Ten man Lecce came from behind to take a point at top of the table (and still unbeaten) Juventus yesterday. I watched most of the game, and I have to say that the point was probably undeserved – Juventus were rampant for most of the first half, and though Lecce passed the ball about neatly enough, they looked as threatening as a glass of water in the sun. So, naturally, the equaliser was a late gift from a man I saw once on the streets of Turin, Gigi Buffon; it was unfitting for him, but Lecce were never going to score any other way.
A point, however, was not enough to prevent the gap between Lecce (36) and Genoa (39) stretching to 3 points. That was disappointing. Before yesterday’s game, you could get a restrictive 1/3 on Lecce being relegated. Now, with two games left to save their sorry hides, and Genoa’s freefall arrested, you can get 3/25 – put another way, that’s just slightly shorter that 1/8 – 1.125. It’s a reinforced cast-iron certainty.
So will it happen?
Well, the thinking man would say ‘Don’t be so silly. Lecce will be back in Serie B next season’. I like to think of myself as a thinking man, but…but I can’t. Not yet. The Russians, as you may have read in my previous posts, have a saying; Hope Dies Last.
Sersi Cosmi has installed something into this Lecce team since December. It seemed to be missing lately, as if pulling up to Genoa was mission accomplished, but it was back last night. Good as Juventus were, Lecce were not rolling aside to let the probable champions past. It was a hard running (and quite foul-heavy, to be fair, particularly early in the second half – the red card was certainly warranted), stubborn ox of a display that came away clutching a point, and it could prove to be a very pivotal point indeed. That, of course, remains unlikely. We will see how unlikely over the weekend.
On Saturday, three point deficit intact (though with a superior goal difference to Genoa) Lecce host Fiorentina, who obviously have had troubles of their own recently, and sit only six points outside the relegation zone. A win in that game would put them out of the relegation zone – given the tie breaker of games between the two saw two draws – on goal difference. On Sunday afternoon, Genoa travel to Udine. If, imagine it, Lecce have kept their side of the bargain, and are level with Genoa, the rossoblu will have to get something on Sunday.
If you were Genoa, then, about to play in Udine, riddle me this. You find yourself in the relegation zone at the start of a game against Udinese. Do you try to contain di Natale and his colleagues, in the hope of repelling them for 90 minutes and either snatching a point, or a goal and three (become one of four teams to take something away from the Friuli this season – only one of whom won) or do you take the game to Udinese, confident in your own abilities, but risking utter destruction to your goal difference along the way?
Apologies for the convolution that follows, but this promises to be much more complex than 3/25 odds would suggest.
There’s only one option there, isn’t there? They’re going to try to park the bus. The problem with that is, if Lecce have pulled back those three points and the two start level, they may well both be only three points behind the trio of Palermo, Fiorentina and Cagliari (42). Personally, despite their win yesterday, I wouldn’t fancy Genoa to keep Udinese at bay; so I can’t look beyond a home win. Also, on Sunday, Palermo have a home game against Chievo, and I’m sure they’d reckon on being good enough for the point that would make them safe and take them to 43 (Lecce can only get 42 maximum). Meanwhile, Cagliari host Juventus, and I’m not sure the Old Lady will be in as generous mood as they were last night.
That would take us into Game 38 with Lecce and Genoa level on 39 points, but the Puglians ahead on goal difference; 3 points ahead of those, on 42, we would have Fiorentina and Cagliari, and then (I suspect) Palermo ahead of those, either on 43 or 45 points (probably 43). So, Lecce travel to Chievo, and Genoa host Palermo (behind closed doors).
To survive, Fiorentina and Cagliari would both need a point. Happily, for the pair, they face off in Florence. I expect to see some conspiracy theories floating around that game if it comes to have that level of importance. Which would leave Genoa and Lecce shooting it out, on the same afternoon, to better the other’s result. Now, I know Lecce are away, and Genoa at home, but both of their opponents will be safe (probably) by then and Genoa will be behind closed doors, while there will be some Lecce fans in Verona.
It might be the romantic in me, it might be the realist, but I don’t see Lecce’s relegation as a 3/25 certainty. Of course, having said all this, the whole scenario above is reliant on Lecce beating a demoralised Fiorentina team on Saturday night, one who sacked their manager yesterday for attacking one of his own players. Fiorentina, of course, will only need a point to be safe.
This post isn’t me saying ‘Lecce will stay up’. This is me saying ‘You get evens (2.0) on Lecce to beat Fiorentina at the weekend, and with that in mind, it seems a bit harsh that Lecce are 3/25 to be relegated’.
As the Russians say…Hope Dies Last. It promises to be an interesting weekend at the foot of Serie A, and hopefully my hope won’t – on Saturday evening – die.