Stadio Olimpico Di Torio, Turin
26.09.2010, 18:45 GMT
In 1970, the legendary Gigi Riva inspired a tiny Sardinian club, Cagliari Calcio, to a memorable Scudetto win. Over the years, their status has diminished considerably. Gianfranco Zola spent the last few years of his career in his hometown club and sensationally led them to a Serie A promotion in 2004. Zola has since retired, but the Rossoblu has managed to maintain their status as a Serie A club till date.
Last season, they endured a terrible run of form in the second half of the season. They survived a three month long winless streak, from February till May. Coach Massimiliano Allegri, responsible for some of Cagliari’s best performances over the years, was sacked consequently.
Coach Pierpaolo Bisoli led Cesena to a historic promotion last season. He has so far impressed in Cagliari; after four games they are still unbeaten, having let in a solitary goal. They have earned creditable draws in San Nicola and Renzo Barbera, two of the toughest trips in Italy. Three of their four games has finished goalless. However, when the goals rained, they poured; an astonishing 5-1 thumping of Roma bears testimony to that.
This season, Cagliari’s main strength has been their impenetrable central defensive pairing. 23 year old Davide Astori has improved by leaps and bounds; he is ably partnered by Michele Canini. Bisoli has so far preferred a 4-3-1-2, with Andrea Cossu playing behind two strikers. Cossu was one of the standout players in Serie A last season, as he broke into the national team. Striker Alessandro Matri was in prime form in 2009-10; he not only scored thirteen goals, but he also had six assists against his name. He was on target against Roma, bagging a brace.
Andrea Cossu (left) celebrates with Nene (right)
Matri will team up with former Azzurini star Roberto Aquafresca upfront. Aquafresca has so far failed to live up to his potential. His performance for Cagliari this season can make or break his career. He has opened his account in the new club against Roma.
Juventus were brought back to earth, losing to Palermo. After a thumping win over Udinese, Juve fans might have thought that the dark days were over, but it turned out to be a false dawn. Against Palermo, the Bianconeri were outplayed for most of the game. Led by a brilliant Pastore, the southern Italians achieved a hat-trick of wins over Juve; the final score was 1-3.
Delneri will have to go back to the drawing board to rethink his team’s defensive formation. Palermo exploited the porous Juve defence with ease, and could have scored more goals. Pastore hit the post once after Motta completely lost him.
Marco Motta’s poor form has been a major headache in recent game. Injuries to Paolo De Ceglie and Armand Traore have further limited Delneri’s choices. The lack of a proper leader in defence has often distorted the defensive shape. If not for the omnipresent Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus would have let in even more than the seven goals conceded in four games.
With crunch away games against Manchester City and Internazionale coming up, Delneri’s wits will be stretched to a maximum. Cagliari’s main aim will be to utilize Cossu’s vision fully. He can exploit the gaps in Juve defence’s offside trap and set up the twin strikers for the kill. Their form this season suggests they will come to Turin to hold out for a draw.
Possible Starting XI
Storari; Motta, Chiellini, Bonucci, Grygera; Krasic, Melo, Marchisio, Pepe; Amauri, Iaquinta
Agazzi; Pisano, Cannini, Astore, Pisano; Biondini, Nainggolan, Pinardi; Cossu; Matria, Aquafresca
Juventus 1-1 Cagliari
Last season the honours were even. Cagliari outplayed Juve in the home leg, winning 2-0. Juventus got revenge in Turin, with Chiellini scoring in a 1-0 win. In 2008-09, both teams won away from home. Juve earned a 1-0 win in Sardinia while slumping to a 2-3 loss in Turin. Matri has scored twice in last four games against Juve.
TheHardTackle’s Player to watch out for
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
For the last two seasons, Chiellini has often been a one man army in Juventus’ backline. A fearless defender, his last ditch tackles have saved the Old Lady on countless times recently. He is not only a good defender but also a constant threat upfront. His twin goals in Europa League proves his scoring ability.