A Team by Team Look at Serie A's Relegation Battle

Much of the attention on Serie A focuses on the upper echelons of the table, and rightly so. With the Scudetto race as tight as ever, there's no shortage of drama among the best of the best on the peninsula. The bottom half of the table, however, also offers its fair share of entertainment week in week out, and nowhere more so than the relegation battle. Last season saw Torino and Benevento battle it out until Matchday 37 to beat the drop, while Lecce went down on the final game of the season in 2020. No one could forget the insanity that was the 2018/19 season finale either, where Empoli ultimately ended up as the odd man out after a wild 2-1 defeat to Inter. This year looks like an even closer affair. With 14th through 18th a mere five points apart, just about everyone in the chaotic clump that is the lower half of the standings has to worry about the unthinkable happening: relegation to the second division.

 

Spezia

With 26 points from 25 games, including three wins in their last five, and three teams between them and the drop zone, the Aquilotti look relatively safe. After a rocky start to the season, Thiago Motta appears to have found some consistency and form in his debut season.

Why they'll stay up: In their recent form is anything to go by, Spezia should end the season comfortably midtable. Motta's side pulled off impressive wins away to both Milan and Napoli and eased past fellow relegation contender Genoa 1-0. They've fallen back to earth a bit after a draw against Salernitana and defeat to Fiorentina, but you don't pull off upsets like that without real quality. Daniele Verde and Emmanuel Gyasi can cause havoc down the flanks while Simone Bastoni provides a veteran presence in the backend. Motta, meanwhile, looks to be finding his feet as a manager and settled on a first-choice XI after constant tinkering earlier in the season.

Why they'll go down: Those wins over Milan and Napoli could be put down to luck more than anything and Spezia certainly doesn't have the defensive record worthy of a top-flight side. It's third in goals conceded (46) and second in expected goals against (43.6xga). Offensively, Spezia has outperformed its expected goals and has the third-worst expected goal differential in the league. Will their luck last long enough for salvation?

 

Udinese

Losing Rodrigo De Paul and Juan Musso in the same summer was always going to be a crippling blow for Udinese, so it's no surprise to see them stuck in 15th on 24 points. The side from Friuli sacked manager Luca Gotti in return for his assistant Gabriele Cioffi (a questionable move at best) but the results have only deteriorated.

Why they'll stay up: Udinese's goal-scoring stats are far superior to where they sit in the actual table. It has the 11th-best defense and 13th-best attack in the league, and while those aren't stellar numbers, it's miles better than most of their competitors. Portuguese striker Beto has been a menace to opposing backlines and links up well with Gerard Deulofeu. The duo has more than enough firepower to lead Udinese to safety.

Why they'll go down: Udinese's recent form is certainly cause for concern and there's some doubt over whether Cioffi is worthy of the job. The Zebrette have just one win in five and put in a concerning performance in last weekend's 4-0 loss to Hellas Verona. Expect at least one more coaching change at the Dacia Arena before the season is done.

 

Sampdoria

Claudio Ranieri's departure took with it Sampdoria's status as a comfortably midtable club. After finishing last season with an impressive 52 points, tougher times have been the theme this season. Samp is currently 16th on 23 points and recently sacked manager Roberto D'Aversa for the return of Marco Giampaolo.

Why they'll stay up: Sampdoria's fortunes immediately changed under Giampaolo and his tenure got off to a resounding start when Samp beat Sassuolo 4-0. The Blucerchiati then lost 1-0 to Milan in a closely contested game, but there were clear signs of improvement from the D'Aversa era. New signings Stefano Sensi and Andrea Conti have impressed and Samp should have more than enough quality to avoid the drop.

Why they'll go down: A lot of the above paragraph relies on the improved performances under Giampaolo being more than just a new coach bounce. If Giampaolo reverts back to the horrendous football we saw from his Torino days, Sampdoria could be in trouble.

 

Cagliari

The Sardinians barely escaped relegation last season, requiring Leonardo Semplici to step in and save the ship just in time. Rather than build off the foundation Semplici built, however, the Italian was sacked just three games into the current season. That plunged Cagliari into another dance with relegation and Walter Mazzarri only recently pulled them above the red line. The side from Sardinia is level with Venezia on 21 points but unlikely to stay there long as Venezia has a game in hand.

Why they'll stay up: For large swaths of the season Cagliari looked befuddled and completely hopeless under Mazzarri, but that's changed of late. The eccentric manager has guided Cagliari to wins over Sampdoria, Bologna, and Atalanta since the new year and they've lost just once in six. Joao Pedro (10 goals, 3 assists) is their hero and savior but in recent weeks the entire squad has stepped up, especially defensively. The side from Sardinia hasn't conceded more than one goal a game once in 2022, in part thanks to the January arrival of center backs Matteo Lovato and Eduardo Goldaniga. If Cagliari can keep this strong form alive for the remainder of the campaign they'll live to fight another day.

