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Ballardini back in a familiar position as coach at Genoa

Genoa's Mattia Destro celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Crotone and Genoa, at the Ezio Sc...
Genoa's Mattia Destro scores his side's first goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Crotone and Genoa, at the Ezio Scida stadium in Cro...
Genoa's Mattia Destro celebrates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Genoa and Cagliari at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa, Ital...
Genoa's coach Davide Ballardini shouts indications to his players during a Serie A soccer match between Genoa and Bologna at the Luigi Ferraris stadiu...

Genoa's Mattia Destro celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Crotone and Genoa, at the Ezio Sc...

Genoa's Mattia Destro scores his side's first goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Crotone and Genoa, at the Ezio Scida stadium in Cro...

Genoa's Mattia Destro celebrates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between Genoa and Cagliari at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa, Ital...

Genoa's coach Davide Ballardini shouts indications to his players during a Serie A soccer match between Genoa and Bologna at the Luigi Ferraris stadiu...

MILAN (AP) — Genoa coach Davide Ballardini was in a familiar position when he took over at the club in December, and he’s in a much better familiar position now.

The 57-year-old Ballardini was hired by Genoa for the fourth time midway through a season with the task of helping the team out of the relegation zone. He succeeded on each of the three previous occasions.

When Ballardini replaced Rolando Maran just over a month ago, Genoa was in 19th place, four points below safety and with only one victory in 13 league matches. The team has now won three of its last four league matches — drawing the other — to rise to 14th, six points above the relegation zone.

“Our current position in the standings became possible thanks to the players, thanks to their focus on their talent,” Ballardini said. “Genoa has players of great substance and great experience.

“On the field we have forwards who complement each other. I think it’s a team that puts others in difficulty.”

Next up for Genoa is a match against fifth-place Napoli at home on Saturday. Napoli is unbeaten in its last 17 matches against Genoa, with 12 victories.

“When you play well, when you deservedly win, it gives you strength, gives you encouragement to do always better,” Ballardini said after the team’s latest victory, a 3-0 win over Crotone.

Since Ballardini returned to the job, Genoa has won four of seven league matches, drawing two and losing only one. The club has also not conceded a goal in its past four matches — something that hasn’t happened since Ballardini’s previous spell in charge.

“That’s down to the whole team, starting from the pressing from the forwards who prevent the opponents from getting to the ball easily,” Ballardini said. “That simplifies the work of the defenders.”

One of the players flourishing under Ballardini is Mattia Destro. The 29-year-old forward has scored six goals in the six matches he has played in under Ballardini and was voted Player of the Month for January by the Italian Players’ Association.

Destro has scored nine league goals so far this season and one more would put him in double figures for the first time since the 2016-17 season, when he played for Bologna.

“Genoa has to fight weekend after weekend. We are having great performances and the results are arriving,” Destro said. “I feel well now ... and everything is going well. With the results you also get enthusiasm. We are playing well.”

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