Club Focus – Sampdoria – Blucerchiati press to impress in Serie A opener

This weekend, Sampdoria successfully put their Champions League disappointment behind them with a strong victory over Lazio. During the 2-0 win over a hungry Lazio side, i Blucerchiati showed many characteristics that will have greatly pleased Domenico Di Carlo, as he looks for continued improvement from his team in their third competitive game of the season.
Against an attacking Lazio, Sampdoria picked up where they left off against Werder Bremen in midweek. Despite being comprehensively outgunned, an excellent performance from the back four as well as good pressure in midfield allowed them to restrict their opponents to long range efforts. Of the 14 shots mustered by Lazio, only one found the target. Another aspect of Sampdoria’s defensive performance was the way they retained their discipline at all times. Faced with the dancing feet of the likes of Mauro Zarate, the Samp rearguard refused to dive in on all occasions but one: when Reto Ziegler clattered Stephan Lichtsteiner and was promptly booked. Marshalled superbly by Daniele Gastaldello, the defence simply kept the Lazio forwards at an arm’s length in a display that will have delighted Di Carlo.
In front of the defence, Daniele Dessena continued to deputise for injured duo Andrea Poli and Fernando Tissone and put in a performance to suggest that he will be challenging for a more regular role in the side. His clever use of the ball from midfield allowed his side to quickly turn defence into attack and cause Lazio problems. Dessena was key for his side throughout, even winning the penalty that brought about the opening goal, but it was his assist for Stefano Guberti’s goal that really epitomised his performance. When Fernando Muslera spilled the ball in his direction, rather than hooking it blindly towards goal, he had the presence of mind to tee up Guberti for a much simpler finish to seal the victory for his team. On this evidence, the man who spent last season on loan at Cagliari appears to have a prominent role in the side within his grasp this time around.

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Up front, the partnership of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini continues to prove successful. While Pazzini hardly impacted on the game when in possession, his tireless running off the ball opened doors for Cassano to probe and test the Lazio back line. Fantantonio looked a threat throughout, continually finding space in front of the defence, winning free kicks and generally making a nuisance of himself. After a clever one-two, il Talentino was unlucky to see his shot grace the post before he calmly slotted home from the penalty spot when Dessena was fouled. Having earlier hailed Cassano’s newfound maturity, Di Carlo will be delighted to see his star player giving 100% for the club and continuing to play such a determinant role.
Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli will certainly be hoping that Cassano can continue his impressive streak with la Nazionale, ahead of the upcoming games against Estonia and the Faroe Islands. Prandelli recently claimed: “His [Cassano’s] impact has been more than positive,” as well as stating his desire to see Cassano become a national team regular. Pazzini’s goal-scoring exploits against Werder Bremen have earned him a recall to the squad and he will hope to be given more of a chance to make an impact after being drastically underused at the World Cup. In the injury-enforced absence of Mario Balotelli, Pazzini could very well be pushing for a start alongside his club colleague Cassano as la Nazionale look for a bright start to their qualification campaign.
Angelo Palombo retains his place in the team but may miss out on a starting berth due to the return of Andrea Pirlo to the fold. Prandelli has also rewarded Daniele Gastaldello for an excellent start to the season by calling up the defender who is set to win his first cap at the age of 27. The recall of Pazzini and Gastaldello’s inclusion bring the Sampdoria contingent up to four, easily trumping Roma and AC Milan, who contribute only Daniele De Rossi and Pirlo respectively. In fact, only Juventus have supplied more players to the Azzurri squad than Sampdoria.
It is certain that Domenico Di Carlo will be watching when Italy face Estonia and the Faroe Islands. With a tough game against Juventus to follow the international break, he will be hoping that his players come through the games injury-free in order that he may field his strongest side in Turin. Good performances for la Nazionale could see Cassano and Pazzini return to domestic duty in top form, an idea that will send shivers down the collective spine of a Juventus back-four, currently bereft of confidence. In the mean time, however, Di Carlo should be content with what has been a really successful start to the season.
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