There has been a real divide in Serie A this term, an exciting season seeing only a select few teams sitting in mid-table with nothing to play for. With four games remaining only Torino, Genoa and Bologna seem to be excluded from both the race for Europe and the battle to beat the drop as the remainder of the campaign provides a fascinating finale.
The forthcoming weekend will be no different as several teams fight to avoid the two relegation slots that are left after the fate of Benevento was sealed last weekend even after a superb 1-0 win over AC Milan at San Siro.
However the minnows have amassed just 17 points in 34 matches in what was their first ever season in the top flight. They will host Udinese this weekend, who are bang in trouble themselves. After 11 consecutive defeats they fired Coach Massimo Oddo last weekend, replacing him with former Juventus player Igor Tudor.
Another key clash will be Hellas Verona vs. SPAL, a six pointer between the sides who currently occupy the remaining slots in the drop zone. Cagliari also face a tough test away to Sampdoria, a team that forms part of a cluster of sides hoping to achieve a Europa League Berth next term.
After eleven consecutive defeats – the worst run in the club’s history – Udinese are looking like a side who are psychologically defeated with operations behind the scenes chaotic at best. President Giampaolo Pozzo already fired the inept Luigi Del Neri earlier in the campaign and his replacement Oddo seemed to do well initially.
Oddo spoke to reporters after a ninth loss in a row to Cagliari:
"This is a team that is very physical and doesn’t have much quality in its passing game, so our goals have to be counter-attacks."
"The real problem is in the mind, because when we get the game on track and go in front, we should make those characteristics count and start to dominate, but instead we retreat. I maintain it is purely a psychological issue, as this team is afraid of losing and when it goes in front gets afraid of an equaliser. It’s afraid of everything."
Now they have replaced their Coach for the second time this season, bringing in Igor Tudor for the final four games, a man who was sacked from Galatasaray earlier this season and has never managed in Serie A before.
They face a Benevento side that will be playing without fear and forthcoming fixtures versus Inter, Hellas Verona and Bologna suggest it is worth a bet on Udinese losing their top-flight status. 888sport are currently offering this at 15/1 odds, something that is well worth considering.
Cagliari are level on points (33) with Udinese, the pair currently four points ahead of the drop zone. Having hired their former boss Diego Lopez for a second spell in charge earlier this season they have picked up four points in their last three matches.
However an important consideration here is their remaining four fixtures, with all of their forthcoming matches versus sides that are fighting for a place in Europe. Cagliari travel to Sampdoria this weekend, and subsequently face matches away to Roma and Fiorentina, followed by a tough final encounter at home to Atalanta. Bet365 offer odds of 7/1 on the Sardinian side dropping down to Serie B, a bet seriously worth your time.
SPAL currently occupy the third-from-bottom spot, with Chievo just two points above them. Looking at the run-ins, both have winnable matches in the final four rounds of Serie A, with Chievo’s match with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend the most difficult fixture facing the pair.
Leonardo Semplici’s SPAL went down 3-0 to the Giallorossi last weekend, but other than that are well-organised defensively, having gone on a run of eight matches unbeaten prior to that. Those games included plenty of stalemates, but SPAL managed to hold both Juventus and Fiorentina to goalless draws, highlighting the work that has been done to shore up the backline.
The SPAL board have complete faith in Semplici, but Chievo seem to be unsure about their boss Rolando Maran. He was almost sacked after the Flying Donkeys suffered a late defeat to Napoli just three weeks ago, his side having suffered two draws and a loss since then. Bet365 are offering 6/1 on Chievo to go down, a seemingly better option than resolute SPAL at 9/4.