At the time, the meeting between Chievo and Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare in the second week of the season had little implication for the league standings. However, the 2-0 victory for Lecce was the first defeat in what became a twelve match winless run for the gentlemen of Verona but, despite fairing slightly better in the fallout, the win didn’t exactly set the Salentini season alight either.
Five months on both are now battling at the foot of the table and Chievo and Lecce will meet again on Wednesday night enjoying very different runs of luck. At the weekend, i Clivensi managed to put together their first two win run of the season with a 1-0 away win over Reggina following the shock 2-1 victory over Napoli the week before, while the Salentini will be kicking themselves having twice blown the lead to let Torino back into Sunday’s game and get a share of the spoils in a dramatic 3-3 draw.
Had Lecce held their nerve, having gone two ahead through former Verona midfielder Gianni Munari, they would have been breathing down the necks of Sampdoria in 15th and starting to open something of a gap over the perilous dropzone by leapfrogging Bologna, who were on the receiving end of a vicious thrashing by the Kaka-fuelled Rossoneri. As it is, Lecce now sit just two points ahead of the bottom triad, while the battling Torino are rewarded by leapfrogging Chievo into 18th by virtue of a very slightly better goal difference. However, the current standings betray the formbook, with Chievo looking to build on the burgeoning winning streak that came alive when the Flying Donkeys dispatched Napoli on January 18 and Lecce lamenting the loss of two points rather than the gaining of one.
At the weekend, i Mussi Volanti built on the victory over the Partenopei and a draw with Mihajlovic’s (then unbeaten) Bologna with the injury-time winner against fellow strugglers Reggina at the Stadio Oreste Granillo. As all signs seemed to point to no-score-draw, substitute Vincenzo Italiano popped up on the edge of the box to drill home a stupendous winner and garner three much needed points for Domenico Di Carlo’s men deep in stoppage time.
However, the performance flattered to deceive, with the Gialloblu unwilling to be rushed against the ten-men of Reggina, who had Carlos Carmona sent off just before the break. For their casual attitude, Chievo almost ran out of time and for the second week in a row, the Flying Donkeys were lucky to escape with the win. Another fortuitous outcome much like the drama surrounding the previous week’s penalty debacle against the Edy Reja’s men at the Bentegodi.
As lucky as i Clivensi have been, Di Carlo is aware that the team isn’t performing and has landed Lazio’s Stephen Makinwa on loan to inject some much needed pace into the Chievo frontline.
Having fallen way down the pecking order at Lazio, the young Nigerian got a brief run out against Reginna but could come into the fold against Lecce with much-vaunted former Roma hitman Mauro Esposito having yet to open his account in Verona and stalwart Sergio Pellissier only finding the net on three occasions this season.
Meanwhile Lecce has their own problems to face. If being on the receiving end of Bosko Jankovic’s delicious back-heeled goal last weekend wasn’t enough, Mario Beretta will be having some very choice words with his charges after the shambolic capitulation against Torino at the weekend. Having thrown away 2-0 and 3-2 leads, Lecce will be ruing a missed opportunity to lift themselves up the table.
On the plus side for the Giallorossi, aging Argentine Jose Castillo added his fifth of the campaign for the beleaguered Salentini and Gianni Munari opened his account for the season with a double, including a wonderful swerving effort to open the scoring 12 minutes in. However, the removal of Munari on the hour through injury will be cause for concern and Lecce will be hopeful that he can shake off any knocks ahead of Wednesday’s crunch clash.
Chievo’s win against the Amaranto could be seen as another blessed event, having left it so late against a numerically disadvantaged opponent, but it is these types of games that Chievo have to win to have any chance of avoiding the fast train to Serie B.
The Gialloblu should be brimming with confidence ahead of the clash with Lecce and will hope to build momentum ahead of winnable games against Sampdoria, Torino and Catania. Should they overcome Lecce, the chances of putting together a six-run win and sky-rocketing up the table is not beyond the realms of comprehension.
On the other hand, if Lecce can look past their recent travails and get in the right frame of mind then should easily be able to see off Chievo in what is very much a six-point game. Having proven that they can play when the occasion calls and have not spent as long slumming it at the foot of the table as their opponents. In November the Giallorossi held Milan at the Stadio Via del Mare and even had the gall to run out 2-1 winners at the Artemio Franchi in the first fixture of the New Year. Come Wednesday, former Siena helmer Mario Beretta will be hoping that someone in his backroom staff can remember the words of wisdom he imparted in the dressing room during those two matches.
Realistically, Chievo has been riding their luck rather than winning convincingly and Lecce has a proven pedigree away from home, which just about gives i Lupi the edge in this taut relegation battle.