Club Focus – Sampdoria – Champions League qualifier

While three defeats and only one goal from three pre season games may not be the perfect way to prepare for the new season, Sampdoria Coach Domenico Di Carlo remains enthusiastic about his first taste of European football. The young tactician appeared remarkably upbeat when discussing his side’s upcoming Champions League qualifier, saying: “With organisation, the right mentality and the Sampdoria spirit we can beat an important side like Werder Bremen.”

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However, preparations have once again been disrupted by rumours concerning a number of the club’s star players. Having successfully hung onto Giampaolo Pazzini following strong interest from Juventus, Riccardo Garrone has been forced to fend off enquiries regarding other squad members from the Turin giants as well as other suitors. Following his recent return to the national set up, Antonio Cassano has again been linked with a move to the Nerazzurri despite his agent asserting: “I can confirm Cassano will not be leaving for Inter”. The future of midfield duo Angelo Palombo and Andrea Poli has also been subject of rumours suggesting a possible reunion for one or both with former Coach Luigi Del Neri at Juventus but both have thus far remained Sampdoria players.

In the midst of the rumours, Di Carlo has quietly gone about readying his side for their German test, most notably with the signing of last season’s loan success Stefano Guberti on a permanent contract from Roma. Whilst not of the calibre some fans were hoping for, the signing of Guberti represents an excellent piece of business for i Blucerchiati as the winger brings pace, creativity and flair to the side. Guberti also has some, admittedly fairly limited, European experience having played in last season’s Europa League for Roma and he will be hoping to add to that experience by propelling Sampdoria into the Champions League proper.

Another new signing gearing up for a return to the European arena is keeper Gianluca Curci. The former Siena and Roma custodian will make his competitive debut for Sampdoria against Bremen on Wednesday and will be looking to impress immediately for his new club. Pazzini, Cassano, Palombo and Poli are all likely to play against the German side in a game that could potentially determine whether or not they remain with the club this season. Should i Blucerchiati fail to reach the lucrative Champions League group stage, the side may be forced to cash in on one or more of their prized assets.

Director general Sergio Gasparini recently underlined the importance of qualification for the group stage, adding: “The players, Coach, club and fans are all excited about this as we have not been in the competition for 18 years.” The task of overcoming Werder Bremen must not be underestimated, though. The German side are rich in young talent such as Mesut Ozil, Marko Marin, Aaron Hunt and Marko Arnautovic, while old heads Torsten Frings and Per Mertesacker anchor the side. The Sampdoria rearguard will be subject to a physical barrage from powerful forwards Claudio Pizarro and Hugo Almeida, who will certainly provide a stern test for Daniele Gastaldello and company.

A good result in the first leg is vital for Sampdoria and Di Carlo is likely to approach the game with caution in mind. With home advantage in the second leg, a defeat on Wednesday would not be terminal and a draw or victory would put i Blucerchiati in pole position to go through. In order to achieve such a result, Sampdoria must win an intriguing midfield battle that pits the tenacity and dynamism of Palombo and Poli up against the guile and footballing intelligence of Frings and Tim Borowski. Space for the likes of Ozil and Marin must be kept to a minimum while it is key that Cassano gets as much of the ball as possible in order to create opportunities to snatch an away goal.

Whatever the result, with such attacking talent on show as Cassano, Ozil, Marin and Pazzini, Werder Bremen captain Torsten Frings looks to have hit the nail on the head when he said: “Clashes between German and Italian teams are almost always classics, so we know just where we stand.” Going into the first leg, the sides look fairly even on paper and that should make for compelling viewing as Sampdoria search for a favourable result to take back to Italy.

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