Berlusconi's Monza revive promotion bid

Bought by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2018, fourth-placed Monza is two points off Salernitana in second and the final automatic promotion spot in Serie B.

Silvio Berlusconi

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi   -  Getty Images

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Monza project could be set for another promotion after two key wins over Serie B rival put the northern Italian club in sight of the top flight for the first time in its history.

Bought by Berlusconi in 2018, fourth-placed Monza is two points off Salernitana - which it beat 3-1 at the weekend thanks to two goals from former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli - in second and the final automatic promotion spot.

The side from just outside Milan gave its cause a further boost after a narrow 1-0 win over Lecce in third on Tuesday, moving level on points with its opponent.

It is unchartered territory for a side which has never competed in Serie A and not above the third-tier since 2000-01.

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However, it has not been an easy ride for Monza this season.

Approaching the most crucial part of the season, eight of Monza's players, including former AC Milan striker Kevin-Prince Boateng, were suspended by the club and missed the win over Salernitana after breaching COVID-19 protocols to visit a casino in Lugano, Switzerland.

"It was meant to be a bit of fun," the players said in an open letter to fans on Saturday. "We honestly didn't think that we were doing anything to damage the fans, the club, the staff or our teammates.

"Unfortunately, all of us underestimated the implications, otherwise we'd without doubt have taken other options into consideration to spend our afternoon off."

The breach ultimately did not prove costly as Balotelli stepped in, having missed much of the season through injury, to fire his side to victory.

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Balotelli came off the bench in the win over Lecce, while league leader Empoli's 4-0 victory on Tuesday against Cosenza sealed its promotion back to the top flight.

That leaves one spot up for grabs, with two games to play. Monza needs slip-ups from its rival, otherwise it will have to settle for a play-off place.

A Berlusconi reunion with the top flight, having previously owned Milan for three decades during the club's most successful period, remains a distinct possibility.

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