Who are SPAL? The Serie A underdogs on the cusp of a miracle
Can the top-flight minnows really survive?
Serie A welcomed its usual three promoted sides this term. Among them were yo-yo club Hellas Verona and second-tier stalwarts Benevento. But joining those sides in the top-flight, following successive promotions were the unlikely lads – SPAL 2013.
While their fellow promoted sides now occupy the bottom two spots – with first-timers Benevento all-but-relegated – the surprise package of SPAL are on course for survival.
They’re bidding to achieve that feat with a team of budget acquisitions and loanees, managed by a relative unknown and with the smallest ground in the league. The Coral News Team investigate just how they’re pulling it off…
Semplici has made priceless buys with pennies
While the hardworking squad that won Serie B last term deserve plenty of credit, they were never going to stand a chance of survival in the top-tier. But manager Leonardo Semplici has now built a side on course to do just that.
The changes to personnel have been huge. Including a slew of loan deals ranging from short-term cover to season-long deals, more than 20 players have come through the doors as Stadio Paolo Mazza since last summer.
Many of those arrivals have been a success, and all have arrived for a fee under £2m – quite an achievement in today’s big-money game.
Amongst them have been top-scorer and captain Mirco Antenucci (signed on a free from Leeds United), midfield enforcer Everton Luiz (bought from Partizan Belgrade for £630k) and Poland international Bartosz Salamon at centre-back.
He’s built a system that works – and stuck with it
While the likes of Benevento have chopped and changed tactically to little avail, Semplici hasn’t tinkered with his side’s 3-5-2 set-up, and it’s now working wonders.
It isn’t always pretty, but his midfield five are extremely well-balanced. In the centre of the park, loanee duo Jasmin Kurtic and Federico Viviani are combative, tough-tackling ball-winners.
Meanwhile on the flanks, the likes of Manuel Lazzari have produced goals and creativity. Add in a wily and experienced back three, and they’re proving extremely hard to break down.
Now unbeaten in seven games, they became the first side to shut-out Juventus on their travels in Serie A since October 2016.
Run-in and league table will offer comforts
With six games remaining, SPAL sit a point above the drop zone. However, their situation is less precarious than it might initially appear.
For starters, there are a handful of sides in touching distance above them. Cagliari in 14th place sit just three points above Semplici’s 17th-placed Biancazzurri side.
Meanwhile, one relegation spot has already been all-but ruled out, with Benevento’s immediate relegation seemingly just a matter of time. And SPAL’s run-in looks generous.
They face three of the bottom six before the season ends, including a home meeting with Benevento. Tonight’s opponents are Chievo Verona, who travel to the Stadio Paolo Mazza on the back of nine successive away defeats.
Midweek action across Italy
That clash with Chievo is just one of the nine Serie A fixtures taking place tonight.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing