The relegation race: Where it can be won or lost
Down at the foot of the table in Serie A, there’s just as much action as the battle for European places.
Four teams are fighting for survival, the bottom three clubs are level on points, five back of seventeenth place Genoa. With 11 games remaining, each of the four sides have crucial matches coming up that could make or break their season.
Genoa is a side that has had a lot of player and coaching movement the last few years. After losing six in a row and eight of nine, president Enrico Preziosi sacked Luigi Delneri and replaced him with Davide Ballardini.
Since then, the Rossoblu have earned points in five of the six matches since Ballardini took over, including draws against Juventus, and wins against Lazio and Udinese. They’re the fifth lowest scoring team in Italy’s top division with 27 goals, but they’ve outscored the three teams below them, which is vital. As for the defence, the 40 conceded is also fifth worst in Serie A, and that’s a category where they rank lower than Palermo and Siena, who are nineteenth and eighteenth, respectively.
There’s some good news for the Grifone, though. Since Ballardini has come in, they’re a far more organized side, they get more chances on goal, and aren’t as weak at the back. They’re a far tougher side to play against nowadays, which will pose problems for those near the top of the league.
Genoa still faces the likes of Napoli, Fiorentina, AC Milan (their next fixture), and Inter. Luckily three of those are at the Luigi Ferraris, including the Milan game. They also have two against teams in the relegation zone in Pescara and Siena. Throw in the Chievo game as they’re sixteenth, just three points ahead, and there will only be three matches left in the season.
If Genoa can grab six or seven points from those games, they’ll be at 33, meaning they’ll need about three or four from their other match-ups to get to that magical number of 36 or 37, the amount that has kept clubs in Serie A in recent years.
Siena is only eighteenth on goal difference, and have scored the same amount of goals as Genoa along with conceding one fewer. It hasn’t been defending that’s been an issue for this side, though. It’s been their attack. When Emanuele Calaio moved to Napoli, lots of Bianconeri supporters were worried about where the offence would come from.
Enter Innocent Emeghara, a 23-year old Swiss international on loan from Ligue 1 side Lorient. He’s bagged four from six appearances thus far, and has given Siena a real sense of hope in 2013. He’s been streaky recently, but looking at the fixtures of the Robur, Emeghara may get a chance to improve that record.
They’ve got Palermo at the Renzo Barbera next, a massive tilt considering both sides are level on points. After that, they’ve got to face Genoa as mentioned earlier along with Pescara on April 14th. The way that the 2012 Serie B winners allow goals, surely the Siena attack can muster something together.
They’re 15 away from that aforementioned safety number, but those three would give them something like five or six realistically, plus they’ve still got matches against Cagliari, a struggling Parma, and Chievo. If they can just somehow find goals (their top scorers have four, Emeghara and Calaio before he left) then they could stick around in Serie A for at least another year.
Palermo, like Genoa, have also suffered through a lot of incoming and outgoing players and coaches, though to anyone who knows president Maurizio Zamparini, this isn’t a surprise. It seems that it’s finally come back to haunt them as they’re nineteenth and haven’t won since November 24th. Draws aren’t necessarily bad, but with only 11 more fixtures on tap for 2012/13, they’ve got to start earning maximum points, and they need to be more adventurous to do that. They’ve got a top goalkeeper in Stefano Sorrentino who can earn them a point by himself and has proven that in recent weeks.
The Rosanero must depend on the likes of Fabrizio Miccoli, with only five tallies to his name, the forward has to improve on his finishing. That’s not to say it’s all his fault as the service hasn’t been good enough. Josip Ilicic, Edgar Barreto and others must help out. The defence is doing alright, but the Sicilians have to put the ball in the back of the net more. Doing so 22 times (only Pescara has fewer) is unacceptable.
Luckily they too have a few key matchups against relegation candidates coming up. They were lacklustre against Genoa and Torino, but they still have Siena and Bologna. Win those two and they’re up to 27, they could maybe nick three from Parma, meaning from eight games, they need six or seven to stay up if the trend of the last few seasons continues. It’s vital that the attack gets rolling again because no wins in three and a half months just won’t do.
Last and certainly least, there’s Pescara. Under Zdenek Zeman in Serie B, they were arguably the most entertaining side in the country at any level. After Zeman left for Roma, they became a squad that would probably be content with one season in the top flight before finishing bottom and going straight back down. That still remains, as they’re also last in both attack and defence.
There have been a couple of bright spots, mainly Mattia Perin and Juan Quintero, their two most promising youngsters. However, they do have three more victories than nineteenth place Palermo and the same amount as Genoa in seventeenth. The difference between their positions? The losses. The Delfini have 18, which is four more than the next futile side, Chievo. Even Siena (14), Genoa (13), and Palermo (12) have fewer.
The Biancazzurri will most likely go down, but with them needing to get to the same amount of points as the other three clubs above them, they could defy the odds. They have Atalanta, Chievo, and Parma in their next three fixtures. After a tough tilt against Juventus, Pescara face Siena and Genoa in two of their final seven games. With at least fifteen points needed, they’d have to be nearly flawless in the final stages of the season. It’ll be an uphill battle for the Serie A newcomers.