Chievo were brought back down to Earth at the Stadio Bentegodi on Sunday by Lazio, as they missed out on the perfect opportunity to capitalise on Inter’s slip up at Roma and go clear at the top of the table. Instead the Gialloblu fell to their second straight home defeat and allowed their visitors to leap-frog them into second place and knock the Flying Donkeys down to third. On top of this, Coach Stefano Pioli has a new injury concern, skipper and talisman Sergio Pellissier who limped off early in the second half with what looks like a nagging knee injury. This will only add to Pioli’s worries as he tries to pick his troops up and prepare them for another home game this weekend, this time against Cagliari, and try and end the bad home form in the process. Pellissier is joint second top goal-scorer in the league with four strikes to his name so far, and as such has been an integral part of the fantastic start that Chievo have had so far.
Pioli only made two changes to the side that won so convincingly at the Stadio San Paolo against Napoli last Wednesday night. Out went Kevin Constant (a goal-scorer at Napoli) and Pablo Granoche, the Uruguayan front man who has again failed to shine so far this season despite the predictions of so many to the contrary. Pioli kept the same back four for the second consecutive game. This meant that Nicolas Frey started again at right-back ahead of Gennaro Sardo, with the two central positions being taken by Marco Andreolli and Bostjan Cesar and the ever impressive Andrea Mantovanni at left-back. One of the key components in the Gialloblu’s great start to the season has been the fact that three of the back four have remained ever present in the opening five fixtures, the only position to change being at right-back where early starter Sardo has since lost out to Frey. Despite conceding less goals last year than in the previous season, Pioli was quick to pinpoint the defence as an area which needed strengthening after his summer arrival from Sassuolo, and the departure of lynch-pin Mario Yepes on a free transfer to Milan increased this need. As a result, the former Parma tactician brought in Bostjan Cesar from French club Grenoble, an experienced Slovenian international, as well as Marco Andreolli from Roma, possibly a more impressive capture, right at the end of August. Andreolli began his career at Inter, playing a handful of games before a switch to Roma in 2007 in which he was part of the deal that took Cristian Chivu in the opposite direction. Again his progress att the Capital club was blocked by the likes of Philippe Mexes, Juan and more recently the signing of Argentinian international Nicolas Burdisso. He did make a name for himself with the i Giallorossi faithful by scoring the 94th minute equaliser last season in a Europa league clash with eventual runners-up Fulham. He has also been capped at all levels from U-18’s to U-21’s including 24 caps for gli Azzurrini as of last year.
In midfield, Pioli kept the same shape that has served the club so well this season in their fine, counter-attacking style. In the continued absence of Brazilian midfielder Luciano, the three central midfielders remained Simone Bentivoglio, Luca Rigoni and Michele Marcolini (who replaced the unlucky Kevin Constant). This meant there was another chance for Mariano Bogliacino as the link man between midfield and attack. Up front, Sergio Pellissier was joined by Davide Moscardelli who already has two goals to his name this season.
The game itself was pretty much a non-event for fans of the Gialloblu. They just never got started despite having a great chance to go clear at the top again. Lazio dominated possession right from the first whistle and really should have gone in at the break two or three goals to the good. Instead, mainly due to Stefano Sorrentino in the Flying Donkey’s goal, it remained goal-less. In fact it took a great strike from Mauro Zarate halfway through the second period to seal the points for the team from the capital. It will be back to the drawing board this week for Pioli as he attempts to address the Gialloblu’s inability to play at home before the weekend when Cagliari come to the Stadio Bentegodi. All fans of Mussi Volanti will be hoping that Pellissier makes a full recovery in time to lead the line, as there will be a distinct struggle for goals without him.