Chievo Coach Stefano Pioli will look upon Sunday’s performance as a job half done. Having lost their last two home games both 1-0 to Brescia and Lazio, the Flying Donkeys’ first aim was always going to be to stop the losing run at home. Having said that however, the game against Cagliari always looked a winnable one. This fact was made all the more obvious just prior to kick-off when it was announced that Cagliari captain and vice-captain, Daniele Conti and Alessandro Agostini, had been left out of the squad having fallen out with Coach Pierpaolo Bisoli. The fact that Gialloblu skipper Sergio Pellissier had recovered enough from a back problem to take his place up front also meant that the Stadio Bentegodi faithful were expecting the full three points. In the end they had to settle for just the one, the Flying Donkeys’ first draw of the season, but more importantly, their first clean sheet as well. Pioli would have been happy with his goalkeeper and back four as they restricted Cagliari to very few chances, but unfortunately did not make the most of the ones they created themselves.
The result leaves the Flying Donkeys in fifth place with 10 points from six games. Going into the international break Stefano Pioli will be happy with his start at his new club. The Gialloblu were a lot of critics’ favourites to struggle (this could yet happen), but they are currently riding high and playing very attractive football which has been very pleasing on the eye. This will please Pioli, so far as a few people raised their eyebrows when he was announced as the new Gialloblu Coach in the summer, following his only previous campaign in Serie A with his home town club Parma which ended with his sacking halfway through the season. There is a long way to go in this season, but with impressive wins at both Genoa and Napoli, this Flying Donkeys side currently looks anything but Serie A strugglers.
A few days prior to the Cagliari game, the club announced that defender Davide Mandelli had signed a contract extension until 2012. Mandelli has played a huge part in the Chievo success story with almost 200 appearances in his Gialloblu career so far and he is currently in his seventh year at the Bentegodi. Mandelli has yet to feature in this current campaign having lost out to new summer signings Boštjan Cesar and Marco Andreolli. Mandelli is however a very experienced professional and just the kind of squad player that a competitive Serie A side needs to have.
The next fixture for the Gialloblu is an attractive looking away fixture at inconsistent Milan in a fortnight. Milan won 1-0 at Pioli’s former charges Parma to move into fourth place, just one place and one point above the Gialloblu and more importantly level on points with fierce rivals Inter. With the Flying Donkeys in sparkling away form this season, Massimiliano Allegri’s Rossoneri will have to be aware of being caught out on the counter-attack. This Serie A campaign seems to be more wide open with both Milan and Inter having dropped seven points already and last season’s nearly men Roma nowhere to be seen having made a terrible start. The fact that Chievo are still lying in fifth place shows just how far they have come in a short space of time under Pioli.
At the moment, the Gialloblu are showing no signs of shifting from their top half placing, but the trip to San Siro to face Milan seems set to provide them with their first real stern test. A side which contains the attacking talents of Ronaldinho, Alexdanre Pato, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Robinho and Kevin-Prince Boateng to name but a few, definitely has the skills to stretch Cesar and Andreolli at the heart of the Gialloblu’s defence. Keeper Stefano Sorrentino will have his work cut out to keep his second consecutive clean sheet. At the other end though, Sergio Pellissier and Pablo Granoche should be lively enough to cause a Milan side without a recognised top-class ‘keeper problems. The Gialloblu are in the unfamiliar position of having three players away on international duty this week. The Slovenian pair of Bojan Jokič and Cesar will be on duty in European Championship qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Estonia whilst Guinea midfielder Kévin Constant will be on African Nations Cup duty against Nigeria (although this match is in doubt due to the latter’s suspension by FIFA). This highlights that Chievo are attracting the right sort of players.