Cagliari v Fiorentina
The exit from the UEFA Cup was heartbreaking but we must still look forward to the remaining Serie A games, all against teams avoiding relegation.
Cagliari are hanging on for dear life, five points clear of the precipice overlooking Serie B, while Fiorentina are losing their grip on fourth place and a Champions League spot.
Cagliari have put the cat among the proverbial relegation pigeons in recent weeks, winning two games in-a-row before valiantly bowing to champions-elect Inter at San Siro on Sunday. The Sardi have become a well-oiled machine since Davide Ballardini’s arrival, with every cog slipping into place and doing its job. Unfortunately some of the most important components are missing.
Robert Acquafresca, the Azzurrini striker who has been banging in goals and attracting interest from Italy’s biggest clubs, is struggling for fitness while midfield string-puller, Daniele Conti, is tied up in agony with a stomach complaint. The absence of playmaking lighthouse Pasquale Foggia has also meant the Islanders have lost their way in the final third of the pitch, cutting front-man Jeda adrift from the rest of the team.
Cagliari will not be scared though and will be confident ahead of the Viola’s voyage to Sardinia. The Rossoblu have turned Sant’Elia, which was a sand castle at the start of the season, into an intimidating fortress and haven’t lost there in eight matches. Fiorentina have been defeated on their last four trips away from the Artemio Franchi and will be tired after a UEFA Cup semi-final second leg against Scottish giants Rangers.
Cesare Prandelli’s men are showing signs of fatigue and, having played 52 games already this season, the wind is no longer in their sails as it was at the turn of the year. While the Gigliati have gone through the odd purple patch in each of their last five games, they have failed to kill off teams. But the tide could change with the return of Giampaolo Pazzini who is back from suspension. The Viola have also won five of their last six meetings with Cagliari.
Keep an eye on: Giampaolo Pazzini (Fiorentina) – The 23-year-old has been criticised for his inconsistency this season and will be looking to get back on the scoresheet after three weeks without a goal. The former Atalanta youngster was touted to step into Luca Toni’s boots after the World Cup winner’s departure last summer and although he has disappointed, he certainly has the potential to light up any game.
From this moment on, every game will be hard since every team that goes against us will have the extra motivation to win and escape relegation, not to mention this season's bottom table race is very tight where seven teams are still unsafe. Milan and Sampdoria are also chasing us, though Milan will have a difficult match this week, their derby against Inter and Sampdoria going against Roma. If we can get the three points here, it would be a good cushion for the next match against Parma (apparently they are somewhat of a bogey team to us).
Hopefully, the players can use the last three matches to just unleash everything and pent their frustration of exiting the cup to hammer away on those three teams.