches. The last of which, a home draw with Cesena, caused 300 fans to protest outside the stadium. Preziosi wants the club to remain united as they end with a run which includes trips to Milan and Udinese. Only the two bottom clubs have lost more times on the road.

Fiorentina (37) – to the surprise of many – ended a four-match winless streak away at Milan to boost their survival bid. That win was followed by a draw against Palermo and has given added confidence to a flagging team. In the run home they face Champions League-chasing Inter and Roma, with Delio Rossi conceding they will need more perfect games to take the points. Rossi also notes their ultimate destiny could rest in the final fortnight when Fiorentina travel to Lecce before hosting Cagliari. The tactician does not believe numerous fan protests in Florence is a huge worry for the team.

“I don’t see this issue and I’d always want to play at home. There are a few players who perhaps suffer the pressure of the home fans, but we are talking about stupid excuses.”

Hoping to avoid leaving their fate until the final rounds are Parma, Cagliari (both 38) and Siena (39). Parma have been inconsistent of late but have won two of their past three, with crucial upcoming battles against Cagliari and Lecce looming. The Sardinians relinquished home ground advantage and must negotiate the season conclusion far from home and with three relegation rivals on the horizon. Finally, Siena will look to secure their Serie A status before taking on Milan, Lazio and Napoli.

The Scudetto pursuit may take most of the headlines but for some fans the fight to finish 17th is a lot more valuable. With a number of direct showdowns to take place in the remaining six rounds, the struggle to avoid Serie B will provide plenty of anxiety as one club must join Cesena and Novara in waving goodbye.

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