Just one Serie A-less weekend may have passed due to the international break, but in that time, two pillars of Italy’s top league sacked their respective Coaches and will begin afresh.
Atalanta separate the clubs in question, Cagliari and Fiorentina, creating a sort of Bergamaschi sandwich. Yet it’s far from as good as the Lombardy delicacy it may sound like as the Sardinians and the Tuscans, who both find themselves in the position of mid-table mediocrity, harbour aspirations to be finishing higher.
Davide Ballardini is the new Coach on the Cagliari bench, back at the Stadio Sant’Elia for a third stint, and with his re-emergence, Calcio is likely to witness a welcome return of the aviators and shiny puffa jacket that the bald Emilian so dearly loved while at Genoa.
In contrast, Delio Rossi, the nuggety and chisel jawed Rimini native, will take the job at Fiorentina looking to revive the sluggish Viola. He’ll also want to appease the Florence faithful after the unedifying levels of abuse Sinisa Mihajlovic received prior to his sacking and deliver good times again similar to those that the darling Cesare Prandelli achieved.
Fiorentina lie in 12th place in Serie A with 12 points from a possible 30, averaging just a goal a game, and while they are only two points from a European spot, a top six finish looked way beyond the Viola’s capabilities under Mihajlovic. Rossi has been drafted in at a crucial period in the season too, with Fiorentina’s next six fixtures including Milan, Roma and surprise package Atalanta at home and unenviable trips to Palermo, Inter and local rivals Siena, points look as if they could be at a premium.
Rossi is likely to field his tried and tested 4-3-1-2 formation, which, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport, will see one of the few shining lights in the Viola’s side this season, Alessio Cerci, drop to the bench. A fully-fit Alberto Gilardino will undoubtedly benefit Fiorentina and give them more potency than the toothless Tanque Silva. He is favourite to partner Stevan Jovetic up front this weekend and thereafter, providing the Montenegrin can shrug off the knock he picked up on international duty.
History isn’t rosy for the Viola, however. In Rossi’s Coaching career in Serie A, he has faced the upcoming six teams on a total of 87 occasions, and managed 22 victories in that time, winning just four games out of 36 against the two Milan clubs. Fiorentina haven’t fared much better with no wins in 20 attempts against the Milan clubs post-Calciopoli, a solitary win in 10 attempts versus Roma in the same period with wins against Palermo, Atalanta and Siena much more forthcoming.
Meanwhile, over in Sardinia, Cagliari’s situation was a little different. The Rossoblu enjoyed a flying start to the season under Massimo Ficcadenti, this despite President Massimo Cellino firing Roberto Donadoni on the eve of the season and dealing with subsequent fan protests who were sick of being “taken for a ride”.
Ficcadenti now finds himself out of a job too, although Cagliari are 10th with 13 points as Ballardini steps in. The Isolani, who had lost 3-0 at home to Lazio and 1-0 away at Atalanta before Ficcadenti’s firing (hardly a crisis), have a run of games which include very winnable fixtures; Inter, Catania and Chievo away from home and Bologna, Parma and Milan in Sardinia. Like Fiorentina, the Rossoblu are without a win against Milan or Inter since Calciopoli but have picked up points against the other four on a regular basis.
Ballardini is without the injured Andrea Cossu for the trip to the Nerazzurri this weekend which would appear to be a massive blow, but the nature of Cagliari’s early success is due to an all round team effort with eight different goalscorers and four different names in the assist column, none of which included Cossu’s. Instead, Albin Ekdal is set to start behind Thiago Ribeiro and Nene in another 4-3-1-2 formation.
Despite looking good on the touchline, Ballardini’s coaching record is one that flatters to deceive. Maybe it’s a case of being attracted to trigger-happy Presidents, but Ballardini has been fired from Cagliari, Palermo and Lazio (and Pescara in Serie B) for poor results in recent years. He also didn’t see his contract renewed at Genoa at the end of the last campaign for failing to get the best out of a talented port city squad but his real achievement was saving the Sardinians Serie A status with a remarkable run of results in 2007/08 season.
Whether past records will mean anything as Ballardini and Rossi try to write their respective clubs’ futures is open to opinion. What will be interesting over the coming weeks is seeing how Cagliari and Fiorentina fare after one Presidential decision perceived as unnecessary and the other seen as out of necessity.