FC Internazionale Milano are already in familiar surrounds at the top of the Serie A standings but, standing shoulder to shoulder with the 18-time Italian champions, the same can not be said of AC Cesena. Even the Romagnoli cannot believe their eyes: "I'm off home to photograph the table," said defender Luca Ceccarelli after Sunday's 1-0 win against US Lecce confirmed their new-found status.
Cesena ended a 19-year hiatus from Italy's top tier this summer and must have been fearing the worst when the fixture list pitted them against AS Roma and AC Milan – second and third last term – first up. Yet Massimo Ficcadenti's side held Roma to a goalless draw before beating Milan 2-0 at home; Sunday's victory over Lecce completed the dream return, leaving Cesena top on goal difference.
The side from north-east Italy remain grounded, minnows in a pond dominated by big fish. "Yes, I stopped Ronaldinho two weeks ago, but he wasn't at his best that day," said Ceccarelli, part of a defence yet to concede this term. "
This is a dream come true, it is 35 years since Cesena were top of Serie A and morale is high. But we have to keep working hard because if we slow our tempo we're going to lose."
The viewpoint is echoed by Ficcadenti, who greeted the Milan win by saying his side still needed "36 points to avoid relegation". After his side beat Lecce despite playing with ten men for over an hour, that opinion is still unwavering. "I care about points, not standings," said the 42-year-old.
"We are experiencing circumstances we could never have imagined, especially the four points against Roma and Milan. We've worked well and deserve to be where we are. The club have been brave, putting faith in players other teams discarded." Albanian international Erjon Bogdani, 33, is perhaps chief among them having struck twice already this season, though it is home-grown strike partner Emanuele Giaccherini who is attracting most attention.
For Ficcadenti, if Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is keen to continue blooding new talent he need look no further than the 25-year-old, scorer of the second against Milan. Yet he, Giaccherini and Cesena remain focused on the present, starting with Calcio Catania on Wednesday. "Catania were great at San Siro on Saturday [holding Milan 1-1], but we will try to play our own game. The table brings great comfort at the moment, but it's not going to be easy to stay there."
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