As we approach the final month before the Christmas break, now seems a good time to assess the season so far. After 13 games and just over a third of the way through the campaign, Chievo are sat in ninth place with 19 points. 40 will usually ensure survival in Serie A, so the current total is pretty healthy and reflects well on new Coach Stefano Pioli.
When Pioli arrived at the start of the season, he was told that his objective was quite simply to continue the good work of his predecessor Domenico Di Carlo, who kept the Gialloblu afloat in the two previous campaigns, and ensure that one of the lesser supported teams of Serie A would still be amongst the elite next time around.
Chairman Luca Campadelli has promised Pioli a new contract if he acheives this, though a large portion of the Stadio Bentegodi faithful are calling for the Coach to be rewarded now, especially after the fantastic victory over defending champions Inter last Sunday. Pioli himself, however, has kept his feet firmly on the ground and echoed the words of his Chairman to judge him only in May.
Whatever, it’s looking good for the new Coach so far and, without wanting to get too carried away, if he does the unthinkable and delivers European football, he should be given the freedom of Verona.
Today’s Serie A is a very different beast to the one which existed in 2002 and 2006, the two previous seasons Chievo qualified for European football. Italian giants Milan, Inter, Roma and Juventus have massive budgets, and even the likes of Sampdoria, Lazio and Napoli have much more to work with than the Flying Donkeys, who struggle from season to season on the back of average home gates of around 13,000.
Just to compete regularly on the field against such formidable opposition takes a lot, so this brings into perspective the kind of job Pioli is doing. His major summer signing was Davide Moscardelli from Serie B outfit Piacenza for a fee in the region of £3 million. Compare this with Milan, who brought in Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Napoli, who signed Edison Cavani for around £15 million.
As such, the priority for Chievo is simply to remain in Serie A for now, and the longer this is achieved, the easier it becomes for Pioli – or whoever is in charge – to attract the better class of player. But if they are to continue their current form and actually qualify for European football next season, it would be a much bigger achievement then those of Luigi Delneri and Giuseppe Pillon in previous seasons.
Still, this is all in the future, so let’s not forget there is a match this Sunday. For the Gialloblu to continue forward following that fantastic win over Inter at the Bentegodi last weekend, they will have to recapture the great away performances they produced at the start of the season when they travel to Bologna on Sunday.
Pioli’s men should feel positive going into the game as Chievo have a good record against Bologna in recent times – in Serie A at least. The Flying Donkeys have only lost one of the previous six encounters, which was at the Renato Dall’Ara back in January 2005 when their hosts ran out 3-1 winners. The most recent fixture there, back in September 2009, saw the Gialloblu win 2-0, with goals from Giampiero Pinzi and Sergio Pellissier in the first half-hour.
Oddly enough, the Gialloblu’s worst performance in Bologna came during their one season back in Serie B in 2007/08 when Giuseppe Iachini’s men were hammered 4-0. Chievo had the last laugh, however, as they were promoted as Champions and Bologna runners-up.
The Bologna of this season are struggling in 16th place, and with leading marksman Pellissier back in the starting line-up and scoring against Inter last weekend, the Gialloblu should be more than capable of continuing the momentum from that magical display and keeping the more glamorous Clubs ahead of them on their toes.