Almost dropped into fourth tier
27 April ~ Hellas Verona travel to relegation-threatened Ascoli today knowing that victories in their final four games of the season would seal a return to Serie A after an 11-year absence. After relegation in 2002, Verona never made a significant challenge to return and fell into Serie C in 2007, a division they didn’t leave until two seasons ago. Their first season in the third tier was the worst in the club's history, finishing second bottom and only surviving thanks to an injury-time goal in a play-off with Pro Patria.
A gradual improvement over the following seasons resulted in promotion in 2011 under coach Andrea Mandorlini, who guided Verona to a 2-1 aggregate play-off victory over rivals Salernitana and a return to Serie B after four difficult years. Last season they challenged for promotion to the top flight all season but missed out after a play-off defeat to Varese.
Verona started the current campaign as favourites for promotion and started well, losing only once in their first 15 games, a derby defeat at Padova. After a second league defeat against Brescia, the Gialloblu (yellow-blues) form deteriorated and there was even talk of sacking popular coach Mandorlini after defeat to Novara in February. Thankfully for the supporters Mandorlini stayed and they have only lost one of their 12 games since then (again to Padova).
Verona are batting with Livorno for second place. The top two in Serie B are automatically promoted but should the third-place team finish ten points ahead of fourth, then the play-offs are cancelled and they are automatically promoted too. Verona are currently in third, nine points ahead of Empoli, who visit in the final game of the season. Mandorlini will be missing today after he was sent to the stands during Monday's 4-2 victory over Brescia, and will rely on Daniele Cacia’s goals to be the difference. His 20 this season are the most scored by a Verona player since 1941.
Should Verona clinch promotion it would coincide with the 110th anniversary since formation, something being marked across the whole city, including a huge event in the famous arena in the city centre on May 20. The film made to advertise the 110th birthday celebrations, below, is fairly intense. With the final game taking place two days earlier, Hellas Verona supporters will be hoping it will be a double celebration. Charles Ducksbury