Finishing an agonising couple of points off automatic promotion, Livorno have ensured their position in Serie A next season regardless. Failing to be tripped up in the playoffs, their 2-1 aggregate victory over Empoli has confirmed their place back in the top tier for the first time since 2010.
After drawing 1-1 in the away leg, the amaranto took the lead at home after half-an-hour, courtesy of their in-demand striker Paulinho. One of the stars of Livorno's season, it was fitting that it was he who glanced a header beautifully inside the far post, in the game's only goal. Maybe promotion will just be enough to persuade him to stay at the Armando Picchi for another season.
Livorno's goal came after a really shaky start to the match, with Empoli looking much more threatening early on. Their striker Massimo Maccarone was left kicking himself after an incredible miss inside the area, in the pick of the azzurri's early opportunities. The visitors were probably the better side throughout, though in the intimidating atmosphere of a full Armando Picchi, they could never find the goal they needed to get back into the game.
How Livorno adapt to life in Serie A is anyone's guess at this stage. With Paulinho strongly linked to Sampdoria and a few of their first-team players only at the Armando Picchi on temporary loan deals, they'll have to fight hard to keep their squad competitive.
However, there's no doubt there's talent in their ranks; particularly in attack. Aside from Paulinho, Federico Dionisi and Luca Siligardi have both chipped in with 14 goals this season, while Luca Belingheri has been excellent in playmaking from midfield. If they keep things together, they could be next season's surprise package.