In danger of letting their previously positive campaign conclude with a slump, Hellas Verona host fellow mid-table outfit Bologna at Stadio Bentegodi on Monday.
While the home side have picked up just two points from their last seven games, their Emilian visitors are also winless in five since effectively securing Serie A survival last month.
Delivering his damning insight into Verona’s ongoing nosedive last week, coach Ivan Juric claimed that his side lacks “character, desire and hunger” and that “we can play as pretty as we want, but we are still going to be losers.”
That scathing verdict came in the aftermath of a midweek defeat to previously rock-bottom Crotone, meaning that Hellas now have just one win in their last 11 matches and could feasibly lose their top-half status in the final two rounds.
Verona do remain just inside the top 10 – just three points clear of Udinese and Monday’s opponents Bologna – but are staggering to the finish line, as after posting a tally of 30 points for the first half of the season, they have added only a further 13 after the halfway stage.
Primarily, their problems have been in the final third, as chief creator Mattia Zaccagni’s superb first half of the campaign – featuring five goals, five assists and numerous key passes – dissolved into a total loss of form in 2021: quietening speculation that he was set for an Azzurri place at Euro 2020 and would move on to one of Italy’s top clubs.
Ever-demanding, Juric’s ambitions have also been quelled by a severe shortage of goals from his strikers, as both Nikola Kalinic and Kevin Lasagna have barely registered on the scoresheet.
Nonetheless, a club with modest aims – a reality which often frustrates their Croatian coach, who has been linked with a move higher up the food chain this summer – finished ninth in 2019-20 and can still repeat that result by finishing with a flourish in the final days of the season.
They will, though, have to overcome a winless streak at the Bentegodi stretching back to February’s victory against now-relegated Parma, if that is to remain a possibility.
With just a three point gap between Bologna and their rivals for a top-half place on Monday – despite their current travails in the league – the Rossoblu travel to Veneto well aware that recent precedent is very much in their favour.
In fact, the last time Bologna lost to Verona in Serie A was back in April 2016 (there have since been three wins for the Emilians and two draws) and they are also unbeaten in their last five away games against the Gialloblu.
Sinisa Mihajlovic will undoubtedly aim to motivate his troops by targeting only a second top-ten finish in the last nine seasons – the first of which came when the Serbian coach started his second spell as boss in early 2019; guiding Bologna away from relegation danger and into 10th by the season’s end.
However, only one win in their last eight matches has seen Mihajlovic’s men sink slowly down the standings, with a 2-0 reverse at home to Genoa in midweek their latest failure. Results have been even worse on the road, as they have only won three of their last 22 away games dating back to last term.
On Monday evening, then, the Felsinei will hope to pull out a performance similar to that produced versus Fiorentina at the start of the month – where veteran striker Rodrigo Palacio netted a hat-trick and Azzurrini starlet Emanuel Vignato laid on each of his goals.
Though Bologna also conceded three times on that occasion, such attacking thrust will be required to achieve a positive end to their 2020-21 campaign, as after they return from Verona, they host recently-deposed champions Juventus on the final day.
Hellas Verona Serie A form:
Bologna Serie A form: