Posts Tagged ‘Serie B’

Serie A 2011-12 Preview

The title challenge might be a Milan affair this season.  Certainly, the Beneamata faithfuls want the Scudetto back in the blue and black side of Giuseppe Meazza.

AS Roma, Juventus and the new Napoli in the post Maradona era will aspire to challenge for the ultimate prize in the Calcio.
Cesena, Bologna, Lecce all managed narrow escape last time out while Atalanta,

Novarra, Sienna have joined the big boys in the top flight for a season of great challenges. Who will be returning to the Serie B?

My preview will be centered on all the above mentioned teams and how I feel they will perform this season.
The strike is off! I love the Calcio. A league for the brave hearts and the tactical ones.

The top four challengers

AC MILAN   (finished 1st last season)

In: Ricardo Ferreira (free, FC Porto), Philippe Mexes (free, AS Roma), Taye Taiwo (free, Marseille), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€24m, Barcelona), Stephan El Shaarawy (€10m, Genoa), Kevin-Prince Boateng (€7m, Genoa), Marco Amelia (€3.5m, Genoa), Alberto Aquilani (loan, Liverpool), Antonio Nocerino (undisclosed, Palermo)

Out: Oguchi Onyewu (free, Sporting Lisbon), Didac Vila (loan, Espanyol), Michelangelo Albertazzi (loan, Getafe), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (undisclosed, Genoa), Alexander Merkel (€4m – co-ownership, Genoa), Andrea Pirlo (free, Juventus), Attila Filkor (loan, Livorno), Marco Borriello (€10m, AS Roma), Andrea Schenetti (loan, South Tyrol), Fernando Coppola (loan, Torino), Nnamdi Oduamadi (loan, Torino), Luca Santonocito (loan, South Tyrol), Simone Verdi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Torino), Uros Palibrk (loan, Viareggio), Rodney Strasser (loan, Lecce), Alberto Paloschi (loan, Chievo Verona), Nicola Legrottaglie (free, Catania), Massimo Oddo (loan, Lecce), Tommaso Trani (free, Queens Park Rangers), Gianmarco Zigoni (loan, Avellino)

Max Allegri’s appointment last year was a surprise to many and  they pondered the direction the Rossoneris were heading. The club’s very quiet transfer activities before the eleventh hour arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho appeared to have handed the trophy to either Inter or Roma  before the season kicked off. The big Swede changed all of that as he led Milan on an impressive march on the domestic scene. Inter cracked under Rafa Benitez while Claudio Raneiri’s Roma turned out to be pretenders. Allegri clinched the 18th league title for the Red and Blacks.
Adriano Galliani made earlier moves this summer with bosman transfers of Philippe Mexes and Taye Taiwo from Roma and Marseille respectively to help the aging Milan defense. The surprise decision for me was the exit of deep lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo after a decade with the club – A rare jewel. Milan were going to be short of quality in the midfield but just when the media was proposing for the Diavolos, Galliani provided the Mr X by securing the services of Alberto Aquilani and Antonio Nocerino. The puzzle pieces are complete for Max as he embarks on a new adventure to retain the Scudetto. The form of Ibracadabra, Cassano and fitness of Pato will be key. Milan should be champions once again with the quality they’ve got in depth. Europe could be a distraction.

INTERNAZIONALE   (finished 2nd last season)

In: Luca Caldirola (loan, Cesena), Matteo Colombi (loan, Piacenza), Luca Garritano (loan, Cesena), Samuele Longo (loan, Genoa), Joel Obi (loan, Parma), Andrea Sala (loan, Pro Patria), Federico Scappi (loan, Reggiana), Ricky Alvarez (€11.9m, Velez Sarsfield), Jonathan (€5m, Santos), Yuto Nagamoto (€4.9m, Cesena), Emiliano Viviano (€4.1m, Bologna), Luc Castaignos (€3m, Feyenoord), Stefano Dalla Riva (undisclosed, Vicenza), Francesco Bardi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Livorno), Francesco Forte (loan, Pisa), Eugenio Giannetti (loan, Padova), Rodrigo Alborno (loan, Libertad), Andrea Poli (loan, Sampdoria), Mauro Zarate (€2m – loan, Lazio), Juraj Kucka (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Emiliano Viviano (loan, Genoa)

