(Reuters) - After causing the downfall of AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri with an astonishing 4-3 win, struggling Sassuolo return to the harsh reality of the fight against relegation when they host Torino on Sunday (1400 GMT).
Despite last weekend’s victory the Serie A debutants are still precariously placed in 17th position with 17 points, one point and one place above Bologna in the drop zone.
The smallest town to be represented in Serie A, Sassuolo’s season has been full of drama, from 19-year-old Domenico Berardi’s four-goal performance against Milan to defender Francesco Acerbi’s battle against cancer.
Results have been wildly inconsistent, ranging from a 7-0 home drubbing by Inter Milan to their first-ever top flight win on a near waterlogged pitch against Bologna and a memorable 4-3 victory at Sampdoria.
Sassuolo lost four league games in a row in December without scoring but bounced back in style against Milan, Berardi hitting four goals in just over half an hour as his side recovered from going two goals behind.
Few can predict what the second half of the season will hold although it is unlikely to be boring as coach Eusebio Di Francesco is reluctant to change his team’s style despite the worst defensive record in Serie A.
“We certainly concede too many goals and are too open so the midfielders must work hard at helping to cover the defense but I enjoy myself more when we play good football,” the coach said after the Milan game.
“I am extremely grateful to the players as every time they were called upon to put in a great performance, they were up to the task.”
Berardi, who has 11 league goals this season, has been the talking point although he was happy to slip out of the spotlight after Allegri was fired by Milan on Monday.
“It’s not true that I haven’t wanted to talk to the press in the past few days,” the Sassuolo marksman told reporters at a training camp with the Italy Under-21 team.
”I like to focus on my work and I do not normally have all the people who have been around me these last few days.
“I am keeping my feet on the ground, down to earth, because I still have so much to improve,” added Berardi amid calls for him to be included in Italy’s World Cup squad.
Amid all the celebrations last week, the players have not forgotten Acerbi’s situation.
The 25-year-old, who had a tumor removed in July after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, is undergoing more treatment after suffering a relapse.
Milan, who are 11th, host sixth-placed Verona on Sunday and have not yet indicated whether new coach Clarence Seedorf will be in the dugout.
The Dutchman, who abruptly ended his playing career at Brazil’s Botafogo to take the job, watched from the stands when Milan beat Spezia 3-1 in the Italian Cup on Wednesday.
Seedorf, who has no coaching experience, faces a huge task with Milan six points clear of Bologna having won only five league games this season.
Leading pair Juventus and AS Roma are both at home on Saturday.
Juve, who have 52 points after dropping just five all season, will be attempting a 12th straight win when they host improving Sampdoria (1945).
Second-placed Roma, eight points behind, entertain promoted Livorno (1700).
Attilio Perotti will be in charge for Livorno after they sacked coach Davide Nicola on Monday.
Perotti almost changed his mind when hardcore ‘Ultra’ fans burst into his first news conference to criticize the appointment.
Editing by Tony Jimenez nL3N0KQ3HJ