Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Lopapa On February - 18 - 2012

A Race to the Bottom for Serie A Strugglers

This is the time of year when the table starts to balance itself out, and pundits start discussing who’s still a serious contender for the scudetto and who’s still competing for a Champions League spot. So what’s stopping us from taking a look at the other end of the table, seeing who’s in the relegation zone and who might be joining them? Right now the three teams in sitting at the bottom are Lecce, Cesena, and newly promoted Novara. All three are drifting further and further from safety, as 17th place Bologna is four points ahead of Lecce with two games in hand. There isn’t much distance between the sides, as only two points separate the bottom three.


Serse Cosmi’s side achieved salvation on the penultimate matchday last year, defeating Bari in the Pugliese derby, and it looks like they’ll need a similar miracle this season as well in order to avoid the drop. The lone bright spot in an otherwise poor season has been Colombian Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, a speedy wingback that has thrived in Cosmi’s counterattacking setup; he is extremely important for the way Lecce play. Forward and top scorer David Di Michele has scored only six goals in 15 games, with only one coming in a giallorossi victory, a 1-0 triumph over Fiorentina (the others came in a draw to Parma and losses against Lazio and Udinese). Lecce will be boosted by the return of Valeri Bojinov, coming in on loan from Sporting Lisbon for the rest of the season. Lecce are hoping the former fan favorite returns to the form when he first made his debut at the club and give the Salentini the spark needed for survival. Sunday Lecce go up against a watertight Siena side that is only five points from Lecce in the standings; a win for the Salentini would put them only a point away from safety and pull Siena down that much closer to the drop zone. Not a decider by any means, the fixture is still one Lecce need to win and for Siena not to lose.


Last season many thought Cesena’s surprise promotion to Serie A would be short-lived and they would be back in the second division in a year. Surprising just about everyone, Cesena avoided relegation farily comfortably, finishing seven points away from Sampdoria in 15th place. This season, however, they have not been so fortunate. Although the Seahorses lost two of their best performers in Yuto Nagatomo and Emanuele Giaccherini to Inter and Juventus over the summer, they picked up attackers Adrian Mutu and Antonio Candreva while being able to hold onto midfielder Marco Parolo. Cesena’s main problem this season has been an inability to score goals. The Seahorses found the net only 15 times in 23 matches this season, with Adrian Mutu leading the team with seven, nearly half their total output; Brazilian attacker Eder is second with a paltry two.

To remedy this, Cesena have brought in Vincenzo Iaqunita on loan with the hopes of boosting their forward line. Cesena also have had a problem with dropping points, that is, they have an uncanny ability of giving up the lead or momentum in a match; wins and draws frequently turned into losses, a notable example being last week’s loss to Lazio. Cesena built up an impressive 2-0 lead only to concede three goals in a ten minute span despite being a man up for most of the match. Cesena have it all to do this weekend as they host a Milan side fresh off of destroying Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, followed by a trip to an always tough Cheivo side. Cesena, to their advantage, do have a game in hand; nevertheless, so long as they continue to drop points so carelessly, the Romangna side will be hard pressed to repeat last year’s surprise performance.


Lastly comes the Piemontese side who have fallen off tremendously after their shock victory over Inter earlier in the season; after that infamous result, Novara have only won two of their 18 previous fixtures, with one of those wins coming against— wait for it — Inter. The biancazzurri lost five in a row before their recent two game unbeaten run, drawing Cagliari and the aforementioned victory at the San Siro last weekend. They have been pretty dreadful all season, with the worst defense in the league and the second most anemic attack, scoring only 20 times in 23 matches while conceding 42 goals in that same span. They have recorded only one shutout the entire season, a scoreless draw against Cagliari two weeks ago and have scored more than two goals in a match only twice this season, a 3-3 draw against Catania and the 3-1 victory over Inter the third week of the season. Replacing Attilio Tesser with Emiliano Mondonico has produced slightly better form; since the 64-year-old’s arrival, Novara suffered a narrow defeat against Chievo, drew Cagliari, and defeated Inter. Like Cesena, who they are tied with on points, they’ll need to get the act together quickly and continue to avoid dropping points; tricky ties against Atalanta, Catania, and Bologna await and it will be interesting to see whether the “new manager effect” continues.

As of right now, the only two sides that may need to look over their shoulders are Bologna and Siena. Fortunately for Bologna, they are on a five game unbeaten run (four draws and a win) plus have two games in hand, and if they can score a couple good results, should see themselves edge away from the abyss. Siena also have a game in hand, and need to hope that the strike partnership of Emanuele Calaiò and Mattia Destro continues to produce goals, as an amazing 15 of Siena’s 22 goals come from the pair. Unlike the three relegation candidates previously mentioned, Siena’s defensive record is excellent, boasting the league’s fifth best defense. For the Tuscans, continuing to grind out results is their best bet for survival. As the season lurches onward, the race against relegation will surely heat up.

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