How Sassuolo Landed Themselves in a Relegation Battle

With just two games remaining in the 2023/24 Serie A season, it is now a tall ask for Sassuolo to achieve the goal of safety in the Italian top division. On Week 37, Sassuolo are at home to Cagliari in one of the biggest games of the season, and this result will tell the outcome of two clubs’ safety or relegation in Serie A. Sassuolo are second bottom with 29 points from 36 games, their opponents for this coming Sunday lunchtime kick-off are outside of the bottom three in 14th place, with 33 points from 36 games. 


One of the final nails was being hammered in the coffin on Sunday afternoon as Sassuolo threw away a 1-0 lead away at Genoa to lose 2-1 in the heat in Genoa. As soon as Genoa’s equaliser went in from Milan Badelj, the Sassuolo heads dropped, and you knew that a second Genoa goal was coming.


Rightly so it did when on loan AS Roma defender Marash Kumbulla diverted a cross from Genoa’s second-half substitute Caleb Ekuban into his own net past Andrea Consigli. It proved to be the winning goal and a goal that could potentially send Sassuolo down to Serie B. 



The weekend results went their way with Frosinone losing 5-0 at home to Inter Milan on Friday night. On Saturday evening in Milan, AC Milan defeated Cagliari 5-1 thanks to a strong second-half showing. The lunchtime kick-off on Sunday was Empoli travelling to the Italian capital to face Lazio and the home side won the game 2-0.


The results were going in Sassuolo’s favour before kick-off. Udinese managed to win on Monday evening away at Lecce to take themselves away from the Serie A danger for now, while Hellas Verona lost at home to Torino on Sunday afternoon and Hellas Verona are in 14th position in the league table and would need one more win from final two games to guarantee safety. 


The week before was quite telling as on the Saturday night game at the Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo managed to put in one of the best displays of the season with a determined, defensive display against the Serie A champions. Sassuolo won the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from their star player in French attacker Armand Lauriente.


Evidently, Sassuolo have managed to do the double over the Serie A champions this season. As crazy as it sounds, Sassuolo won away in Milan in September 2023, and two of the seven wins accumulated this season in Serie A have come against Inter. 



That win over Inter was Sassuolo’s first win since 9th March which was a 1-0 win over Frosinone at home. Before that, it was the first matchday of 2024 which was a home win 1-0 over Fiorentina. Sassuolo’s form since a great start to the season had been patchy and it cost Alessio Dionisi his job in the end, as he was fired on the 25th February after a 3-2 home defeat to Empoli.


Emiliano Bigica, who is the Sassuolo Primavera coach replaced Dionisi just or one game and that was the 6-1 drubbing at home to Napoli. Firefighter specialist Davide Ballardini has come in and tried to steady the sinking ship, averaging 0.90 points per game in his ten games in charge to date, with two wins, three draws and five defeats in his ten games in charge. The two wins were over Frosinone and Inter. 


The loss of two key components of the midfield of last season have been pivotal in Sassuolo’s demise this season. Both Maxime Lopez and Davide Frattesi were so crucial to Sassuolo’s set up last season, with Maxime Lopez playing deeper than Frattesi. Frattesi would be the box-to-box midfielder and would make crucial third-man runs from midfield to join in the attack. Both went out on loan-to-buy obligations to Fiorentina and Inter Milan, respectively. 


The other big loss for Sassuolo this season would be the unfortunate run of luck for Domenico Berardi with injuries. Berardi started the season out of the squad due to transfer speculation. There were talks of Berardi joining then-Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri with Matteo Cancellieri going in the opposite direction.



Those talks stalled; the latter would go out on loan to Empoli. Berardi would make up for lost time with seven goals in twelve games with three assists. He would net two more goals which was a double against Udinese after missing the Cagliari game due to suspension.


Berardi would miss a month due to a knee injury and on his first start back away at Hellas Verona he went off injured with a serious Achilles tendon injury which meant he would miss the rest of the season and the Euro 2024 in the summer. You can’t help but feel a fit and firing Domenico Berardi would have helped Sassuolo out of this slump and propelled the club higher up the table. 


It has been a sorry season for the Neroverdi with the second most goals conceded in the division behind bottom Salernitana with 72 goals conceded. Bottom dwellers Salernitana have conceded four more goals. 21 defeats from 36 games, only Salerntiana have lost more with a whopping 24 defeats. Just a gentle reminder that under now Brighton & Hove Albion head coach Roberto De Zerbi, Sassuolo were a point away from Europe in the 2020/21 season. A late Roma equaliser away at Spezia denied Sassuolo a Europa Conference League spot. 


In the 2016/17 season, after finishing sixth in the 2015/16 season ahead of AC Milan and Lazio. Sassuolo had a campaign in the Europa League, after getting past both Luzern and Red Star Belgrade in the qualifying rounds. They were eliminated in the group stage in a group of containing Genk and Athletic Club, who both qualified, and Rapid Wien, Sassuolo’s only win of the group stage was on the opening round of action against Athletic Club. Just fast forward almost seven seasons later Sassuolo are on the brink of relegation back to Serie B after a ten-year stay in the Italian top division.


By: Scot Munroe / @scot_munroe

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto