The official Chievo Verona website summed this drab encounter up in a couple of lines. ‘A Sampdoria without Antonio Cassano is like watching a Western movie without John Wayne’. Whereas ‘a Chievo without Sergio Pellissier is like listening to a piano concert without the piano’.
The Gialloblu stuttered to their fourth consecutive game without a goal. Not since the 92nd minute strike by French striker Cyril Thereau in the week eight (24th October) home match with Cesena at the Stadio Bentegodi, have the Flying Donkey’s managed to find the target. More of a worry for Coach Stefano Pioli is the fact that very rarely have they threatened to end this run.
On a brighter note for the new Coach is the fact that the defence has only conceded once in this time during a 1-0 defeat at Fiorentina in week ten. The other three games have all ended in a goalless stalemate. The lack of fire power has become a worry for the Gialloblu faithful as they have seen their men slip from fourth spot just a few weeks ago to their current position of eleventh with a total of 16 points from 12 games. In such an open title race this can be viewed as a false position.
Although the Gialloblu are just five points above the relegation zone, they are also just four points off a Champion’s League spot. This is unlikely to be helped by the fact that the Flying donkeys have two very tough games coming up. Firstly they are at home to Inter next Sunday and then in week fourteen travel to Bologna. The Inter game could be viewed in two ways. It could either prove to be the best time to face Inter following their 1-0 defeat in the Milan derby and subsequent disappointing start to the season. Or it could be viewed as the worst time to face Inter as they may well be a wounded animal that needs to strike back very quickly. Either way one thing is for sure, talisman Sergio Pellissier needs to be out on the perfect playing surface of the Stadio Bentegodi leading his men from the front.
Sunday’s disappointing meeting with Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa was also the first meeting of the Gialloblu with their former Coach Domenico Di Carlo. Di Carlo left the Bentegodi in the summer after two relatively successful seasons at the helm of Chievo with consecutive fourteenth place finishes. Di Carlo took over at the Ferraris from another former Gialloblu hero in Gigi Del Neri, who in turn had left to take on the bigger job of Juventus. Although Pioli can currently only look on at what these two Coaches did at the Bentegodi with envy, he just has to believe in what could be achieved and remember that they currently just sit the four points off of the Champions League spots. If Pioli was to finish the season with that unlikely fourth spot, then he would go down in Bentegodi folklore as their most successful Coach ever. Although they qualified for a Champions League spot in 2005/06, they had actually finished the season in seventh place and only qualified as a result of the Calciopoli scandal, which saw Juventus relegated and stripped of two titles and the likes of Milan and Fiorentina stripped of European football. A top four finish and Champions League football then would surpass the previous best finish to a season by the Gialloblu of fifth in 2001/02, their first ever season in the top flight.
As we head towards the first real signs of winter, the Gialloblu are just beginning to show the first signs of their inferior squad to a lot of their rivals. Although Sampdoria had Cassano missing through personal issues with the club, the Flying Donkey’s were without the suspended duo of Guinea international Kevin Constant and Slovenian international defender Bostjan Cesar. They also had skipper Pellissier, Brazilian midfielder Luciano and defender Andrea Mantovani missing through knocks that they had picked up. It seems as though it is no coincidence that Pellissier hobbling off during the week nine goalless draw with Parma has seen a total of no goals scored in the three and a half games he has been missing from the side.
With only a handful of full internationals at the club, Pioli will be happy that the midweek international break gives some of his hard working players a much needed boost and rest ahead of the difficult home with Inter on Sunday.