Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
With 3 rounds of Serie A remaining, Sassuolo find themselves in seventh place and only 1 point behind the once mighty A.C. Milan in sixth place. So far this year it's been an incredible season for Eusebio Di Francesco's team. This is only the Neroverdi's third season in Serie A. In their first year in Italy's top league they defied all odds and managed to avoid relegation. Now in only their third season in Serie A they are 1 point off achieving a Europa League place. However, if Sassuolo finish in sixth place Juventus must beat Milan in the Coppa Italia Final for Di Francesco's men to qualify for the Europa League's third qualification round. Given Milan's current situation, it is hard to see them beating Juventus. So let's take a look at the rise of Sassuolo and see if they have enough to finish in sixth place.
It's easy to forget how small Sassuolo are. Before Carpi's promotion, Sassuolo were the smallest team to achieve promotion to Serie A. Sassuolo's actual stadium, the Stadio Enzo Ricci, is only a 4 thousand seater deemed too small to use in Serie A and B. The Mapei Stadium a 20 thousand seater is where the Neroverdi currently play their home matches in Serie A. The team now use the Stadio Enzo Ricci for training. Sassuolo's wage bill for this season is just 27 million euros and their top earner Domenico Berardi is on 1.1 million euro a year. Compare that with Milan the team they are trying to beat to a Europa League place. Milan's wage bill for this season is 101 million eurod and their top earners are Bacca and Montolivo both on 3.5 million euro a year. That’s a difference of €74 million in yearly wage bill between the two clubs. Everyone this season is talking about the miracle of Carpi surviving but if Sassuolo were to qualify for Europe in only their third Serie A season, surely that would have to be considered a bigger miracle.
In Sassuolo's first season in Serie A they finished in 17th place, two points above the drop. It was in their first year when they sacked Di Francesco only to rehire him 3 months later and now the tactician has recently signed a contract extension until 2019. It's hard to see where Sassuolo would be without him; when rehired in their first season he took the club off the bottom of the table and steered Sassuolo to safety. In his second season in Serie A, he guided Sassuolo to a highly commendable 12th place finish. That following summer Simone Zaza left for Juventus and many felt Sassuolo would suffer without him. That has not been the case however and this season Sassuolo have been excellent playing a lovely attacking brand of football under Di Francesco. Players like Consigli, Acerbi, Sansone and Berardi have all been fantastic this season as have most of the squad. Another great thing about Sassuolo's season is that only four players in their current squad are non-Italians, showing that success in Serie A can still be achieved using home grown talents.
So with 3 games to go can Sassuolo overtake Milan? Milan have a slightly more difficult run in with Frosinone at home, Bologna away and Roma at home, while Sassuolo have Verona at home, Frosinone away and Inter at home. Judging by the form of the teams I would fancy Sassuolo to pip Milan to sixth place. Milan are in a dire state and at the moment are liable to lose to anyone. Sassuolo are playing really well and I can see them winning all 3 of their matches, whereas I can't see Milan winning out. If Sassuolo do finish in sixth, chances are they will be playing in Europe next season because it's hard to see Milan beating Juve in the Coppa Italia Final and taking European competition away from Sassuolo.
The future looks bright for the Neroverdi with a possible Europa League campaign next season and Di Francesco signing a new contract with the club. Sassuolo fans certainly have the right to dream of bigger and better things next season and with Leicester top of the Premier League table in England, football has shown us that anything is possible. Most of all, Neroverdi fans will believe that the sky is the limit for their young team...