Serie A – The Relegation Battle

Match Analysis
Massimiliano Macaluso

Massimiliano Macaluso


Fifteen gameweeks already to play until the end of the Serie A campaign, and the fight to avoid relegation is obviously still completely uncertain, even if looking carefully at the league table, the situation of the last three teams begins to get worrying. Two of these, the penultimate Parma and the last but two Cagliari, have also decided to change their managers, relying respectively on Roberto D’Aversa (in place of Fabio Liverani) and Leonardo Semplici (in place of Eusebio di Francesco). Thanks to the 1-0 win in last week’s challenge, Torino has separated slightly from Cagliari and now have a five-point lead over the relegation zone, while currently the teams from fifth to last place upwards are slightly safer, all very close: Spezia (24 points); Benevento, Fiorentina, Udinese and Bologna (25 points) and Genoa (26 points). 


The club from Calabria that returned to Serie A last summer remained at the bottom of the table for 20 gamedays out of the 23 total, hardly ever giving the impression of having the necessary weapons to get out of the danger zone. Despite a few experienced players and with almost the same roster as last season, the team coached by Giovanni Stroppa is continuing to have a lot of difficulties in achieving results against higher quality teams. In fact, the only three wins of the season came at home against three affordable teams: Spezia, Benevento and Parma. The two biggest limits for Crotone, however, remain the away matches and the goals conceded: the Rossoblù are in fact the only team that has not yet won a match away from Ezio Scida, obtaining only two draws against Torino and Udinese, but above all they have the worst defense count of the league with 55 goals conceded, more than two per each game, being one of the three teams capable of conceding 6 goals in a single match this season, in Milan against Inter. The good notes, however, are certainly the one relating to the game expressed and the performances of Junior Messias, undoubtedly one of the surprises of the entire tournament. Ah, Crotone also managed to draw 1-1 against Juventus.


After having reached the 11st spot well in advance last season, this year Parma are struggling to find the necessary points to avoid relegation. Certainly Dejan Kulusevski’s farewell may have had a major impact on the team’s attacking performance, but no one would have imagined a team so toiling to score goals. A statistic above all that perfectly delineates the problems of the Emilian team is that relating to the goals scored: 4 at San Siro against Inter Milan and AC Milan, 3 at the Ennio Tardini against all the opponents in the entire first round. A goal against Hellas Verona, two goals against Spezia, then Parma’s attack stalled for 723 consecutive minutes until it was unlocked again against Udinese, 119 days later, thanks to Andreas Cornelius. In addition to the new manager, the US owner Kyle Krause during the last transfer market window spared no expense to pick up the team, which today can boast an exaggerated squad made up of 33 players, many of whom are genuine bets: among the new signings stand out above all the young Dutch striker Joshua Zirkzee, taken out on loan from Bayern Munich, and the Steaua Bucharest youngster Dennis Man, for whom Krause has decided to invest a record amount for the Romanian championship, over 12 million euros. Today, only in the attacking stock, Parma can boast Gervinho, Yann Karamoh and the two Romanians Valentin Mihaila and Dennis Man as wingers, plus four strikers such as Roberto Inglese, Andreas Cornelius, Joshua Zirkzee and Graziano Pellè. If a first reaction seemed to arrive against Hellas Verona and Udinese, this still has not proved to be enough to conquer points. The safe zone today is six points away.

orange – goals scored; yellow – goals conceeded


That of Cagliari is a season that seems cursed: despite continuous purchases and the lead of a coach who only three years ago competed in a Champions League semi-final with AS Roma, Eusebio Di Francesco, the Sardinian team has slowly sunk into the relegation zone and does not seem to have the head to get out of it. Not even after the arrival, in January, of top-level players who know Serie A very well (Radja Nainggolan, Daniele Rugani, Alfred Duncan and Kwadwo Asamoah, who hasn’t even made his debut yet) who join other elements respectable as Diego Godin, Alessio Cragno, Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone. Cagliari, in fact, is in tenth place in the list of Serie A teams as an absolute value, 185 million euros in total according to Transfermarkt. Cagliari still seems to carry the dross of the last championship, which started very well and ended only in thirteenth place: this season the rossoblù team has won only three times and above all has scored only one goal in the last seven games, during which it has also suffered mocking goals like that of Jeremie Boga of Sassuolo or Luis Muriel of Atalanta, both arrived during the extratime. More than technical, the problem to be solved is mainly the mental one, and former SPAL coach Leonardo Semplici will have to work hard on this, even if doubts about a comeback remain.



