They are starting to whisper it quietly. The Bentegodi faithful are beginning to believe that this is the year to end their 25 years of hurt. Which they have had to put up with since inter-city rivals Hellas claimed their one and only Scudetto.
Currently lying fourth in Serie A, with only the big names of Lazio, Milan and Inter ahead of them, the Flying Donkey’s believe that their one true hope of that first elusive piece of silverware lies with the Coppa Italia. The third round tie with Sassuolo ending with a hard fought but well deserved 2-0 win for Stefano Pioli’s men against his former employers. Pioli made a string of changes from the side that grabbed a last minute win over Cesena at the Stadio Bentigodi on Sunday. There were starts for Lorenzo Squizzi, Davide Mandelli, Bojan Jokic, Santiago Morero, Ledian Memushaj and Michele Marcolini to name just a few. Pioli also opted to drop his front line of Sergio Pellissier and Cyril Thereau from Sunday’s game and go for a partnership of Pablo Granoche and Davide Moscardelli.
Goals from veteran defender Mandelli, who recently put pen to paper on a new deal with the Gialloblu and summer signing Moscardelli (taking his tally in all competitions to three), eased the Serie A outfit’s route into the fourth round. In the next round, the Flying Donkey’s won’t have an easy tie as they will face current Serie B leaders Novara (conquerors of Serie A new boys Cesena) at the Stadio Bentegodi in late November. The winner of that tie will travel to Palermo (another hugely winnable game for the Gialloblu) to fight for the right to reach the quarter final, leaving them possibly just two games short of their first ever final.
It is easy for the Bentegodi faithful to get carried away. Wherever you look in magazines and on Serie A programmes, people are reminded how twenty five years ago this year, Chievo’s inter-city rivals Hellas were making history by winning their one and only Scudetto against the odds in Maradonna’s first season on the Peninsula. This was a remarkable achievement at the time as it was the first time since 1970 that the champions had come from outside the traditional powerhouse cities of Turin, Milan and Rome. The last side to achieve such a feat prior to Hellas were Cagliari.
What was even more remarkable at this time however was that Chievo Verona were still a year away from turning professional. Chievo sat proudly amongst Italian football’s non-league elite. Fast forward twenty five years, and the Flying Donkeys are sitting in fourth spot with an outside chance of European qualification this season having spent nine of the last ten seasons dinning at Italian football’s top table. Meanwhile, city rivals Hellas are sitting rather helplessly in mid-table of the third tier, the Lega Pro. It has certainly been an amazing rise to the top for the Stadio Bentegodi faithful.
For the Gialloblu, next up is a tough trip to Parma on Sunday. Away from home however, the Flying donkeys have excelled in recent weeks. They have recorded 3-1 wins at both the San Paolo against Napoli and the Stadio Luigi Ferraris against Genoa. Two weeks ago, they even managed to outplay Milan for long periods at the San Siro before eventually going down 3-1 to a double strike from Alexandre Pato and Robinho’s first goal for Milan. Missed chances were the cause of the eventual downfall for the Gialloblu. The Stadio Ennio Tardini shouldn’t hold as many fears on the back of such results, but Pioli will have his men well versed in what to expect as he returns to another of his old haunts desperate to put one over his old employers having been sacked in January 2007 with Parma stuck at 19th place. He was replaced by Claudio Ranieri who went on to keep the Emilia-Romagna based club up. Parma currently lay bottom of Serie A after eight games, without a win since the opening day of the season. They did however record a clean sheet last weekend as they held another old manager, Claudio Ranieri’s charges Roma, to a goal-less draw. The Gialloblu have only been out of the top four once this season despite recording three defeats. There is a good chance that Pioli’s men could end the reign of current Coach Pasquale Marino by Monday morning.