Sampdoria struggling to avoid relegation in Italy

BY foxsports • May 12, 2011

Sampdoria fans certainly weren't expecting to mark the 20th anniversary of their club's only Serie A title with relegation, but that could be the reality they have to face.

The season started with the team in the Champions League qualification rounds and with a strike duo of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini that many said was the best the club had featured since Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini fired the Genoa-based club to the 1991 title.

However, Cassano and Pazzini both left in the January transfer window and since then the team has been in a tailspin.

Last week's injury-time loss to Genoa not only gave Sampdoria's eternal rival citywide bragging rights, but left the side two points behind Lecce and safety with two games to go, starting at home to Palermo on Sunday.

"We have always played with intelligence, determination and courage and left all our energy on the pitch," Sampdoria coach Alberto Cavasin said. "The championship isn't over yet and we are always hopeful.

"We have to win against Palermo and hope that Lecce don't win so that it is all to play for in the last round of matches. But of course the odds on us staying up aren't high."

Palermo is in buoyant mood after reaching its first Italian Cup final since 1979 with a 2-1 win over newly crowned champion AC Milan in midweek.

The victory sets the Sicilian team up to win its first ever trophy in the final against Inter at Rome's Olympic Stadium on May 29.

"What we have done hasn't fully sunk in yet," defender Federico Balzaretti said. "We have made history and our joy is total and indescribable. We gave nothing away to Milan. We used a lot of energy, but the way we played over 90 minutes showed that we are on form."

At the top of the table Napoli is at home to Inter Milan and one point will ensure Walter Mazzarri's side an automatic place in the Champions League.

However, Napoli's success in getting so close is being overshadowed by speculation that Mazzarri will leave to join Juventus at the end of the season.

"I don't know what my reaction would be," Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said. "I do not expect to be betrayed, but if it happens, it happens."

Napoli is without striker Edinson Cavani and his understudy Giuseppe Mascara, both of whom are suspended. Their absence will place an extra burden on Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik, who have formed a fearsome attacking trident with Cavani this year.

Having lost its title to city rival AC Milan, Inter is looking forward to the Italian Cup final and ending the season in positive mood.

"This year we have suffered a lot of injuries, but the team has always given its all," Inter coach Leonardo said. "This year the team has done some enormous things and getting to the Italian Cup final is the team's crowning moment."

Milan will finally get to celebrate with its supporters at home to Cagliari. After winning the title with a draw away to Roma, Milan remained in the Italian capital before traveling to Palermo for the Italian Cup semifinal.

"On Saturday we will celebrate in Milan," Massimo Allegri said. "I'm sorry not to have reached the final, but the guys have had a great season. We've won a championship and the team deserves to celebrate."

Also, it is; Lazio vs. Genoa; Fiorentina vs. Bologna; Bari vs. Lecce; Catania vs. Roma; Cesena vs. Brescia; Chievo Verona vs. Udinese; Parma vs. Juventus.


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