A recent run of 10 points from a possible 12 has put the hosts’ fate back within their own hands, while the Arancioneroverdi have since replaced them as the league’s last-placed side and – having fired their coach – look doomed to demotion.
Arriving in Bergamo earlier this week, to face an ailing Atalanta side who have toiled at home, Salernitana found themselves in the unexpected position of being three points from safety; with two games in hand on 17th-placed Cagliari.
The Campanian club’s ‘great escape’ was certainly gathering momentum, after winning three games in a row for the first time in the top flight, and they were in pole position to match the last promoted team to win four straight in Serie A – Juventus back in 2008 – when Ederson opened the scoring.
Despite hanging on for another hour, though, the Granata were pegged back in the closing stages by Mario Pasalic’s equaliser and had to settle for just a point – albeit one which means that they have accrued the same tally as Atalanta in 2022 (18 from 16 league matches).
Under the management of Serie A survival specialist Davide Nicola, who has previously kept both Genoa and boyhood club Torino up against the odds, Salernitana ended an 11-game winless run last month and have since embarked on a fairytale ascent towards salvation.
After seeing off struggling Sampdoria 2-1, they won 1-0 at Udinese before a remarkable victory over top-six contenders Fiorentina at the Arechi, and another home win on Thursday would finally take them out of the bottom three at Cagliari’s expense.
Promoted together after over 20 years locked outside the Italian elite, Venezia were Salernitana’s rivals at the top of Serie B just 12 months ago, but now they meet in very different circumstances – with victory vital for both sides.
As they prepare to finally play this postponed game-in-hand, after the original fixture was cancelled in January due to COVID-19 regulations in Salerno, Venezia are reaching the point of no return in the relegation fight.
Head coach Paolo Zanetti had tested the admirable patience of the Lagunari’s board with an awful run which saw his side slump below Salernitana to sit six points adrift of safety, but just before Cagliari pulled the trigger on Walter Mazzarri, the 39-year-old was relieved of his duties last weekend.
Posting nine defeats in a row for the first time in a single Serie A season, Venezia were beaten 2-1 by Juventus on Sunday, despite Mattia Aramu’s equaliser 20 minutes from full time – not an ideal start for the new man in charge.
While losing in Turin brings no great shame, the Arancioneroverdi are winless since February, so primavera coach Andrea Soncin has been temporarily elevated to the top job and is tasked with producing a miraculous turnaround in the club’s remaining five fixtures.
Venezia have found the net just 28 times in the league this season – fewer than half as many as they have conceded – and Aramu had not scored since December before his strike on Sunday, so Soncin’s priority is quite clear.
We say: Salernitana 2-1 Venezia
A dramatic stoppage-time winner saw Salernitana take three points from October’s reverse fixture, and it could even take a similar intervention to split two sides scrapping for every available point.
The combination of momentum, home advantage, and their visitors’ lack of attacking threat should see the Granata edge over the line, and finally get their heads above water by exiting the bottom three.