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Serie A Week 35 - 27/4/08 (14.00 UK)

Inter - Cagliari
Stadio Meazza

Inter can feel a third consecutive Scudetto in their grasp, but Cagliari are one of the form teams of the moment and eager to cause an upset.

Thanks to Roma’s stumble at home to Livorno last week, the Nerazzurri were able to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points. It was a crucial result, as was their own 1-0 victory away to a revitalised Torino. Both Dejan Stankovic and assistant boss Sinisa Mihajlovic admitted the team played “very badly,” but that’s just the kind of result you need to win League titles.

A victory here means they could mathematically seal the Scudetto with a win in the Milan derby on May 4. With that in mind, Roberto Mancini may like to rest some of his many stars on the verge of suspension – Mario Balotelli, Esteban Cambiasso, Luis Jimenez, Douglas Maicon, Julio Cesar, Nicolas Burdisso and Stankovic. Patrick Vieira returns from a ban, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to sit out with long-term injury casualties Olivier Dacourt, Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba and Luis Figo.

Cagliari are in even worse condition, as they will be missing a trio of players stopped by the Disciplinary Commission. Michele Fini scored a great goal in the 2-0 win over Empoli only to foolishly receive a second booking for taking his shirt off to celebrate. Pasquale Foggia and Francesco Pisano are also banned, while key midfielder Andrea Parola has a thigh injury. Christian Del Grosso is set to step in.

Much of the Sardinians’ incredible comeback from the depths of the standings is down to the form of Robert Acquafresca, as the Under-21 international has scored seven goals in the last nine games. His partner has been less stable, but between the desperately disappointing Joaquin Larrivey, former Rimini man Jeda and surprise Alessandro Matri, the Brazilian is the favourite to start.

It doesn’t bode well for Cagliari, who have lost every visit here since a 2-2 draw in November 1996. However, last season it ended with a slender 1-0 result decided by Burdisso and their current form means just about anything could happen.

Keep an eye on: Robert Acquafresca (Cagliari) – If the Sardinians are to cause an upset at San Siro, it is bound to come from the Under-21 international who has been courted for Euro 2008 by the Polish side.

Last season: Inter 1-0 Cagliari

Form guide: Inter (L D W W W) Cagliari (D D L W W)

Inter (probable): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Materazzi, Chivu, Maxwell; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Vieira, Stankovic; Balotelli, Cruz

Cagliari (probable): Storari; Ferri, Lopez, Bianco, Agostini; Del Grosso, Biondini, Conti; Cossu; Jeda, Acquafresca

Ref: To follow...

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· XT Post Number King
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110,790 Posts
26/04/2008 00:16
Serie A Preview: Inter Milan - Cagliari
What: Serie A - Matchday 35
Who: Inter (1st, 78 points) vs Cagliari (15th, 35 points)
When: Sunday 27 April 2008, 15:00 CET
Where: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Scudetto Almost In The Bag For Inter

When people will look back at this Serie A season, they will most probably indicate last weekend's round of games as the one that decided the title race. Inter held a four-point lead over a feisty Roma side with five games to go, and the match programme saw the Giallorossi host bottom club Livorno before Inter faced Torino away from home.

Luciano Spalletti's side could only muster a 1-1 draw against the Amaranto in another game where they wasted a miriad of chances. Inter took full advantage the next evening as they scraped a 1-0 victory thanks to a poacher's goal by Julio Cruz. So now the Nerazzurri have a six-point lead with four matches to go, and only a collapse of historical proportions would prevent them from winning their third consecutive Scudetto (16th in total).

In theory it could already happen this weekend, although they would need Torino to get a win in Rome, which is unlikely to say the least, while Inter of course would need to beat Cagliari at home. But it would be an even more satisfying party for the Nerazzurri if they win the title in the derby against Milan next week, and perhaps hand their city rivals the decisive blow in their pursuit of a Champions League place.

Considering all the problems and the heavy criticism Inter have had to endure since the start of the new year, which reached a boiling point after the elimination in the Champions League against Liverpool, they deserve credit for having bounced back so well in the last few weeks.

With three consecutive wins against Atalanta, Fiorentina, and Torino they made up for a spell of poor results and now they deservedly have the Scudetto within touching distance.

Cagliari Close To Safety

Thanks to a great run of results, Cagliari have managed to overturn a situation that saw them seemingly hopeless at the bottom of the table. Without a decent strikeforce and a defence that was leaking all over the place, coach Daniele Ballardini faced a daunting task when he took control of the team in January, when they were six points off the safe zone.

Most probably the turnaround came in the home game against Napoli in late January, which Cagliari won thanks to two injury time goals after trailing 1-0. Since that game, their home form has been excellent, having beaten the likes of Lazio, Genoa, Atalanta, and held Roma to a 1-1 draw.

It hasn't been the same story in away games, where they've been mostly disappointing, although they did happen to win their most recent match away from home against bottom club Livorno. But of course the most important thing for them is that they are now five points clear of the danger zone, which with only four games to go puts them in a very good position.

Still, the next three games will be tough ones for Cagliari, as they face Fiorentina and Udinese after visiting Inter. Considering the hard work done by Ballardini and his players to get out of such a desperate situation, they certainly wouldn't deserve the dreaded drop to Serie B.

FORM GUIDE

Inter Milan

20/04 (Serie A): Torino-Inter Milan 0-1
16/04 (Coppa Italia): Inter Milan-Lazio 0-0
13/04 (Serie A): Inter Milan-Fiorentina 2-0
06/04 (Serie A): Atalanta-Inter Milan 0-2
29/03 (Serie A): Lazio-Inter Milan 1-1

Cagliari

20/04 (Serie A): Cagliari-Empoli 2-0
13/04 (Serie A): Livorno-Cagliari 1-2
05/04 (Serie A): Milan-Cagliari 3-1
29/03 (Serie A): Cagliari-Roma 1-1
22/03 (Serie A): Sampdoria-Cagliari 1-1

TEAM NEWS

Inter Milan

Olivier Dacourt, Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba are all out for the season, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Figo are also unavailable through injury.

Possible formation (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Chivu, Materazzi, Maxwell; Vieira, Cambiasso, Zanetti; Stankovic; Crespo, Cruz.

Cagliari

Davide Marchini and Andrea Parola are out injured, while Pasquale Foggia, Michele Fini, and Francesco Pisano are suspended. Robert Acquafresca could be kept out to preserve him for the match against Fiorentina.

Possible formation (4-3-1-2): Storari; Ferri, Lopez, Bianco, Agostini; Del Grosso, Biondini, Conti; Cossu; Jeda, Matri.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Julio Cruz (Inter Milan)

Last weekend he popped up again with a probably crucial, decisive goal in the match against Torino. He hadn't managed to score at all in the new year, except in the Coppa Italia, so it was good to see him back doing what he does best. Before Christmas, he was in the form of his life, scoring 10 goals, and even kept his countryman Hernan Crespo out of the starting line-up.

Alessandro Matri (Cagliari)

The 23-year-old Milan youth product will be keen to impress in this match. If he manages to score against Inter, he would certainly grab the attention of the Rossoneri's managers. At Cagliari he's had a somewhat disappointing season, however, scoring just 6 goals and being mostly overshadowed by his younger strike partner Robert Acquafresca.

PREDICTION

Despite Cagliari being on a good run of form, I think Inter will put on a good show in this one and win comfortably.

Inter-Cagliari 3-0

Danilo Pochini

goal.com
 
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