Reaching Serie A for the first time in their 88-year history was supposed to be a moment to savour for plucky Benevento, but their debut top-tier campaign has left a sour taste in the mouth.
The club made the worst start to a season in Serie A history, losing their first 14 fixtures and boasting just a solitary point by the time Christmas came around. But the Streghette – 1.44 favourites for relegation before a ball was kicked – refuse to go quietly.
Marco Baroni – the man that brought Benevento up – was axed in late October with Roberto de Zerbi an uninspiring replacement. The club have at least collected 10 points under his tutelage (W3-D1-L5), all of which have arrived at their Stadio Ciro Vigorito base.
Last time out the rock-bottom outfit gave Champions League-chasing Lazio an almighty fright too. Down to 10 men after only seven minutes due to goalkeeper Cristian Puggioni’s red card, Benevento led 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico before running out of steam and shipping five goals in the final half hour.
Now 16 points adrift of safety with a possible 27 left to play for, the Streghette – also known as the Witches – are all but confirmed for relegation. However, that should allow de Zerbi’s side to play with the same freedom and reckless abandon displayed in the capital on Saturday.
With Puggioni now banned, plus Luca Antei, Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Viola, Fabio Lucioni and Andrea Costa all injured or suspended, Benevento will be without four key defenders for their contest with Verona. Having shipped two goals or more in all bar one of their past 12 on home soil, it’s far from encouraging.
But if there’s one thing de Zerbi has added to the hosts, it’s a forward-thinking, all-or-nothing mind-set. The record-breakers have fired a solitary blank in nine outings here (against Napoli) and so with visitors Verona leaking two or more goals in six of their past seven games as guests, a high-scoring encounter could be on the cards.
Hellas may have failed to find the back of the net in their past two, shipping eight, but their need for points is far greater with Fabio Pecchia’s posse four points from safety with nine games to play.
Pecchia – Rafa Benitez’s assistant across spells at Napoli, Real Madrid and Newcastle – has seen his charges W2-D3-L4 when travelling to teams outside the top-seven, notching at least twice on five occasions and with six of those encounters paying-out for Over 2.5 Goals backers, and so a repeat seems plausible on Wednesday.
The same Over 2.5 Goals selection has banked in 10 of Benevento’s most recent 12 as hosts in Serie A, whilst the duos league fixtures are collectively averaging 3.00 goals per-game with 37/58 (64%) matches providing Over 2.5 Goals profit.
When viewing home/away records, those figures increase to 19/28 (68%) successful Over 2.5 Goals selections and 3.07 goals per-game, making the 1.74 for three or more goals to be scored here an appealing angle of attack.
- Over 2.5 Goals (1.74)