x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

V for vendetta in Verona

This season Serie A is staging a record number of city derbies with the rarest of them all the stand-off in Verona that has not been witnessed in the top tier of Italian football for 12 years.

A moment of hot-headed action means Sergio Pellissier of Chievo will miss the first Verona derby with Hellas in 12 years. Marco Luzzani / Getty Images
A moment of hot-headed action means Sergio Pellissier of Chievo will miss the first Verona derby with Hellas in 12 years. Marco Luzzani / Getty Images

Some leagues half expect their titles to be decided by outcomes of derbies.

Some clubs define the success or failure of an entire season on contests with their neighbours.

The Italian top flight has derbies of all types.

AC Milan and Inter Milan live in a yin-and-yang relationship that means they would actually miss each other if they were kept apart too long.

Roma and Lazio snarl across the capital knowing that, most years, with the scudetto an unlikely dream, victory over the fellow tenants of the Stadio Olimpico is worth a trophy in itself.

This season Serie A stages a record number of city derbies in Milan, Rome, Turin, Genoa and, the rarest of them all, the stand-off in Verona that has not been witnessed in the top tier of Italian football for 12 years.

Verona is a football city that seems to say: “This town simply ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

On Saturday, chants from the Hellas Verona fans, aimed at Chievo, will spell that message out in cruder terms.

Chievo fan responses will sound fainter.

They are fewer in number.

And Chievo fear being eclipsed as top dog. They sit at the bottom of the table, amid symptoms of panic.

At the end of their last fixture, a 0-0 draw with Milan, captain Sergio Pellissier earned a red card for a hot-headed show of aggression.

Last week, Chievo parted ways with coach Giuseppe Sannino and brought back Eugenio Corini.

Pellissier is cursing himself for being out of the derby.

He has been with Chievo for more than decade, lived through the fairy tale that has seen a tiny club from a suburb with a population of less than 3,000 survive in the top flight for 11 of the past 12 seasons, scraping by on TV income, and the patronage of a local cake-making business.

Chievo begin most seasons tipped to go down. Somehow they usually defy that.

What Chievo have never been able to claim, though, is ownership of the best football fairy tale in Verona, the remarkable story of how Hellas won the 1985 scudetto ahead of the Juventus of Michel Platini, the Napoli of Diego Maradona and a star-studded Inter.

Hellas have tumbled a long way since, have even had to look up at little Chievo from the depths of Serie C.

But from sixth spot in Serie A, the derby looks appetising.

They have a waited a long time for this.

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