With the Serie A now concluded, there is one last piece of business to take care of: Who will remain in the topflight of Italian football for next season? Spezia against Verona in a relegation playoff.
Playing on neutral ground and Sassuolo’s Mapei stadium, it’s all to play for and everything to lose for one of these sides who both finished the season on 31 points from the 38 matches played and we will need a tie-breaker to see who joins Sampdoria and Cremonese in Serie B next season. This match comes as of a rule change from last year, where it was decided that two teams equal on points but with a discrepancy on goal difference was not enough to separate sides and determine relegation, hence this year, a relegation playoff will be needed to determine who faces the drop.
Spezia, whose short history in Serie A is in serious danger having only joined the league in 2020, have been in trouble since mid-spring. They have lost 11 of their previous 20 matches, chalking up just 2 wins in that time period. Their recent record of 1 win, 1 draw and 3 losses in their last 5 is actually identical in terms of results as their opponents Verona. Both sides have been equally poor, necessitating the need for this match to determine who can prove themselves worthy of top-tier football at long last.
Spezia are without at least two key players due to suspension, with both captain Emmanuel Gyasi and Kelvin Amian becoming unavailable after disciplinary action last week against Roma and Spezia boss Leonardo Semplici will need to call on reinforcements to replace them. Long-term injuries are still affecting the likes of defender Joao Moutinho and Emil Holm, as well as the on-loan Mattia Caldara and Jacopo Sala who remain on the treatment table.
Verona head into this crucial fixture without the likes of Thomas Henry and Ondrej Duda, but a few other players have returned to training recently and could be called upon including Polish centre-back Pawel Dawidowicz and Marco Zafarroni’s team will be bolstered by the extra reinforcement.
As you would expect from relegation-threatened sides, goals have been hard to come by for both of these sides, both managers will have the majority of their forwards to choose from and deciding who leads the front line between Adolfo Gaich and Milan Djuric of the likely contenders could be Marco Zaffoni’s biggest headscratcher. He will also need to decide who gets the od in the wide areas from Simone Verdi, Cyril Ngonge and Kevin Lasagna. Aside from M’bala Nzola, Spezia have had few goal scorers and it could be an opportunity for the on loan Daniel Maldini or Daniele Verde to step up and make history.
Powerful Angolan Nzola has been Spezia’s most potent weapon and has had some startling performances along with Bartolomej Dragowski and they may well be called upon one last time for heroics to keep the Serie A dream alive.
Expert Insight: With both teams being so evenly matched, this is game that could go down to the last kick of the game. Hellas Verona have a more experienced side in this league and players like Miguel Veloso and similar calming influences could be enough to see them through. But there remains a strong chance that this game will not be decided in 90 minutes.