Why they'll go down: Despite the recent revival, Cagliari is still in a very perilous position. Venezia sits level with them with a game in hand and hosts the second head-to-head between the teams (the first was a 1-1 draw). Cagliari may be forced to play catchup on a number of teams and it remains to be seen if the string of one-goal wins and close draws can be sustainable. Furthermore, the Isolani still have Napoli, Milan, Lazio, Inter, and Juventus left to play in one of the toughest schedules across the league.

 

Venezia

One of the most likable teams in Serie A might not be long for the peninsula's top flight. Despite stellar kits and a slick playing style, the team from Venice currently sits on the wrong side of the drop zone with 21 points. There's reason to believe the Arancioneroverdi has what it takes to stay up, but it certainly won't be an easy mountain to climb for Paolo Zanetti's side.

Why they'll stay up: Contrary to most of its neighbors in the relegation zone, Venezia plays a positive style of football with an emphasis on actually using the ball and making things happen. You would hope the football gods reward them for being pleasing on the eye but Venezia is more than capable of a successful season even without help from higher powers. Zanetti's side survived the toughest period of its schedule without too much danger and even picked up a shock win at Torino last weekend. They play Cagliari, Udinese, Sampdoria, Salernitana, Genoa, and Spezia in the final few months of the campaign, so their fate is completely in their own hands.

Why they'll go down: An easy schedule is one thing on paper, but an entirely other in reality. Venezia has a very young and inexperienced squad, while a number of their new arrivals are foreign, compared to a team like Genoa full of veterans well versed in relegation battles. Venezia also lacks a go-to goal scorer like Mattia Destro or Joao Pedro, the type of player than can singlehandedly rescue a team. If either of the strikers, Thomas Henry or Jean-Pierre Nsame, can be "that guy" for Venezia, they have the supporting pieces to survive. If not, well, despite all of their good work, Venezia might lack the muscle to stay up.

 

Genoa

Genoa perenially hangs around near the relegation zone but this might just be the year their luck runs out. Despite leading Genoa to safety last season, Davide Ballardini was sacked a third of the way through the current campaign. His replacement, Andriy Shevchenko, lasted even shorter at the helm and was succeeded by Alexander Blessin. The German's first three games have all ended in draws and featured just two goals in total. Another fun season at the Marassi!

Why they'll stay up: If anyone can pull off a miracle to avoid Serie B, it's Genoa. It feels like the Rossoblu should have been relegated five years ago, but they've somehow managed to stay in the top flight for over 10 years running. Mattia Destro's form will likely be the deciding factor this time around. Putting a 6-0 defeat to Fiorentina aside, Genoa has been defensively solid, with three goals conceded in the last six. Genoa has struggled in attack, however, and needs Destro to find his top form if they have any hope of survival. Their trip to Venezia this weekend will go a long way in determining the fate of both teams.

Why they'll go down: Simply put, Genoa has been awful this season. They've won just once all season, have 15 points, and are six behind Venezia. The quality on the roster is well below Serie A caliber and new manager Blessin hasn't shown he can fix the ailing attack. The sooner they're out of the top flight, the better.

 

Salernitana

Salernitana is lucky to even be in Serie A at all after an ownership snafu which saw them under the control of Claudio Lotito for half of the season, who also owns Lazio. That's obviously against the rules but they couldn't find a new owner until hours before a January 1st deadline that would have seen them kicked out of the league midseason. It's only a matter of time, however, before their run in the top flight comes to a close.

Why they'll stay up: Salernitana was incredibly active on the January market under Walter Sabatini, who brought in an almost entirely new starting XI. Federico Fazio and Luigi Sepe are meant to fix their defensive issues, Ederson (nope, not that one) and Ivan Radovanovic are there to bolster the midfield, while Simone Verdi and Lys Mousset will hope to inspire life into a listless attack. It's possible (though nowhere near likely) that the new arrivals will transform Salernitana from the worst team in the league to a winning machine. It's also possible that I'm to be kidnapped by aliens right after writing this.

Why they'll go down: Even if Salernitana improves by a factor of 10, the eight-point gap is likely too far to bridge with just 13 games left. The first two games since the transfer market closed, draws against Spezia and Genoa, did show some improvement but nowhere near enough to stay up. Salernitana also sacked Stefano Colantuono (their second coach of the season) midweek and is reportedly looking at Andrea Pirlo of all people to replace him. At this point, it feels like they're throwing darts at the wall blindly to see what sticks. This is a story we've seen before, and it's no secret how it ends.

 

Prediction

18th - Cagliari

19th - Genoa

20th - Salernitana


106 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All