Lecce and Hellas Verona face off in a crucial Serie A clash with survival on the line
An honourable but ultimately fruitless 2-1 defeat at Juventus during the week extended Lecce’s recently poor Serie A (SA) run to just one success from ten league outings (D1, L8). They entered the round just four points above the relegation zone, and a win here against Hellas Verona – who at the same time were outside the bottom three on goal difference alone – could play a decisive role in determining their survival.
When considering the stakes at hand, one could reasonably anticipate a cagey and even-handed affair. That expectation is reinforced by the nature of Lecce’s recent league encounters, illustrated by five of their last six games that saw a winner being settled by a one-goal margin. Furthermore, each of the last two H2H meetings at this venue also ended with a single goal separating the teams (W1, L1).
There were goals aplenty in Verona’s last outing, but to their embarrassment all six struck the back of their own net as Inter Milan ran riot (6-0) to end what had been a promising run of four SA games unbeaten (W2, D2). Inter are chasing Champions League football, so perhaps a return against a team sitting much lower in the standings could help them get back to winning ways.
Form against such teams this season would back that up, with Verona earning 25 points (W6, D7, L6) against sides starting the round outside the top eight, albeit 19 of them at home, compared with just two points (D2) against teams eighth or higher at the time. Whilst they could draw confidence from winning each of the last three H2Hs, that can’t paper over a troublesome SA away record that left them as the only side in the division yet to win on the road (D7, L9).
Key battle: No SA player has played more league minutes than Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone (2970) coming into the round, and only two SA shot-stoppers have made more saves, one of whom is Verona’s Lorenzo Montipò who boasts the most in the division so far (109).
Hot stat: Lecce’s SA matches have produced a league-low average of 2.06 goals per game.