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Jan 31, 2021 at 2pm UK
Pedro (75')
Marin (20'), Nainggolan (52')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Boga (90+4')
Obiang (60'), Lopez (85'), Rogerio (90')

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

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

Desperate to stop their worrying descent down the Serie A standings, Cagliari host mid-table Sassuolo on Sunday afternoon at the Sardegna Arena.

The Sardinian side have lost six successive league games since December to slump into the bottom three, while Roberto De Zerbi's visitors have also started to stall in recent weeks.

Match preview

Unlike most clubs in a similar situation, fast-sinking Cagliari responded to the joint-worst run in their history by confirming manager Eusebio Di Francesco had signed a new contract extension until June 2023.

Such a show of faith in the attack-minded coach, who was sacked by Sampdoria after a poor start to last season, could either prove bravely far-sighted or potentially foolish, as the Isolani have now lost six straight times in Serie A - without even scoring in the most recent three - and also went out of the Coppa Italia.

Last week's defeat to fellow strugglers Genoa was hard to take, as Di Francesco's men strived in vain to overcome the concession of an early Mattia Destro goal - with home goalkeeper Mattia Perin in top form throughout.

Afterwards, their coach spoke of the side "missing something, especially on a psychological level" - a bold statement from a man still under some pressure. Now looking to avoid losing seven in a row for the first time in their Serie A history, Cagliari take on a team they have never beaten at home in the top flight.

To extract a positive result from this week's challenging encounter, not only will they require players such as top scorer Joao Pedro (10 goals, two assists) to get back on track, but also must shore up a defensive unit which has conceded a league-high number of shots at goal - some 320 in 19 games - this season.

Having faded after a strong start versus Lazio last time out, ninth-placed Sassuolo slipped to a fifth defeat in their last eight games in league and cup.

Though central striker Francesco Caputo returned to the scoresheet in Rome after a four-game absence, Roberto De Zerbi's team were unable to hold on to their early lead and eventually succumbed to a 2-1 loss.

After also crashing out of the Coppa Italia to Serie B SPAL, some of the sheen from Sassuolo's glittering early-season form has undoubtedly worn off following recent outings. Naturally, an injury to star man Domenico Berardi - joint-top scorer with Caputo on seven - has been a contributing factor.

Though the Neroverdi remain in contention for a European spot, their recent loss of momentum is threatening to draw the Emilian outfit into mid-table mediocrity. Therefore, maximum points from assignments such as this Sunday's in Sardinia are all the more important.

With an underwhelming recent record on the road - Sassuolo have lost their last three Serie A away games and last lost more in a row back in 2015, incidentally under Di Francesco - the pressure is on to take full advantage of Cagliari's woes.

Cagliari Serie A form: LLLLLL
Cagliari form (all competitions): LLLLLL

Sassuolo Serie A form: WLWLDL
Sassuolo form (all competitions): LWLLDL

Team News

Eusebio Di Francesco is expected to continue with his preferred 4-3-2-1 - also utilised in Cagliari's last two games - with Radja Nainggolan and Joao Pedro lining up behind misfiring Giovanni Simeone, though Leonardo Pavoletti is in contention to replace the Argentinian striker.

Energetic midfielder Nahitan Nandez is still suspended for the home side, while Zito Luvumbo is injured. Defenders Andrea Carboni and Ragnar Klavan are looking to make their returns after COVID-19, but both Adam Ounas and Paolo Farago may be absent as they have been linked with moves away from the club.

Sassuolo have continuing issues up front; as well as Gregoire Defrel struggling with a sore Achilles, main man Domenico Berardi is unlikely to return yet and Nicolas Schiappacasse remains unavailable. Therefore, centre-forward Francesco Caputo should be joined by Hamed Traore, Filip Djuricic and Jeremie Boga in attack.

Midfielder Mehdi Bourabia has a thigh problem too, but influential defender Vlad Chiriches could be fit to return to the squad.

Cagliari possible starting lineup:
Cragno; Zappa, Ceppitelli, Godin, Lykogiannis; Pereiro, Marin, Duncan; Nainggolan, Pedro; Simeone

Sassuolo possible starting lineup:
Consigli; Toljan, Chiriches, Ferrari, Rogerio; Lopez, Locatelli; Traore, Djuricic, Boga; Caputo

We say: Cagliari 1-1 Sassuolo

Cagliari's horrendous losing streak must end somewhere, and a home match-up with out-of-form Sassuolo could provide the opportunity to do so this week.

With Gio Simeone still struggling since his return from illness, stalwarts Joao Pedro and Radja Nainggolan must now step up to the plate for EDF's drop-threatened side.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals 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.Under 3.5:data

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