I’ve loved watching Spezia. They have exactly the kind of pluck I was looking for when I started this project; an entertaining underdog from a small town looking to put it up to the likes of Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Napoli.
Before Christmas they were hovering in about their best case scenario for the season in my view: outside the drop zone, and ahead of a couple of proper Serie A big guns:
Spezia have kind of ground out results when it’s mattered so far this season, and while their Christmas wasn’t a great one, it ended with a real bang.
First up were Bologna, who are one of those kind of hovering teams in Serie A who are beatable but still solid. Spezia should really have won this one, with star man Nzola putting them two up with less than half an hour to go.
Spezia should have been out of sight, in truth, but Bologna fought back in a game they’d been utterly outplayed in, equalising with a lob from just short of the half way line (worth a watch!), before a great stop from a late penalty denied Bologna what would have been a daylight robbery of a win. 2-2.
Next up were Inter in what was always likely to be a mismatch. Inter absolutely dominated this from start to finish, with Ashley Young noticeable at the forefront of it all, playing back in his old wide position.
It took them a while to get in front, though, with Hakimi scoring at the near post, one the Spezia ‘keeper will be disappointed with. The second came from a penalty, before Spezia grabbed a messy late consolation. 2-1 to the title challengers.
Genoa at home were next up, and one Spezia would probably have down as an opportunity – unfortunately an opportunity missed. This one was a local derby, though perhaps not a particularly fiery one, given the traditional gap between the two clubs that’s been closed in recent years.
The prolific Nzola scored early on to put Spezia in front, in truth Spezia made Genoa look a good side here, and it could have been a far more comfortable win. The signs were starting to look a little worrying, and that continued into the next match.
Verona are having a decent season, and with Spezia very much better away (in fact they struggle to score at all at home), this was always going to be a big ask.
Spezia were very much in this one until Chabot got himself sent off, and in fact had probably had slightly the better chances, with Nzola in particular missing and early one-on-one.
After that Verona took charge, and it was a fantastic Zaccagni overhead kick that ultimately won the game. A little harsh on Spezia, this one.
There was a crucial sting in the tail, though, as Spezia faced Napoli in the drop zone at the end of the Christmas period. An away game in Naples is not exactly tailor made for league newcomers, but Spezia’s away record continued to shine.
Napoli were utterly dominant throughout the early stages and right into the second half, and when they finally took the lead, looked like they’d just stroll into fulltime with all three points.
Spezia leveled through a Nzola penalty, but promptly had a key man sent off. Nevertheless, a scrappy breakaway goal saw Spezia snatch an unlikely win.
That Napoli result feels crucial to Spezia’s chances this year, not only the kind of confidence builder that a team can grow from, but also a win that drags them back out of the drop zone, and heading into the New Year in position for another season of Serie A action.