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Preview: Cagliari vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Cagliari vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Cagliari and Roma, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

In a clash which could have major consequences at both ends of the Serie A standings, relegation battlers Cagliari continue their last-ditch bid for survival on Sunday, against a Roma side still chasing a return to Europe.

Consecutive wins have lifted the hosts to within three points of safety, while the under-performing Giallorossi arrive in Sardinia on a run of just one victory from their last six league games.

Match preview

Since the Europa League's return in February, Italy's last side standing in continental competition, Roma, have hit a domestic downturn, which reached its nadir last Sunday as they crashed to a 3-1 defeat against struggling Torino.

Balancing their European ambitions - the Giallorossi have an appetising semi-final against Premier League giants Manchester United to look forward to in the coming days - with achieving consistency in Serie A has proved beyond Paulo Fonseca's charges in recent times.

They were therefore relieved when, late on in their midweek encounter with high-fliers Atalanta at Stadio Olimpico, Bergamaschi old boy Bryan Cristante strode forward to plant a long-range strike in the visitors' net, shortly after Gian Piero Gasperini's side were reduced to ten men.

However, that hard-earned 1-1 draw did little to help Roma's cause of catching sixth-placed city rivals Lazio, who occupy the final guaranteed Europa League qualifying spot for next term: with five games left to play, they are three points adrift of their bitterest foes, who still hold a potentially pivotal game in hand.

Fonseca has been particularly concerned by his team's inability to replicate generally positive performances at the Olimpico when outside the capital, as the Giallorossi have won just one of their last seven Serie A matches on the road to sit a mere 12th in the top flight's 'away points' rankings.

Ahead of this weekend's encounter at the Sardegna Arena though, Roma's last league defeat against Cagliari came as long ago as February 2013 and, since then, they have won nine and drawn four.

With his long-term future at the club coming under serious scrutiny of late, Fonseca will surely require an improvement from his ailing attack if they are to avoid missing out on a top-six finish, as his side have scored the fewest Serie A goals since the start of last month.

Former captain Edin Dzeko has faltered since an aborted attempt to leave in January and a subsequent brush with COVID-19 - failing to find the net in any of his last 11 league appearances, which equals his longest goalless drought in some 13 years. A rapid upturn in the former Wolfsburg striker's fortunes could prove integral to his team ending a largely frustrating season on a high.

Now sitting just three points behind free-falling Benevento and the fast-improving Torino - who have a game in hand - in the battle at the bottom of the table, Cagliari's back-to-back wins in the last week could prove invaluable in keeping their hopes alive until next month's final round.

Leonardo Semplici's men were indebted to captain Joao Pedro on Wednesday, as the Brazilian forward's goal against Udinese secured a 1-0 victory at the Dacia Arena and on the long journey south from Friuli, the Isolani could reflect on an excellent week's work.

Following four straight losses - and essentially staring into the abyss at 3-1 down with more than an hour played last weekend - Cagliari somehow clawed their way back from the brink to snatch a 4-3 victory over drop rivals Parma, who they effectively condemned to Serie B next season.

While knowing failure would make relegation almost unavoidable, the spirited Sardinian side trailed for almost all of a madcap match, but equalised in the 91st minute, before Alberto Cerri's 94th-minute winner sparked unbridled joy and added a much-needed shot of momentum to their escape attempt.

With a run-in still featuring meetings with both Napoli and Milan after the visit of Roma though, the proud island club's future remains in serious jeopardy - even if an upcoming clash with Benevento could prove decisive.

Comfortably the Isolani's top scorer this term, 14-goal skipper Joao Pedro has scored five times in his three most recent appearances against this Sunday's opponents, so both Semplici and Cagliari's long-suffering tifosi will have all hope invested in their go-to man saving their skins once again.

Cagliari Serie A form:
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W

Roma Serie A form:
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • D

Roma form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D

Team News

Though recent regular Amadou Diawara returns from a ban for Roma, defender Roger Ibanez was sent off in the dying moments on Thursday, so must now serve a suspension for the visitors.

While Leonardo Spinazzola (quad), Stephan El Shaarawy (thigh), Chris Smalling (thigh and knee) and Marash Kumbulla (meniscus tear) re-joined training this week they may be held back by coach Paulo Fonseca, if he takes an all-or-nothing approach to next week's Europa League semi-final first leg against Manchester United.

Experienced forward Pedro is also nursing a thigh strain, so Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should continue in support of the central striker, who could be Borja Mayoral - with Edin Dzeko perhaps preferred for European duty.

Young wing-back Riccardo Calafiori was substituted in midweek due to another thigh problem, so Bruno Peres may start if Spinazzola is not risked on the left flank.

The hosts' midfield lynchpin Radja Nainggolan will be suspended for the visit of his former club on Sunday, while both Riccardo Sottil and Matteo Tramoni sat out the long trip to Udine due to thigh injuries and are not expected to feature. Meanwhile, Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno has yet to return a negative COVID-19 test, so deputy Guglielmo Vicario should start.

On-loan Daniele Rugani is expected to come back into Leonardo Semplici's back three, with Gaston Pereiro and Alfred Duncan both contending for a midfield spot in Nainggolan's absence.

Up front, Leonardo Pavoletti is favourite ahead of struggling Giovanni Simeone to partner top-scoring talisman Joao Pedro.

Cagliari possible starting lineup:
Vicario; Rugani, Godin, Carboni; Nandez, Pereiro, Duncan, Marin, Lykogiannis; Pedro, Pavoletti

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mancini, Cristante, Fazio; Karsdorp, Diawara, Veretout, Peres; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Mayoral

We say: Cagliari 1-1 Roma

Cagliari have showed their capabilities with backs against the wall in the past week. As a result, renewed hope can spur a talented squad on to stay in with an shot of extending their four-year stay in the top flight by grinding out a point against Roma.

Perhaps with one eye on the big occasion next week, the Giallorossi could come up short again on the road, as injuries and inconsistency continue to bite into their chances of catching the top six.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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