Saturday, 2 June 2007

Serie B Wk 41: Preview

The Cadetti season reaches its final fortnight with promotion and relegation issues still yet to be decided.

Napoli (75 points) have a golden opportunity to take a step towards Serie A as they host an apathetic Lecce side. The Azzurri trail Genoa (77 points) by two points in the race for the second automatic promotion spot, and with the two sides set to meet next week they will be desperate to pile the pressure on the Grifoni who must travel to play-off chasers Mantova (61 points), who are struggling in sixth.

However, it won’t just be Genoa’s result that Napoli fans keep a close eye on. If the third-placed side finishes 10 points or more above fourth they are promoted automatically along with the top two and there are no play-offs. With the Vesuviani currently 11 points clear of Piacenza (64 points), the Papaveri’s visit to mid-table Vicenza becomes pivotal. If Piacenza do slip-up, Rimini (63 points), who are 12 points behind, will have to win at Triestina to keep the play-offs on.

Both Genoa and Napoli could win promotion this weekend if the gap between third and fourth is 13 points going into the final weekend. That could happen if Genoa pick up at least a draw at Mantova, Napoli win at home to Lecce and Piacenza and Rimini fail to beat Vicenza and Triestina respectively.

Two other sides behind Piacenza, Rimini and Mantova will fight it out for the final play-off spots. Brescia (61 points) and Bologna (59 points) are both just outside the play-off area and will need to pick up wins against already relegated clubs. The Rondinelle travel to Pescara and the Rossoblu are at home to Crotone.

The nerves are also jangling at the foot of the table. Crotone and Pescara have already accepted life in Serie C, but three sides could join them in calcio’s underbelly. After a heroic victory away to high-flying Rimini last weekend, Arezzo (41 points) have clawed their way back to within a point of Verona (42 points) and two points of Spezia (43 points).

The Tuscan minnows have fought tooth and nail after a six-point Calciopoli penalty and have a promising home tie with Modena (45 points) who could be dragged into the equation.

Verona’s passionate fans continue to sweat. The Scaligeri need a win away to Cesena to avoid relying on a last day triumph as they did in 2003-04.

Spezia’s inconsistency has left them at risk of an immediate return to the third tier. The Aquilotti face Treviso (47 points) at the Stadio Alberto Picco knowing that they must deliver as they’re highly unlikely to pick up a point against Juventus on the final day.

The Ligurians’ cause won’t be helped by the absence of four men due to suspension, but they’ll be heartened by news that Treviso’s star striker Robert Acquafresca’s is only half-fit – the young marksman’s hat-trick proved the difference in Week 20’s 3-0 thrashing.

Other key games in race to avoid relegation sees Bari (47 points) host a Juve side who begin life after Didier Deschamps with Giancarlo Corradini at the helm, Frosinone (47 points) host Albinoleffe and Triestina (46 points) host play-off chasers Rimini.

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