Come Saturday evening there'll be at least two -- and potentially three -- new teams in Serie A, as Italy’s second tier reaches a thrilling promotion climax. In an amazing coincidence, the fixture list for the final round of games sees battles all over the top of the table. Of the top seven, only Novara, in fifth place, have nothing to fight for. There’s several scenarios which could play out, though below is an attempt to filter the key info in the race for promotion:
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. ET, 4:30 p.m. local:
Sassuolo (1st) vs. Livorno (3rd)
Sassuolo could've wrapped up promotion if they'd won any of their last three games. Unfortunately they've dropped points in all of them, and now have a nervy contest against third-place side Livorno. However, they have home advantage, and know that just a draw will be good enough for their promotion. Even a defeat would do, providing that Empoli’s game with Hellas Verona doesn't end in a draw. If it does, they'll drop to third and into the playoffs. For Livorno, only a win will suffice if they're to win promotion automatically.
Hellas Verona (2nd) vs. Empoli (4th)
Hellas Verona have notched four consecutive wins, moving to within a point of Sassuolo. They only need a draw to guarantee their promotion, while Empoli -- in fourth place -- only need a point to guarantee the playoffs will take place (if the gap between third and fourth is ten points or more, the top three are promoted automatically). The only way they won't occur is if Hellas win and Livorno beat Sassuolo.
Now, I'm not suggesting anything, but I'm certain that neither Hellas or Empoli would be bothered if this game passes off as an uneventful 0-0...
Novara (5th) vs. Virtus Lanciano (17th)
Novara’s 2-1 win against their Piedmont rivals Pro Vercelli last weekend has ensured that they’ll finish in fifth place, no matter what happens this weekend. They can ease up and take things easy against relegation-threatened Virtus Lanciano, whilst praying that Empoli can deliver the playoff goods.
Brescia (7th) vs. Varese (6th)
Providing irrefutable proof that the fixture gods have been tampering with the Serie B calendar, there’ll be fireworks at the Mario Rigamonti. Brescia are armed with home support and the knowledge that they must beat Varese to move above the leopardi in the table. Anything else will mean they’ll finish outside the top six, with Varese taking the final playoff spot.