Tuesday April 8 2014
A League of two halves

Another two sides sacrificed their Coaches while Juve and Roma kept on winning. Giancarlo Rinaldi examines a weekend which summed up a recurring theme for Italian football.

It is Serie A’s equivalent of the chicken and egg question. Does success buy a little patience, or can patience ensure success? Whatever way you look at the League table after this weekend, there must be some correlation between the two.

There are just a couple of exceptions which prove the rule. In the top half of the table, only Lazio have changed their Coach this season while - in the bottom half - only Udinese have stuck by theirs. The rest of the division is a perfect split between continuity and chaos.

Home jeers were enough to see another two managers sent packing this weekend. In Sardinia, Mattia Destro - dubbed the Destro-yer - hit a hat-trick to down Cagliari and send Diego Lopez packing. In the hokey-cokey world of Calcio, back came Ivo Pulga - himself dismissed by would-be Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino earlier this campaign. According to a statement on the club website, the change was ‘indispensable’ in order to secure Serie A survival - even if the island side currently sit a comfortable seven points above the drop zone.

The same in-out, in-out, shake-it-all-about attitude is in evidence in Sicily where Catania fired Rolando Maran for the second time this term after throwing away a lead at home to Torino. Their fate looks almost hopeless now but a couple of questions spring to mind. Would they have done any worse if they’d stood by their Coach for the whole campaign? And, if not, why bring him back to humiliate him once more?

Juventus, of course, are a model of serenity in these choppy seas of change and they dismissed Livorno with nonchalant ease on Monday evening. The Tuscan side had not beaten the Bianconeri in Turin in Serie A since 1942 and a shock rarely looked on the cards. Two Fernando Llorente goals - one a sweet turn and finish, the other something of a gift from Francesco Bardi who let a header slip through his grasp - were more than enough to clinch the points. Any hope Roma might have harboured that their earlier win could have narrowed the gap on La Vecchia Signora disappeared more quickly than Sebastian Giovinco trying on Llorente’s overcoat.

Monday night’s battle of two sides who have switched course this season - Genoa and Milan - proved a pulsating one which ultimately went the Rossoneri’s way. Two of their newer faces, Adel Taraabt and Keisuke Honda, found the net to edge past the Grifoni who tried to claw their way back with a strike from Marco Motta which rebounded into the goal off Christian Abbiati’s back. It was a third win in a row for Clarence Seedorf’s side and, while that was once commonplace for the Milanese giants, it now feels like something of a minor miracle. They rode their luck at times in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris but, at least, there were some signs of pattern to their play after so many disjointed displays.

The weekend had kicked off with another win for reason over revolution when Hellas got the better of Chievo in the Verona derby. A flying start and great home form have undoubtedly bought Andrea Mandorlini time and he has not wasted it. An amazing 16-goal season from Luca Toni - he scored the winner at the weekend - has been the icing on that cake of consistency.

Not that turmoil is necessarily the preserve of those who change their Coach. Inter seem to be finding new ways of hurting their fans this season and managed to lose a lead given to them by Mauro Icardi twice on Saturday. That they managed it against a Bologna side with one of the weakest attacks in Italy since the loss of Alessandro Diamanti took quite some doing.

That result allowed Parma to join the Nerazzurri on 50 points with a single goal win over Napoli courtesy of Marco Parolo. Motivation seems to be a little hard to find for the Partenopei at present with Roma well clear in second but Fiorentina a distant fourth. It must be hard not to let minds wander towards their Coppa Italia clash with the Viola next month.

Indeed, Vincenzo Montella’s men find themselves in a not dissimilar situation. They saw off Udinese 2-1 at the weekend with a deflected goal by the player they co-own with the Friuli side - Juan Cuadrado - and a dubious penalty converted by Gonzalo Rodriguez. A Bruno Fernandes goal made them sweat in the closing stages but Francesco Guidolin’s men have lost a lot of their sparkle this term. Even they might be meditating a managerial move this summer.

Elsewhere, Edy Reja got the better of the Coach many Laziali would like to see on their bench, Sinisa Mihajlovic, as the Biancocelesti downed Sampdoria. The capital club remain in the hunt for a Europa League finish - if they really want it - while the Genoese outfit look survival certainties. That was not enough, however, for their hardline boss who cancelled a rest day and ordered early morning training - such was his disappointment with their display.

Dropping back from the Euro fight were Atalanta who saw their six-win run ended with defeat by Sassuolo. The result gives greater hopes of staying afloat to Eusebio Di Francesco’s side who find themselves in what looks like a four-way fight with Livorno, Bologna and Chievo to avoid joining Catania in Serie B. The outcome is likely to remain in the balance until the very end of the season and, of course, don’t rule out some more sackings before we reach the finish line.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@ Anonymous as Wenger would say I did not see the incident. An punch seems pretty clear cut though. Heaven forbid if Balo ever did this (he hasn't). Chiellini does stuff and questions do have to be asked even as a non-cynic. If I was a Roma fan I would be pretty annoyed with Livorno and Catania before them. Both sides have handed 6 points to Juve. Juve barely broke sweat against Livorno. It was shocking. PS Brilliant line about Conte's hair. Might use it myself!
on the 8th April, 2014 at 3:18pm
Ridiculous how Livorno kept 5 starters on the bench. They'd have lost anyway to a juve side who is much stronger (and when not able to beat opponents on its own is given a little help from their friends), but at least done it with some dignity.
And what about the ridiculous 3 match ban for Destro using TV evidence, when Chiellini gets away with far worse things week in week out?
This league is as genuine as Antonio Conte's hair.
on the 8th April, 2014 at 1:53pm
Another win for Milan. Yeah! If we catch Inter it'll just be too funny. Even with the season we're having. Still not happy with some of Seedorf's choices. Bonera was a liability again last night (overhead kick in the box when an opposition player is directly behind him? Misplaced passes in his own third??). His continued presence in the starting line up makes me think he's got some photographs of someone doing something...
on the 8th April, 2014 at 8:53am
The managerial roundabout in Serie A is embarrassing. How Lopez was sacked by Cagliari is beyond me. They weren't exactly going to qualify for Europe but they were fairly solid. A cursory look at the teams above them in the table shows that they were probably where they should be. Clearly Torino, Parma and Verona are performing unbelievably this season and then you have the "big" 6 - 7 teams. In theory they should maybe be higher than Genoa but they can always build. It really is madness.
on the 8th April, 2014 at 8:50am

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