It comes as a pleasant shock to the Gialloblu that they felt a massive disappointment after coming away from the Stadio Ennio Tardini last Sunday with just a point following a goal-less draw. The 0-0 draw with Parma was even more down heartening after the Flying donkey’s played 33 minutes with an extra man following the sending off of Parma’s Swiss international midfielder Blerim Dzemaili for two yellow cards in the 50th minute. Unfortunately for the Gialloblu, this was evened up with seven minutes left following the sending off of their own Swiss international midfielder Gelson Fernandes, also for two yellow cards which rules him out of Sunday’s trip to Florence.
The fact that such a terrific result was viewed as a disappointment shows just how far the Gialloblu have come under the guidance of new coach Stefano Pioli following the tight relegation battles of the previous two seasons. One of the reasons for this turnaround has been the fantastic away form. The draw in Parma means that the flying donkey’s have amassed seven points from a possible twelve on the road so far this season, with the week seven 3-1 reverse at Milan being their own defeat away from home thus far. This is no mean feat and is down to Coach Pioli’s fantastic tactics which have allowed the Gialloblu to be deadly on the counter attack. The down side to such form is that the side have struggled to change their approach when playing at home. This has meant that that they have won only two games out of five in front of the Stadio Bentegodi faithful.
The match at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Sunday isn’t the happiest of hunting grounds for the Gialloblu. The shock 2-0 win there back in April this year, was the flying donkey’s first win for many years. In fact a look at their last four visits in all competitions doesn’t make great reading. Before that win the Gialloblu had lost 3-2 in the Coppa Italia back in January this year, lost 2-1 in February 2009 and lost 1-0 in April 2007. The reverse fixture at the Stadio Bentegodi hasn’t brought any better luck for the Gialloblu either, with just a solitary victory in the same time period.
There is a feeling amongst the flying donkey’s faithful however that this season is completely different. The Viola have been struggling for form this season and indeed until their week eight win at home to Bari, were in fact propping up the table. They followed that up with a goalless draw of their own away at Catania last Sunday which sees the Viola sitting in 15th place and hovering just a point above the drop zone at the moment.
The match on Sunday kicks off at 12.30pm local time and as such has been a source for a different build up. Both sides have changed their usual training modes this week to include two separate training sessions each day so that they can get used to the slightly different kick-off time. Both sides have also had a warm up game against a local provincial side with the same 12.30 kick-off time so that the players can get used to playing at that time and also to change their eating habits and intake of food in preparation for an earlier kick-off. The Gialloblu had their friendly on Thursday lunchtime against local side Ossanese, defeating them 15-1. It wasn’t a game that did much to prepare the side physically, just helped with an earlier kick-off. Pioli fielded two completely different sides in each half. There was no room in either half for captain Sergio Pellissier, Brazilian midfielder Luciano, Bostjan Cesar or Gennaro Sardo.
The foursome have continued to train separately from the rest of the squad all week in an effort to aid their fitness (which is at various different stages) with the hope at least that Cesar and Pellissier will be fit enough to play some part in the game. Luciano is definitely out and Sardo will continue to be a huge doubt. The one thing that the friendly did was increase the confidence amongst Pioli’s strikers. If Pellissier is only deemed fit enough to start on the bench, Pioli will be happier to field any of his other three options. Both Pablo Granoche and Davide Moscardelli scored twice whilst current first choice striker, the Frenchman Cyril Thereau, grabbed a hat-trick. Defensively, Pioli will be preparing his troops for the fact that Viola frontman Adrian Mutu has made a return to the first team fold in the hope that he can continue his once prolific partnership with Azzurri regular Alberto Gilardino. However regular shot stopper Sebastien Frey (older brother of Gialloblu defender Nicolas) has been ruled for four months after damaging his cruciate ligaments in his right knee, so summer signing Artur Boric will deputise.