Out: David Suazo (free, Catania), Luca Caldirola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Riccardo Bocalon (loan, Cremonese), Michele Rigione (loan, Cremonese), Vid Belec (loan, Crotone), Mattia Destro (€6.5m, Genoa), Aiman Napoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Juve Stabia), Cristiano Biraghi (loan, Juve Stabia), Victor Obinna (free, Lokomotiv Moscow), Kerlon (loan, Nacional de Nova Serrana), Giulio Donati (loan, Padova), Enrico Alfonso (loan, Cremonese), Luca Garritano (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Matteo Solini (loan, Chievo Verona), Samuele Longo (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Simone Dell’Agnello (undisclosed – co-ownership, Livorno), Simone Benedetti (loan, Gubbio), Alberto Gallinetta (free, Parma), Francesco Bardi (loan, Livorno), Luca Tremolada (loan, Pisa), Felice Natalino (loan, Verona), Andrea Mei (loan, VVV-Venlo), Samuel Eto’o (undisclosed, Anzhi Makhachkala), Goran Pandev (loan, Napoli), Davide Santon (€6m, Newcastle United), Juraj Kucka (loan, Genoa)

The 2010 treble winning season is a distant achievement for the Nerazurris now. It seems no one is capable of following the footsteps of the “Special One”.
Gian Piero Gasperini is Moratti’s third coach in the space of one year. He has the unenviable task of wrestling the title which has been theirs for a while back from the other side of the San Siro.
His job has been made more difficult with the departure of the irreplaceable Samuel Eto’o. Goal scoring Diego Forlan on his day has been brought in to fill a massive vaccum.
Inter managed to keep Wesley Sneijder despite interest from abroad and temptation to sell with the reality of Platini’s FFP coming down hard on some big European clubs.
Gasperini’s 3-4-3 formation which he has successfully implemented in his previous clubs might be in for some scrutiny considering the way his team impressed in the first half of the Italian Super Cup but collapsed in the second.
The arrival of Mauro Zarate who is a time bomb waiting to explode might be a problem as no one knows which character the explosive striker will exhibit.
Inter have what it takes to be crowned champions once again but will rely heavily on Dutch maestro Sneijder to get them rolling.

SC NAPOLI   (finished 3rd last season)

In: Roberto Colombo (free, Triestina), Marco Donadel (free, Fiorentina), Mario Santana (free, Fiorentina), Edinson Cavani (€16m, Palermo), Gokhan Inler (€15m, Udinese), Miguel Angel Britos (€9m, Bologna), Blerim Dzemaili (€9m, Parma), Federico Fernandez (€3.3m, Estudiantes La Plata), Antonio Rosati (€2.9m, Lecce), Nicolao Dumitru (€1.5m, Empoli), Goran Pandev (loan, Inter Milan), David Fideleff (€2.8m, Newell’s Old Boys)

Out: Fabio Quagliarella (€10.5m, Juventus), Luca Cigarini (loan return, Sevilla), Daniele Mannini (€400k, Siena), Fabiano Santacroce (loan, Parma), Michele Pazienza (free, Juventus), Manuele Blasi (undisclosed, Parma), Emilso Cribari (free, Cruzeiro), Luigi Vitale (loan, Bologna), Crescenzo Liccardo (loan, Portogruaro), Jose Ernesto Sosa (undisclosed, Metalist Kharkiv), Raffaele Maiello (loan, Crotone), Walter Guerra (loan, Viareggio), Victor Ruiz (€8m, Valencia), Luca Cigarini (loan, Atalanta), Mariano Bogliacino (undisclosed, Bari)

Walter Mazarri side raised eyebrows with their never-say-die attitude last season. As outsiders to the title, they challenged for the Scudetto till April and finished an impressive third position.
The lack of depth which robbed the team last season in the absence of key players were the primary target of club president, Aurelio De Laurentiis and manager Walter Mazarri in the close season as they prepare for life in the UCL.
The Partenopei have had a relatively quiet summer in terms of departures while strengthening with the most significant being influential midfielder Gohkan Inler from Udinese. Goran Pandev’s arrival from Inter is a big gain for the forward line with his vast experience in the UCL.
Their Europa league adventure of last season which came to an end in the quarter finals indicates that Mazarri can handle the pressure of the domestic front alongside the distractions of European football.
Fans of the Naples team should set their sight a little lower in terms of title aspirations and not dream that the glory days of “Maradona” is back. A top four finish which will secure another UCL berth should be a massive achievement for the Partenopei.

