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Roma (AFP) – Salernitana’s incredible offer for Serie A safety looks solid after a 2-1 win over Venezia on Thursday lifted them out of the relegation zone and set them up for a survival showdown with Cagliari.
Substitute Simone Verdi’s 67th-minute goal at the Stadio Arechi gave Salernitana a fourth win in five matches unbeaten and put survival in the hands of Davide Nicola’s side.
They sit one point above the bottom three and Cagliari ahead of their huge home clash with the Sardinians on Sunday.
With three matches remaining, a victory in this weekend’s game could effectively seal their place in Italy’s top flight, a prospect that seemed unthinkable after their 2-1 loss at Roma in early April.
“There’s a game to play on Sunday and it’s going to be really tough,” Nicola told DAZN.
“I don’t care if we’re out of the relegation zone. I don’t think we have any better chance of staying up now, just like I don’t think we had any less chance before this game.”
Thursday’s victory came in their current game, a match that was not finally confirmed until Monday after Venezia’s bid to be awarded the game as a 3-0 win ultimately fell through on the third attempt. .
The game was originally scheduled for early January but didn’t take place as a spike in coronavirus cases prevented Salernitana from playing by local health authorities.
Prior to kicking off their current run, Salernitana had been entrenched at the bottom of Serie A for most of the season, and if they remained standing it would be the second miracle breakout act of coach Nicola’s career after saving Crotone five years ago.
Nicola had promised he would circumnavigate Italy to his hometown of Turin if Crotone stayed up in 2017 and he was as good as his word, making the 1,300 kilometer (808 mile) trip from the region deep south from Calabria to Piedmont in the far northwest.
This time the 49-year-old has an even more extravagant promise to fulfill, as he says he will travel to Rome to meet the pope if he manages to keep his team going.
Venezia’s 10th successive loss has left them effectively relegated as they are seven points behind Salernitana ahead of their home game against Bologna on Sunday, while Genoa must follow last weekend’s crushing 1-0 derby loss to Sampdoria hosting Juventus on Friday night.
Inter look to put pressure on Milan
Also playing on Friday are Inter Milan, who start this weekend’s fixtures with visiting Empoli in mid-table, hoping to put pressure on league leaders AC Milan.
Champions Inter are two points behind their local rivals, who travel to a tough Verona side on Sunday night knowing they may well have been relegated to second place before kick-off.
Milan’s run-in is tougher than Inter’s as they also have to face Atalanta while Inter have Cagliari and Sampdoria – who are almost safe – in their last two fixtures after this weekend.
However, Inter also have the small case of the Italian Cup final against bitter rivals Juventus next week, a complication which could yet have an effect on the fate of the Scudetto.
With all the Champions League spots sealed, Roma will be looking to hold on to the Europa League spot as they travel to Fiorentina, with Viola trailing them by three points.
Roma host Leicester City on Thursday, hoping to contest their first European final by being beaten by Inter in the UEFA Cup in 1991.
But Jose Mourinho will want his side to make the leap to the Conference League via the Serie A standings rather than counting on winning their first major European trophy.
© 2022 AFP