2016-17 preview

Club News - History - Records - Stadium - 2016-17 Squad

The newly-promoted Sardinians have reason to be optimistic, but could be involved in a dreaded knock-down drag-out relegation battle, writes Marco D'Onofrio

Cautious Cagliari optimism

In their first season back in the top flight, Cagliari are looking to show why they were the best team in Serie B last year. Gaining promotion immediately after being relegated, the Sardinians are looking for stability as they plan for a long stay in the Italian top flight.

Despite topping the second division last year, the club understood that they had to bolster their squad in order to compete with the Peninsula's best this season. I Rossoblu did well to add experience to their roster by bringing in veterans like Marco Borriello, Simone Padoin and Euro 2016 winner Bruno Alves.

They possess an important compliment of youthful potential and hardened professionals that have been through the grind of a Serie A season before. Cagliari might not be done adding pieces yet either, with the ambitious club still on the prowl to ink more talent before the transfer market closes.

The team are rightfully seeking immediate success, but will likely be involved in a dogfight to avoid relegation for the majority of the campaign. Although Tommaso Giulini watched Cagliari drop down to the second division in his first season after purchasing the club from previous owner Massimo Cellino, he demonstrated his commitment to success last year. He made it clear that he wants to put a winning product on the pitch, and has supporters believing in his cause.

Fans will need to be patient with the Sardinians though, as it is never easy to make the jump back up to Serie A and the upcoming season could be a gruelling one. However, given the resources available to the club and their current roster, there is every reason to believe that they won't become just another yo-yo franchise.

Coach - Massimo Rastelli

Massimo Rastelli has seen immediate success since taking over Cagliari in June 2015. The club had just been relegated, but he opted to terminate his contract with Avellino in order to take over the bench at Stadio Sant'Elia. However, he must prove his worth in this debut Serie A campaign.

Star player - Diego Farias

The 26-year-old Brazilian was their top scorer last season, finding the back of the net an impressive 14 times plus 13 assists. He is far from being a household name, but was a big reason Cagliari were promoted. The club will be relying on him having another productive year if they have any plans of success on their return to the top flight.

Best buy – Bruno Alves

He might turn 35 in November, but what he might lack in pace, Bruno Alves certainly makes up for in experience. Fresh from winning Euro 2016 with Portugal, the centre-back brings a wealth of experience to Sardinia and was a great coup as a free agent from Fenerbahce. The ex-Porto, AEK Athens and Zenit defender can be a rock.

Azzurri prospect - Nicolò Barella

The 19-year-old midfielder has already represented the Azzurri at a number of levels, including at the 2016 European Under-19 Championship. Barella spent the second half of last season on loan to Como, where he saw significant playing time. Expect the youngster to have a bright future ahead of him.

One who got away - Federico Viviani

Cagliari were pursuing 24-year-old Viviani early in the summer, but Hellas Verona were hesitant to let the midfielder go and wanted him for the upcoming Serie B campaign. Viviani has represented the Azzurri at the U-21 level, and Rastelli thought he would have made a great addition to the squad.

Probable line up

Storari; PADOIN, Ceppitelli, BRUNO ALVES, Murru; IONITA, Di Gennaro, Joao Pedro; Farias; Sau, BORRIELLO

Prediction – Relegation battle