As recently as December 2016 Benevento calcio, a club in Italy’s second tier, had no official Twitter account to its name.
Even now two months on from its creation the account has garnered only a measly 135 followers (Even Riga United, a 3rd tier Latvian team have close to 3000 followers). Given the social media saturated age we live in this is truly a remarkable fact.
Made even more implausible by the fact that the Stregoni are one of four teams who are battling it out for automatic promotion to Serie A for the 2017/18 campaign. If the club are promoted they will surely set a record for being a top-flight club with the least number of followers on Twitter by far. But then again success is not measured by your Twitter followers but rather what you achieve on the pitch and so far, Benevento are achieving big time.
Last season the club from Campania topped Lega Pro Girone C thus earning them promotion to Serie B for the first time in the club’s long history. Expected to struggle or at the very most be among the also rans, Benevento have flipped the script and taken the league by storm. Managed by former Novara boss Marco Baroni, the club put together a competitive squad for the forthcoming season but not one of such household names that would suggest them to be where they are.
However, 13 wins and only five defeats in their 26 matches so far has this underdog club dreaming of Serie A. Propelled forward by the second best defence in the league, marshalled by the ever impressive and talented Alessio Cragno, the club has left so called more illustrious names in their wake. But it is not just the defence that deserves all the plaudits, the 36 goals plundered so far by the attack is the equal third best in the division.
However, with a sizeable portion of the season remaining, so much of the story of this season is yet to be told and the inexperience of a title run of this magnitude may end up causing the dream to come to a bit of a halt. Yet those around them barring perhaps Verona are not overly endowed with experience in this department and it must be remembered that the Stregoni did hold off such big names as Lecce and Foggia to claim the Lega Pro title last year.
And even if the automatic spots are missed out on, barring a complete collapse a play-off spot is guaranteed. The same of which can be said for title contenders SPAL, the men from Ferrara are another of the seasons surprise stories. Although unlike Benevento SPAL have played at this level before but the last time that was so was back in 1993 and the last time they played in Serie A was 1968. Another side driven forward by a wonderfully talented young keeper in the shape of Alex Meret, SPAL match up with Benevento in several ways. Such as good young keeping, lack of big names (although SPAL may have one or two more) and a loyal and passionate fan base that make any trips for opposing teams very difficult.
While SPAL and Benevento’s experience of title run in’s in Serie B is negligible it is not much greater for the next side Frosinone. The team from Lazio are on paper the perfect blue print for our aforementioned two, back to back promotions for the Canarini saw them rise from the depths of Lega Pro to Serie A, albeit their stay may only have been a short one they are looking very good to bounce back at the first time of asking. Again, maybe it is becoming a fetish of mine, the club are backed by a very capable keeper in the mould of Francesco Bardi and with a key core retained from the last campaign, Frosinone are gunning for an immediate return to greener grass of Serie A.
To do so however they will potentially not only have to hold off the underdogs of SPAL and Benevento, but also the only real traditional powerhouse of the four Hellas Verona. A club who for all intents and purposes should not be in this division in the first place, the Gialloblu have not made as easy work of things as was to be expected. While scoring has not been a problem, with a league leading 44, it has been keeping them out at the other end which has kept Verona within the top four pack. On paper their squad is most definitely the best in the division, but results are not won on paper and so far, Verona have not hit top gear and it is becoming an ever-increasing worry that they may not in fact do so. The coronation has not been forthcoming for Verona, but promotion will surely be obtained, surely.
Outside the battle for the automatic spots there is also a fascinating contest going on for the play-off positions. Before a ball had even been kicked many had predicted Bari to be one of the sides to compete for an automatic spot, however the Galletti never really got out of the traps and have been playing catch up ever since. The appointment of Stefano Colantuono and the January signing of Antonio Floro-Flores have been vital in their attempt to achieve a play-off spot. Although just creeping in, in eighth place at the moment the Puglian’s should be a play-off side by the end of the season, what they do from there though remains a mystery.
As for the others in the hunt, Christian Bucchi has done a very good job at Perugia and the Grifone would make a nice outside bet for a Serie A place come the end of the season. Meanwhile Spezia are the perennial play-off achievers; however, they don’t ever really do anything once there. Cittadella are the side that looks most precarious at the moment, an excellent start to the season remains the reason they remain so high, but they are falling steadily and will hope time runs out for others rather than their own prowess to achieve a play-off spot.
As for the sides just outside, Carpi have been in retched form of late but have enough in their locker to turn it around and get a top eight spot. For fellow chasers Virtus Entella, Novara and Ascoli it looks as if a lack of consistency will ultimately let them down in their chase for the promised land that is Serie A.