As the season draws to its conclusion, the focus in Serie B turns to promotion. By the end of the campaign three clubs will have earned the right to play in Italy’s top-flight and will have secured sought after trips to the San Siro, Stadio Olimpico and many more of the footballing Meccas that fans dream about. This year’s race is particularly close with only five points separating the top five clubs and, with some key matches still to be played, there may still be a surprise in the offing.
Lecce sits atop the table and have done for most of the season. One of the pre-season favourites to go up, they are expected to bounce back after finishing bottom of Serie A last term. Lecce has always been switching between the divisions, managing a three year stay in Serie A between 2003-06. With superb support that resides in the 36,000 strong Stadio Via del Mare, Lecce has the perfect set up to be amongst Italy’s elite. The loss of Simone Tiribocchi to Atalanta has had an effect, with Lecce failing to finish off some games, but strength in depth should see them certainly promoted, probably as champions.
Grosseto has surprised everyone this year by creeping up the table to lie in second place. The club’s form has been good, picking up many back to back wins. A fantastic month in September started the drive for promotion when the side went the month undefeated. Now only three points off the top and with their key man Mauricio Pinilla in superb form, scoring in the past twelve consecutive games and totalling twenty for the season, the Tuscan club are in surely the best form and are favourites for promotion. If promoted to Serie A, it would be the first time in the club’s history and a significant achievement.
Sassuolo has spent most of its life in the lower leagues of Italian football and is a new comer to Serie B. Finishing in 7th place in 2008/09, the club has continued to build on this success and this season lie in third place, only four points from the top. A ten game unbeaten run from mid November to March has given the team from Modena a belief that promotion is possible, the game against Grosseto in two weeks time having the potential to shape Sassuolo’s season. Should they go up however, they will have to be frugal in the transfer market in order to improve their small and fragile squad.
Brescia was among the pre-season favourites to gain promotion, just as they are most years. Many people still remember the Baggio years in the early 2000’s and think that a club of this stature belongs in Serie A. The club’s current position in fourth spot, just four points off the top, represents something of an improvement for Brescia after a poor start to the campaign. Before defeat to Grosseto last week, the Rondinelle had not lost in nine and had been looking tough to beat. Much of this is down to the striking partnership of Andrea Caracciolo and captain Davide Possanzini, whose goals and understanding has given Brescia a real chance of success come the end of the season.
Cesena is currently in fifth place, five points off the top with a game in hand. After losing to Reggina on the opening day, Cesena went on a fourteen match unbeaten run, in turn spending much of the season in the top half. Sporadic results since then have seen them slowly slip out of the top three. With the month of March throwing Cesena the toughest run out of all the promotion candidates, it very much remains to be seen whether the club can recapture its early season form. The team from Emilia-Romagna will be desperately hoping to reach Serie A for the first time since 1991.
Ancona is also five points from the top, lying in sixth place and, having been in the top flight as recently as 2004, is desperate to get back. The team from the Marche however, has one major flaw, this being its inability to win away from home. Undefeated in the Stadio del Conero, Ancona has lost ten games away from home and, as a result, has been unable to get together any sort of run. With some tough home games ahead, it will be vital for the team’s undefeated home record to stay intact if it is to have any hope of promotion.
Torino and Empoli lie in seventh and eighth places are only eight and nine points off the leaders respectively. However, with form ranging from the sublime to the disastrous, it would seem unlikely that these two will be amongst the contenders for the title come May.