A fabulously entertaining season in Italy’s third and fourth tiers enters its final few weeks of competition and for many clubs there is still everything to play for.
In C1 division A, Ternana’s once seemingly unassailable lead is diminishing by the week as Mimmo Toscano’s side get stage fright at just the wrong time of the season. In mid-February, the Rossoverdi were out on their own at the top of La Classifica after a superb 2-0 away win in Benevento, but out of the next 21 points available, Toscano’s charges have only picked up eight and now automatic promotion to Serie B is anything but a formality.
Carpi, Pro Vercelli and Taranto are all within five points of the league leaders with Sorrento and Benevento a further four and five points behind respectively. Carpi have been an absolute revelation in 2012 remaining unbeaten since the winter break and along with Maurizio Braghin’s Pro Vercelli side, are producing some of the most entertaining football in Lega Pro. Taranto, under the shrewd guidance of Davide Dionigi still have their joker to play, and if they can win their game in hand against Como they will be right back in the promotion picture.
The end of season run-in appears to favour Toscano’s side with some of the big challengers around them having to play-off against each other. Week 32 could be a pivotal weekend in the title race however when Toscano takes his side to the Stadio Silvio Piola to face free scoring Pro Vercelli. Braghin’s side look to have the toughest end to the campaign having to play three of the current top five in consecutive weeks.
Down at the bottom, Foligno look dead and buried, cut adrift from the other struggling sides. The other relegation and play-out positions could be interesting with anyone from Pavia in 17th place to Foggia in 11th still in with a chance of saying arrivederci to C1 football next season. Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf will be biting his fingernails with his Monza side looking likely to feature in the end of season play-out lottery. The 36-year-old Dutch superstar promised some new investment for his club this week, unfortunately for him, it may be to strengthen a squad in Italy’s fourth tier.
In C1B Trapani look set to take the one automatic promotion place as they currently sit with a comfortable five point advantage over nearest challengers Spezia. The Sicilians have taken over top spot from their bitter island rivals Siracusa who led the division for much of the season. Andrea Sottil’s men have dropped to third in the table but will look to consolidate with a play-off place at the end of a campaign which has seen them deducted five points for financial irregularities.
Michele Serena’s Spezia are the divisions in-form team having only suffered one defeat since the turn of the year and that was to Trapani in week 23. The main reason for their spectacular turn around after a dreadful start to the campaign is the goalscoring form of striker Felice Evacuo. The 29-year-old former Lazio youth team player has netted 13 times in 24 games, achieving the best goals to games ratio in the division by some way. If Serena’s men fail to grab the automatic spot from the Sicilians as looks likely, they will certainly be the favourites to reach Italy’s second tier alongside Siracusa.
Virtus Lanciano, sitting comfortably in fourth spot, also look set to be involved in the end of season play-off showdown but behind them it is difficult to call. From Cremonese, currently in fifth on 43 points, to Frosinone, in 11th on 39, it looks like five teams will be vying for the final play-off berth at the end of the campaign.
Virtus Bassano look down with all hands at the basement of C1B and it looks like Latina will be making a quick return to C2 after just one season in the third tier. The big story developing at the foot of the table is the sad plight of Piacenza. 20 years ago, the club were on the verge of clinching a UEFA Cup spot but in March of this year they were declared bankrupt and their immediate future now looks uncertain no matter what division they finish up in at the end of the campaign.
The A division of Italy’s fourth tier is on a knife-edge with just seven points separating the top seven sides. San Marino currently sit on top the table just a point ahead of early season pacesetters Cuneo and Casale. Former Serie A side Treviso have overcome a points penalty to drag themselves up to fourth spot in the table while Rimini will be looking to cement back to back promotions after their own fall from grace over the past few years due to financial meltdown. Down in the basement, Valenzana and Sambonifacese look doomed with former Serie B side Mantova looking nervously over their shoulder in 15th spot.
The B division title looks set to be a straight fight between two former Serie A clubs Perugia and Catanzaro and Vigor Lamezia, who currently sit third just two points off top-spot. The Lametini have a huge Calabrian derby in week 40 against Francesco Cozza’s swashbuckling Catanzaro side followed by a home game just seven days later against, you’ve guessed it, Perugia. Could Francesco Costantino’s side pull off the surprise of the season to claim the most unlikeliest of championships??
At the bottom, Celano will almost certainly be relegated to Serie D as will Ebolitana who have had a turbulent season both on and off the pitch due primarily to infighting within the club following a bundled takeover before Christmas. Finally, good luck to Gavorrano striker Giordano Fioretti who is just five goals away from breaking the Serie B and Lega Pro all time seasonal goalscoring record. Currently sitting on 31 goals for the season, Fioretti is looking to overhaul Torino striker Gino Rossetti’s total of 36 that has stood since 1929.
You can follow Steve Mitchell for more regular updates on the world of Italy’s lower leagues on twitter (@barafundler).