Monday April 11 2011
Lecce's new lease of life

Lecce recorded their second consecutive League win to boost hopes of what seemed like unlikely survival just weeks ago. Rob Paton writes

The win over Sampdoria sees Lecce now prepare for the final six games knowing that as few as six points are required to guarantee Serie A football for 2011-12. Where the side had followed up the impressive Week 26 win over Juventus with a draw and three consecutive defeats amid fan protests, the Coach and his players continued to speak of their collective belief that staying up was possible.

The March international break looks to have been used wisely, with Luigi De Canio giving his players time off, and on occasion only working them the once on some days. His focus during this period was on the players' state of mind, and in since recording two wins, with just one goal conceded, this approach looks to have worked.

Their collective positive attitude was in sharp contrast to those outside the club, who prior to the Udinese and Samp games drew comparison with the last top-flight stint of 2008-09. Then the team were under Mario Beretta's management, two points from safety, with the worst defence in the League and from their remaining eight games, picked up just six points in dropping down to Serie B.

Beretta himself spoke of seeing great similarities and predicted the current side would also be relegated. Concern was that despite showing glimpses of good football in stretches of games, it was not consistent or strong enough to remove pressure from the defensive aspects of play. Despite a slightly better position than two years ago too, few anticipated the recent revival, particularly given no team with a similar goal difference to their -21 from Week 30 had gone on to survive since Parma in 2006-07.

Crucial then has been the defensive improvement shown against Udinese and Sampdoria, made all the more remarkable given the team have the worst defensive record in the League, and that both games were won with makeshift starting XIs.

Alongside the team's positive mentality shown in a proactive manner on the pitch, what seems to have benefited the dressing room most in recent weeks is a stability that was lacking earlier in campaign amid uncertainty over De Canio's future. On the pitch, his utilisation of a more solid system – often in a 3-5-2 – has also helped, seeing less space between the players and adding security both in and out of possession.

At the same time, whilst De Canio has struggled throughout the season to get the best out of a decent selection of strikers, the team have still managed to score more goals than any other side in the relegation fight, and have failed to score in just 10 matches, with only Parma in the bottom half of the table equalling that. The team have not relied on the front-line, with a total of 13 different players having scored this season, four more than Brescia, Cesena, Parma and Sampdoria.

It is too early to say there is one less team in the relegation fight, particularly when looking at the Giallorossi's fixtures, and considering the win at Samp did not come without relying on another strong performance from Antonio Rosati in goal.

However, where Brescia are enjoying a similar upbeat philosophy and favourable fixture run-in, and where Cesena and Bari are also picking up results, Lecce go into the final weeks with the most important advantage of coupling their belief with having their fate in their own hands.

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