A team that seems to have been reborn after the technical change is Davide Nicola’s Torino, unrecognizable under Marco Giampaolo’s management and actually out of the dangerous spots again. The 0-0 home draw against Spezia (ten against eleven for over 80 minutes) cost dearly to the former coach of Sampdoria and AC Milan, but above all a disastrous first part of the season, concluded with only two wins (it had never happened before in the history of the club) and with another record, that of nineteen points lost from advantageous situations, 14 of which were in the last 30 minutes. Thanks to some market presents (Antonio Sanabria, who has not yet made his debut, and Rolando Mandragora), the Granata seem to have found their square with a very flexible 3-5-2 that takes advantage of the work of the full-backs and the skills of the centre-backs. And they quickly became much more solid and confident, as evidenced by the latest seasonal games, above all the win at Cagliari. The next step must be to reach the first home match of the season.

The other teams

While until a few weeks ago it seemed they were going to play an entire championship to suffer, Genoa has definitely changed gears since Davide Ballardini arrived on the rossoblù bench (for the fourth time in his career), who with his loyal 3-5-2 obtained immediately convincing results and mentality: the Ligurian team has improved a lot about the defensive point of view, has found a new leader in midfield thanks to the arrival of Kevin Strootman but above all it has benefited from the return of Mattia Destro who seems to have returned to score like few seasons ago. The situations of Spezia and Benevento do not seem to concern the relegation battle, at least until today: the two newly promoted teams have shown that they can deal without problems even with clearly superior clubs, making the most of their best weapons: it was no coincidence in fact if the team coached by Vincenzo Italiano managed to beat AC Milan with a perfect match and to exit from Naples with three points, just as it is no wonder that the Benevento coached by Filippo Inzaghi managed to stop Juventus and AS Roma thanks to an excellent collective performance. Currently, it would be very unlikely to see their sudden decline given the maturity demonstrated to date despite the many injuries that have affected some reference players. The other three teams involved, at the moment, are Fiorentina, Bologna and Udinese: despite their very fluctuating performance, and perhaps even lower than their potential, all three seem largely superior to their pursuers and currently have a reassuring margin to cover any blackouts. The Viola, for example, having greatly disappointed the expectations of the fans given the technical rate available, but are exploiting Dusan Vlahovic’s excellent season in terms of scoring and have found an important and young leader like Gaetano Castrovilli; Luca Gotti’s Udinese is proving to be a very tough team with some very important individualities, and as evidenced by the expected goals graph also very compact defensively; Bologna, on the other hand, while focusing decisively on a very young lineup and without having collected sensational exploits against the top teams, is proving to have a very interesting team that over the months has also solved, even if partially, the defensive problems.

Remaining Matches

Matchday 24 will be played on Sunday and it starts immediately with two tough and maybe decisive matches: Spezia-Parma and Crotone-Cagliari. Two weeks later the Calabrians will meet Torino at home again and then also Bologna (matchday 28), Udinese (31) and Fiorentina (38). A great opportunity to collect away points could be the match in Parma, scheduled for the end of April. Cagliari still has almost all the matches scheduled against the big clubs but will still be able to take advantage of home games against Bologna (matchday 25), Parma (31), Fiorentina (36) and Genoa (38). On the last gameday, therefore, there will be: Crotone-Fiorentina, Cagliari-Genoa but also Torino-Benevento. Udinese will have a decisive April, because they will consecutively meet Torino, Crotone, Cagliari and Benevento. Parma, apart from Bologna and Udinese, will face seven of the bottom nine of the table. In the meanwhile, all these teams except Crotone have to face the champions in charge, Juventus.

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