Cisterna Verona

Cisterna will need to defeat Verona and hope Milano fall to Taranto to make it to the playoffs

Four teams will have everything to play for in the final round of the 2022-2023 SuperLega Credem Banca regular season, which will have six matches taking place all around Italy this weekend.

While eight of the 12 teams that compete in the Italian League have already known their fates at the conclusion of the regular season, Allianz Milano and Top Volley Cisterna will decide which of the two will appear in the playoffs while Gioiella Prisma Taranto and Emma Villas Aubay Siena will have the final installment of their battle to avoid relegation and remain in the country’s elite next season.

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Milano hold the keys to their own future in the battle for the eighth and last playoff spot. Currently ranked eighth with 27 points (nine wins), the team from northern Italy will be in the playoffs if they beat Taranto at home on Sunday, at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC).

The team coached by Roberto Piazza has had some difficult weeks as of late, having lost six of their last seven matches and dealt with some COVID cases in their squad, which forced them to play without a setter in last week’s defeat to Cucine Lube Civitanova. Some of the absent players may be available for selection this week, which could give Milano a better chance of making it to the playoffs.

The match, however, carries the exact same weight for Taranto in their battle to avoid relegation. Currently ranked 11th with 16 points (five wins), they need a 3-0 or 3-1 triumph this weekend to confirm their presence in the Italian elite for a third-straight season regardless of other results.

Taranto were at the bottom of the standings a few weeks ago but got a critical victory over Siena and now depend only on their own efforts to remain in the country’s first division.

“It’s the last match of the season and it will be a decisive one for us,” said Taranto’s experienced outside hitter Oleg Antonov. “It will be a very complicated match. We need to remain concentrated at all times and play one point at a time regardless of the situation we are in.”


Taranto will play their cards against Milano on Saturday

Cisterna will certainly be in Taranto’s corner as they need Milano to drop their match in order to maintain their hopes of securing the eighth and final spot in the playoffs as they currently rank ninth with 26 points (eight wins).

The team from Latina had its back against the wall last week too, when it needed to overcome reigning Coppa Italia champions Gas Sales Bluenergy Piacenza to remain on the hunt, and responded well, upsetting their opponents in three sets and recovering from a five-match winless streak.

Cisterna have another difficult match ahead of them on Saturday, as they will face fifth-placed WithU Verona on the road at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC), but after their surprising victory last week, they couldn’t be more confident.

“With that victory, we earned another chance to continue dreaming about making it to the playoffs,” setter Michele Baranowicz said. “It’s going to be a very complicated match and even if we win, we can’t still tell for sure if we’re going to qualify. We need to be calm, enjoy the match and try to bring our best game.”

Siena are in a delicate situation and don’t rely only on themselves to avoid returning to the country’s second division just one year after they earned promotion. Ranked dead last with 15 points (five wins), they need to cut Taranto’s one-point advantage in their road match against Vero Volley Monza, which is also set to begin at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC) on Sunday.

Siena have lost each of their last four matches, including a pivotal five-setter to Taranto, but have reason to believe they can beat Monza, as they did just that three months ago, in the first leg of the SuperLega.

“We lost some important points in matches against direct opponents, such as Taranto and Cisterna, and are now paying for it,” middle blocker Daniele Mazzone commented. “It’s been a difficult season, with all sorts of different problems, and we didn’t expect to get to the final match of the regular season in this situation, but here we are. We may have some technical limitations as a team, but have a lot of character and will give everything we have this weekend.”

One match that could have severe implications in the playoff picture is the one between Itas Trentino and Valsa Group Modena, set to be played on Sunday, at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC). The team from Trento is currently in second place (41 points, 13 wins), but is only one point ahead of Modena, who could leapfrog them ahead of the start of the postseason and secure homecourt advantage until at least the semifinals.

The other two matches of the weekend, which will both be played on Sunday at 18:00 local time (17:00 UTC), will have sixth-placed Piacenza facing tenth-placed Pallavolo Padova and league leaders Sir Safety Susa Perugia trying to complete their regular season campaign undefeated against fourth-placed and defending champions Lube.