The relegation battle in Italy seems to be sealed already as the teams in the relegation zone sit four points from safety and have a difficult set of fixtures ahead of them.
At the turn of the year it was looking like the battle for survival would be a long drawn out one. The bottom six teams were separated by only six points but with less than ten games remaining, the fate seems to be sealed for Atalanta, Siena and Livorno. Atalanta and Siena have accumulated only 25 points so far while Livorno sit a further point behind them. Lazio who are currently in 17th place are on 29 points and Catania who have 31 points are effectively six points from the drop. There have been bigger differences which have been overcome in the past, but this time around the fixture list is very harsh on the relegation candidates.
Atalanta have been having a torrid season by their own mid-table standards and Sunday’s victory over Livorno was welcomed by all in Bergamo. It was only the team’s third victory this year but more critically it was over their direct relegation rivals. They are the third lowest scorers in the league and since Simone Tiribocchi’s good early season form deserted him, the team has been in a steady decline. Prior to Sunday’s game, the side had only scored twice in their previous eight games.
The season only gets tougher for the Nerazzurri from here and they close the campaign with games against the top sides. They will face Roma, Fiorentina, Inter, Napoli, Palermo and finally Lazio. With the exception of Lazio, all the other teams are fighting for either the Championship or the other European spots. In such a scenario, it looks extremely difficult for Atalanta to make up the gap to Lazio and somehow manage to cling to safety.
Siena are on a wonderful run at the moment and they haven’t been defeated in their previous six games. The team has no problems scoring goals but it is in defence that the team has real problems as the fragile back four has conceded 51 goals already. They will be facing Lazio tomorrow at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and that game could go a long way in deciding how their season ends.
A victory for the Aquile will put them further ahead of their Sicilian rivals, while a win for the Elefanti will pile the pressure on Edy Reja’s side. The team will be in an upbeat mood particularly after their fantastic comeback against Juventus and of the three sides, Catania look the most likely to complete a Houdiniesque escape. They close their season with a tough set of fixtures against the likes of Palermo, Fiorentina and Inter. If the title race goes down to the wire, the Scudetto may well be decided once again at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Livorno are having an absolutely dreadful time this year, their last victory came against Parma on 10th January and since then they have lost seven times and drawn only thrice. The enthralling 3-3 draw with Roma proved to be a false dawn for the Amaranto as they were thumped 3-0 by Atalanta on Sunday. With the exception of Cristiano Lucarelli, the rest of the team looks terribly out of shape. They have scored the least number of goals this campaign and on Wednesday they make the dreaded trip to Inter. On their current form, they have to be the favourites for the drop.
There have been teams which have completed amazing turnarounds from even this stage of the season, most notably Parma in 2006/07 when they covered seven points in the last eight rounds. However, this season with many teams having a motivation to fight for some accolade or the other, it looks like the end of the road for these three sides.