If you are into fishing, food and football there is only one place to go, La Spezia. It has some of the best off beach fishing on the beautiful Ligurian coast, fabulous restaurants plus a great little football club, which makes the town a really worthwhile weekend break.
Last week its club beat Reggina 2-1, moving into seventh spot in Serie B and according to the new rules, a play-off position. With the Lega expanding the divisional play-offs this season, Spezia Calcio now have a chance of getting into Serie A, despite being 24 points behind champions Palermo.
Last season four teams entered the play-offs but the new FIGC rules, voted in at the start of this season by the clubs, state that teams as far down as eighth - if within 14 points of the third placed team - can now enter the divisional lottery.
Like before, the top two will automatically win promotion and if the third placed team has more than a nine point advantage over the fourth, they will go directly up with no play-offs. Yet that is highly unlikely this season and even Bari, currently sat in 12th, with the right set of results could still go up.
The first play-off round involves a one-off game between the fifth and eighth and sixth and seventh placed teams. The semi-finals will see the two winners face the third and fourth placed teams with promotion eventually decided by a two-legged final.
Today, to see the Aquilotti, Little Eagles, flying near the summit of Serie B, with the chance, of making Serie A, is almost beyond belief, especially since they were playing in Serie D in 2009. After decades in the lower leagues with the odd visit to non-league football it seemed they were forever destined to stay there.
Compared to Palermo and Empoli, who they could go up with, they have never been in Serie A. However, with former Italian U-21 Coach Devis Mangia in charge, after winning the European Championship silver medal with the Azzurrini last year, the Eagles could soon be flying in the top flight.
Not that it’s all been smooth sailing for the port city side over the last decade. In 2002 they became Inter’s reserve club and were lent several youngsters, including a 19-year-old Goran Pandev, which helped them win the Serie C Coppa Italia and the Serie C1 title in 2006. However, their two extremely precarious seasons in Serie B ended with the board charged with fraud, relegation and bankruptcy.
In 2008 a new board of forward-thinking directors led by the Italian Roman Abramovich, Gabriele Volpi, rechristened the club Spezia Calcio and two successive promotions saw them reach the Lega Pro First Division. After a season of treading water they won promotion to Serie B in 2012.
Not that winning leagues is anything new for Spezia. In 1944 they won the war-time version of Serie A, beating Vittorio Pozzo’s and legendary striker Silvio Piola’s Grande Torino. Recently in commemoration of that feat FIGC awarded them a honorary Scudetto badge that they proudly wear on their shirts today.
Of course the Aquilotti have had their own famous Coaches including Nedo Sonetti, Attilio Lombardo and Luciano Spalletti. While their most famous player was Italian international defender Sergio Battistini, who after 15 seasons with Milan, Fiorentina and Inter wound down his career there, probably fishing just off the wonderful La Spezia beach.
Today’s stars include former Azzurri U-20 striker Niccolo Giannettia, who played a handful of games for Juventus, goalkeeper Nicolas Leali who is on loan from Juve, as is Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Pires. Others include the highly experienced former Sampdoria and Udinese midfielder Paolo Sammarco and midfield captain Pasquale Schiattarella, who joined from Livorno in January. Already these players have boosted crowds in the compact Stadio Alberto Picco. The simple reason is that the 10,000, capacity stadium is witnessing some excellent football and as fans hold their breath for a possible fourth promotion - this time to Serie A - Spezia Calcio are a team to look out for.
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