Week nine saw the flying donkeys travel to the Stadio Ennio Tardini to face bottom club Parma. The Gialloblu return with a hard fought point, but more importantly a second consecutive clean sheet having kept the first one in Thursday afternoon’s routine win over Coach Stefano Pioli’s old club Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia. The game was more eventful than Pioli and his men would have liked, with two sending’s off and countless missed opportunities.
As expected Pioli made a hatful of changes to his starting line-up from the one that beat the Serie B strugglers on Thursday. Back in came first choice keeper Stefano Sorrentino. The former Parma boss also opted to reinstate the same back four which had seen off Cesena in the previous league game on week eight. This meant Nicolas Frey continued at right back alongside the first choice central defensive partnership of former Roma man Marco Andreolli and Slovenian international Bostjan Cesar. Andrea Mantovani continued at left back. In the middle of the park, Pioli opted for his favoured formation of three central midfielders playing behind an attacking one. In the centre he continued with deadline day signing Gelson Fernandes and Roberto Guana the loan signing from Palermo. Alongside those two there was a recall for Michele Marcolini for his first start since the week five 1-0 home defeat to current leaders Lazio. This was at the expense of Uruguayan playmaker Mariano Bogliacino. This meant that Kevin Constant was pushed further forward for his first start as an attacking midfielder. Right up top, Pioli continued with captain Sergio Pellissier and hero of the Stadio Bentegodi victory over Cesena, Cyril Thereau.
Pioli was keen to show the Stadio Ennio Tardini faithful what they had been missing having been at the club firstly as a player, then more recently as Coach during the 2006-07 season. Unfortunately for him, he was dismissed in January 2007 with the Emilia-Romagna based club lying 19th out of the 20 clubs and replaced with Claudio Ranieri. As fans were quick to remind him, in the remaining four months of that season Ranieri was able to lead them to a lower mid-table finish before moving on to a bigger challenge at Juventus. It has been an emotional few days for Pioli as he has come up against two of his former clubs in the space of four days. Firstly last Thursday at the Stadio Bentegodi, the Gialloblu met his former Sassuolo charges whom Pioli led to a fourth place finish in Serie B last season where they lost in the play-off semi-finals to one time Italian giants Torino. This was an important Coppa Italia match in a tournament which must mark the flying donkey’s only realistic hope of silverware for this season. Then four days later they travel to face a Parma side that not only did Pioli play and coach, but it also represents his hometown where members of his family still reside. Pioli must be happy to come out of this period of games undefeated by either of his former clubs, but even more impressively with two clean sheets.
The one disappointing aspect for Gialloblu supporters to come out of the draw with Parma, was the late sending off of Swiss international midfielder Gelson Fernandes for a second yellow card. He has played an important role within the Gialloblu’s engine room either in a starting role or as a second half substitute ever since arriving as a deadline day signing from French club Saint-Etienne. He was shown a second yellow card for a foul in the 83 minute. Possibly the more disappointing aspect of the second half was that Parma had fellow Swiss international midfielder Blerim Dzemaili dismissed in the 50th minute for a second yellow card. This meant that the Flying Donkey’s faced Parma for 33 minutes with an extra man advantage that they couldn’t make best use of until the numbers were evened up with seven minutes to play.
Pioli’s next job will be to look to shore up the Gialloblu’s engine room for next weekend’s difficult trip to Florence and the Stadio Artemio Franchi to face Sinsisa Mihajlovic’s Fiorentina side. The Viola themselves are on a two game unbeaten streak which has moved them away from the relegation zone and the Gialloblu have a particularly bad record at this stadium. Pioli must decide whether to recall Bogliacino and drop Constant to his usual deeper role, or hope that midfield enforcer Luca Rigoni returns to training this week in order to push for a starting spot once more.