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Serie A: The Fight For Survival – Who Will Avoid The Drop?

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As we have now passed the half-way mark of the 2013-2014 Serie A season, much of the talk has been focused around runaway leaders Juventus who look on course to celebrate their third consecutive Scudetto. For 10 rounds, Roma had been leading the way with a perfect 100% record only to see a series of stumbles allow the Bianconeri to find a way back in–and once they did they have not looked remotely threatened since.

While the Giallorossi look a good bet to finish in second and secure Champions League direct qualification without having to go through the play-off stages, third place and that last spot will likely be a closely watched battle between Napoli and Fiorentina. And moving into the Europa League spots it gets a lot more interesting, with any of Hellas Verona, Parma, Torino, Inter, Lazio, and even (albeit highly unlikely) Milan all being potential contenders to be featuring in Europe next season.

Catania vs Udinese

But while these sides all are looking forward to playing in Europe, for some others, staying in Italian football’s top flight is really the only thing that they are focused on. While not in the drop zone, previously high-flying side Udinese, which this author once likened to the fictional character Rocky Balboa for how they continuously managed to punch above their weight and challenge the country’s biggest sides for a European spot, now has seen their fortunes go by the wayside. Although still involved in the Coppa Italia–the only route for them to make their continental aspirations a reality–they have a measly 23 points from 22 games played and only sit six above 18th-placed Livorno–something that will be quite disconcerting for their supporters who are more used to the Zebrette being in the top half of the table as opposed to hovering near the bottom. (Points ahead of theri 3-0 win over Chievo today)

Last placed side Catania, with just 15 points have endured a torrid side this season. The Sicilian club, which finished in 8th place last term–their highest ever since the early 1960’s–has been in free-fall ever since, winning just three of their league games thus far and suffering heavy losses to Juventus and Roma (both by scorelines of four goals to nil). In 2012-2013 gli Elefanti netted 50 strikes in 38 games; but more significant, they conceded 46. This season so far, in just 22 games, they’ve allowed in 40–a number that looks like will certainly increase as they’ve yet to face off against some of the league’s highest scoring sides in the return fixtures. And, with just 16 to their name they will obviously need to step it up if they want to be featuring in the top tier next season.

Serie A debutants Sassuolo are another side that may find their time in the top flight ending at the end of this season. Despite the emergence of youngster Domenico Berardi, who made history as the first to score a poker against AC Milan on 12 January during match day 19, the Neroverdi have endured a torrid time this season and post the worst defensive record of any of the 20 teams with a whopping 48 goals (or nearly 2.2 per match) conceded. However, what is interesting about the side is their ability to post good results and frustrate the likes of Napoli, Roma, and Lazio (as well as beating the Rossoneri) yet were outclassed by their counterparts who are also struggling for survival. This is something that obviously the newbies will have to improve on if they wish to extend their stay in the top echelons beyond one season.

Fellow Serie B promotees Livorno haven’t enjoyed their return too much this season. The Amaranto, like the other two sides that join them in this season’s basement have lost the vast majority of their games and have conceded the second most goals (tied with Catania’s 40). Still, with just one point between them and Bologna and Chievo who are presently safe, and six from Udinese who occupies 15th place, all is certainly not lost. Like Sassuolo, they naturally will need to re-evaluate and reorganize in order to mount an effective second half charge, but unlike the situation a the top of the table which looks clear, the same cannot be said for that involving the bottom-placed teams in this year’s Serie A campaign.

Hence, one should expect this to go down to the wire, with at least six teams–both those already wallowing in the drop zone and those just hovering above it–doing everything they can to ensure they will not be featuring in Serie B for the 2014-2015 term.