It’s perhaps too early in the season to be talking about relegation, but Sunday’s game between Chievo and Siena is already looking like a proverbial six pointer. With only seven points separating the sides, a much needed win for bottom side Chievo will give them three vital points closer to clawing their way to safety whilst Siena will want to avoid being sucked into the vacuum of relegation and consolidate mid-table safety.
The Gialloblu have struggled to come to terms with life since their return to Serie A and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table. Their dire start to the season has already prompted the dismissal of boss Giuseppe Iachini in favour of former Parma coach Domenico Di Carlo and his first two games were a baptisms of fire – home to Juventus and away to Milan. Though his side gave a good account of themselves, both games ended in defeat. Despite the poor early season form, the Coach and players remain upbeat and optimistic of avoiding the drop.
If the Flying Donkeys are to perform an escape act they need to start picking up points against weaker opposition, particularly at home. With Udinese, Roma and Inter waiting in the wings in coming weeks, Di Carlo will approach Sunday’s encounter with Siena as a must win game.
After losing eight of their 12 games and conceding 19 goals in the process, defence is a priority the new Coach needs to address and he will almost certainly look to strengthen in January. For the time being though, Di Carlo looks set to persist with the 4-5-1 formation he opted for in his opening two games at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.
Stefano Sorrentino has failed to keep a clean sheet this season and will be hoping the back four of Marco Malago, Mario Yepes, Davide Mandelli and Andrea Mantovani will give him better protection than in previous outings this term. Vincenzo Italiano will be included in the squad after returning from injury though Simone Bentivoglio is likely to start in the holding position to break up Siena’s attacks.
Giampiero Pinzi, recalled to the starting XI against Juventus has probably done enough to retain a place alongside Michele Marcolini in the middle of the park and both will look to get forward to support Sergio Pellissier up front. For all his skill and ingenuity, the talented striker has been left isolated far too often this season and as a consequence both he and the team are finding goals hard to come by. Chievo have only registered on six occasions.
There was only a place on the bench for Mauro Esposito against Milan, but his pace is a threat for any defence. If Di Carlo opts to play him from the start this time out he will be urging him to attack Siena’s rearguard and to play in and around the penalty area where he can inflict the most damage. Antonio Langella on the other flank also needs to take more chances in the box. Though both are blessed with skill and speed a major criticism is neither contribute enough goals and if Chievo are to survive the drop, the wide men need to start weighing in.
Siena are also struggling to find the net, managing just the nine goals to their name so far. Their away form is a cause for concern for Coach Marco Giampaolo. The Robur are without a win in 13 matches on the road and will be desperate to end that poor run of form to avoid getting drawn into a relegation battle. Although last weekend’s draw with Bologna meant they remain undefeated at home, the Bianconeri will feel the result was two points dropped that subsequently left them in a precarious position. Defeat in the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi will see them looking over their shoulder.
La Robur do have fighting spirit, though, and the industrious midfield of Simone Vergassola and Paul Codrea are full of running. Daniele Galloppa also has boundless energy and he will look to get forward to support the front men at every given opportunity. Giampaolo prefers a 4-3-3 formation with Houssine Kharja in the hole, linking play from midfield to the front men. However, the lack of width in the side forces them to attack down predominately through the centre meaning attacks can sometimes be easily shut out.
The front two of Abdelkader Ghezzal and Massimo Maccarone have not been firing on all cylinders and could see their partnership severed in favour of bringing back Mario Frick. It’s a dilemma that Giampaolo will mull over this week as Ghezzal will be buoyed with a bit of confidence after his goal against Bologna, yet Frick is arguably the better foil for Maccarone and brings the best out in the experienced Italian.
Giampaolo’s side are susceptible to conceding goals at critical stages when they should otherwise have looked to gain some control of matches. Certainly away from home when they go a goal behind they struggle to get back into the game, which shows a side clearly lacking in confidence. Cristiano Del Grosso and Luca Rossettini, back from suspension, are likely to fill the full-back berths and will need to get forward to provide width in the opposition half. The centre-half pairing of Camilo Zuniga and Daniele Portanova have a good understanding and will be assigned to protect Gianluca Curci’s goal.
The Bianconeri have shown this season they are capable of raising their game against stronger opposition, but if they are to avoid slipping into difficulty they will have to show the same grit and determination against lesser sides like Chievo. Marco Giampaolo has been in a similar situation as Chievo currently are when he was at Cagliari and will be all too aware of the threat the opposition will pose. If his players don’t find the same commitment shown against the bigger sides and apply it in games against other teams in the league, their points cushion will soon start to look a little limp.