The Serie A season is fast approaching the finish line (catch all the action on Paramount+), and there are still many teams left with something to play for. While the title and European races are open, with multiple teams still competing for spots, there is also a very exciting relegation battle with many teams involved. At least six teams that have yet to mathematically guarantee themselves a spot in next year's Serie A, and they are desperate to not finish in the bottom three and see their future be in Serie B. The race will really boil down to the three teams currently sitting in the drop zone, Salernitana (19 points, 31 matches played), Genoa (22, 33) and Venezia (22, 32), fighting to catch either Cagliari (28, 33) or Sampdoria (29, 33).
Here are players who will be critical if their team is to stay up:
Mattia Destro, Genoa
Genoa are desperate to record some points in the coming weeks as they're coming of three straight losses after recording their first win of the calendar year. They are currently 19th in the league and their chances to stay in Serie A continue to decrease as they struggle. Mattia Destro can be the solution to their issues when it comes to scoring goals as he has scored nine Serie A goals this season, tied for 16th in Italy's top flight. He accounts for 38 percent of Genoa's goals, the second-highest rate in the league for any player on their respective team. With one more goal, he would become the first Genoa player to score 10+ goals in back-to-back Serie A seasons since Tomas Skuhravy (three times between 1990/91 and 1992/93). However, the Italian forward has only scored one goal in his last 11 league matches and the last one he scored was against Salernitana on February 13.
The good news for Genoa is that Destro's drop in form is mostly down to some wild finishing swings. In 11 matches in 2021 this season his expected goal total per 90 minutes is 0.41 and in 12 matches in 2022 it is 0.39. If he comes up big now, he can save his team as they currently sit six points back. He's been taking the same shots recently as he did when they were going in the back of the net, so hopefully for Genoa his weird finishing slump ends in time to save them.
Joao Pedro, Cagliari
Walter Mazzarri's Cagliari are still involved in the relegation race, and they are in an uncomfortable position. After a very solid start to the year, Cagliari lost five matches in a row between March and April. They finally ended their winless streak of over a month by beating Sassuolo last time out. It was a crucial win that put them in 17th place in the table but they definitely need to find consistency in attack to secure safety. Joao Pedro might be a good solution as he accounts for 40 percent of Cagliari's goals (highest rate in Serie A) and 21 percent of Cagliari's shots (third highest rate in Serie A). The 30 year-old scored 12 goals this season and provided four assists to his teammates.
However, Cagliari have some defensive issues that are not solved yet. In fact, they have conceded the most goals from set pieces (24) in Serie A this season (including 10 from corners).
Francesco Caputo, Sampdoria
Sampdoria are facing a very tough moment as they've lost six of their last seven matches. Since Marco Giampaolo came back as coach he hasn't been able find a way to produce consistent results. The priority of the club and of the coach now is to avoid relegation, and striker Francesco Caputo can be their savior as he has been involved in 21 goals in 20 Serie A games against promoted sides (17 goals, four assists), including his two league braces vs. Empoli and Venezia. After this weekend's goal against Salernitana, even in Sampdoria's 2-1 loss, he made it four straight Serie A seasons with double-digit goals. That could be key to his confidence going forward, becoming only the second player to achieve that feat since 2018-19 after Ciro Immobile.
Mattia Aramu, Venezia
Venezia are struggling and are currently 18th in the league, but have also lost their last seven matches in a row. Coach Paolo Zanetti, after showing many positive signs in the first part of the season, can't find a good balance for his team. Venezia are definitely conceding too many goals but they're also not scoring much, since they've only scored one goal in the last five games. Midfielder Mattia Aramu can be the right man since he is 10th in Serie A with 120 attempted crosses - over 74 more than any teammate. If he can continue to deliver those dangerous balls, maybe they can overcome the six-point gap from safety.
Federico Bonazzoli, Salernitana
Salernitana finally won their second match of the year against Sampdoria (their last victory was against Hellas Verona on January 9th) and will try to secure more points in the coming weeks even if it's probably too late. They are nine points back of safety with eight games to come. Even if he didn't score against Sampdoria, Federico Bonazzoli has definitely been their best player as he leads Salernitana with seven Serie A goals and 5.2 expected goals on a team-high 39 shots. He accounts for 30 percent of his team's goals, the sixth-highest rate in the league. Salernitana will play against Udinese this week and this clash will tell us much more about their chances and their hopes to stage a last ditch miracle run to avoid a much expected relegation. It seems unlikely though, as no team has scored as little or conceded as many goals as Salernitana have.