AS ROMA   (finished 6th last season)

In: Cicinho (loan return, Villarreal), Gabriel Heinze (free, Marseille), Loic Nego (free, Nantes), Bojan Krkic (€12m, Barcelona), Erik Lamela (€12m, River Plate), Marco Borriello (€10m, AC Milan), Maarten Stekelenburg (€6.3m, Ajax Amsterdam), Jose Angel (€4.5m, Sporting Gijon), Pablo Osvaldo (€15m, Espanyol), Simon Kjaer (loan, VfL Wolfsburg), Miralem Pjanic (€10m, Lyon), Fernando Gago (€500k – loan, Real Madrid), Fabio Borini (€1.5m – loan, Parma)

Out: Philippe Mexes (free, AC Milan), Julio Sergio (loan, Lecce), Andrea Bertolacci (€500k, Lecce), John Arne Riise (€2.625, Fulham), Stefano Pettinari (loan, Crotone), Doni (free, Liverpool), Filippo Maria Scardina (loan, Viareggio), Jeremy Menez (€8m, Paris Saint-Germain), Mirko Vucinic (€15m, Juventus), Simone Loria (free, Bologna), Matteo Brighi (loan, Atalanta)

The disappointment of last season still remains with fans in the Eternal city. High expectations and dreams of the Scudetto title was visible after their runners up finish in the 2009-10 season. Claudio Raineri had to step down  for Vincenzo Montella more than midway into the season  but the former player couldn’t salvage a horrible season for the Trigoria club.
Thomas Di Benedetto acquired the club from the Sensi family as he embarks on a rebuilding project starting from the scratch.
With a new look technical team comprising of director Walter Sabatini and head coach Luis Enrique and several new players arriving with an average young squad now. Mexes loss is a vital one with Juan’s poor form and fitness.  The former Barcelona-B coach has promised the Giallorossi fans attractive football like the one being exhibited at the Camp Nou but I wonder how patient the Romans will be to see his ideas come through considering how their pre season has panned out.
Another challenge for Luis Enrique is managing the dressing room where player power will play a massive role with aging star and legend Totti demanding to play a significant role this season.
Title challenge is way beyond Roma for now but a top-four finish isn’t .

JUVENTUS   (finished 7th last season)

InIago Falque (loan return, VillarrealB), Tiago Mendes (loan return, Atletico Madrid), Michele Pazienza (free, Napoli), Andrea Pirlo (free, AC Milan), Reto Ziegler (free, Sampdoria), Stefano Beltrame (undisclosed – co-ownership, Novara), Alessandro Matri (€15.5m, Cagliari), Mirko Vucinic (€15m, AS Roma), Fabio Quagliarella (€10.5m, Napoli), Arturo Vidal (€10.5m, Bayer Leverkusen), Stephan Lichtsteiner (€10m, Lazio), Simone Pepe (€7.5m, Udinese), Marco Motta (€3.75m, Udinese), Emmanuele Giaccherini (€3m – co-ownership, Cesena), Marcelo Estigarribia (loan – €500k, CD Maldonado), Eljero Elia (€9m, Hamburg SV)

Out: Tiago Mendes (free, Atletico Madrid), Hasan Salihamidzic (free, VfL Wolfsburg), Sebastian Giovinco (€3m – co-ownership, Parma), Raffaele Bianco (undisclosed – co-ownership, Spezia), Andrea De Paola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Carpi), Carlo Pinsoglio (loan, Pescara), Timothy Nocchi (loan, Carrarese), Felipe Melo (€1.5m – loan, Galatasaray), Mohamed Sissoko (€7m, Paris Saint-Germain), Albin Ekdal (€1.5m – co-ownership, Cagliari), Iago Falque (loan, Tottenham), Sergio Almiron (undisclosed, Catania), Jorge Martinez (loan, Cesena), Zdenek Grygera (free, Fulham)

How are the mighty fallen! The darling Old “humpty dumpty” Lady is finding it extremely difficult to raise again.
The board room and dugout changes in the summer of 2010 which comprises of new president Andrea Agnelli, General Manager Beppe Marotta and head coach Luigi Del Neri was perceived to be one which would ignite La Vecchia Signora back but it was the other way round. Antonio Conte has been employed to turn around the fortunes of a club he played most significantly for during his playing days.
Conte’s ultra attacking system is one which promises excitement. The Bianconeri have brought in several players for the second season in a row with some acquisitions particularly pleasing. Andrea Pirlo in the heart of the midfield alongside Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio makes their central midfield very formidable.  Mirko Vucinic will bring spark and flair to their attack with lightening pace and width expected from Eljero Elia and Milos Krasic.
Juventus over the past year or two have struggled to put together a strong team and managers have been changed often without sufficient backing. Conte’s last experience has a Serie A manager wasn’t a success but the Turin club directors are prepared to take a gamble on another rookie coach. Their preseason indicate the signs of better things in the future. Their move to the new Juventus Arena is also giving a lot of enthusiasm and optimism.
A top-four finish shouldn’t  be beyond Conte’s reach.

The bottom three struggle.

This is based on their final positions last season, I feel these teams are potential candidates for the dreaded zone.

AC CESENA   (finished 15th last season)

In: Gianluca Comotto (free, Fiorentina), Roberto Guana (free, Palermo), Adrian Mutu(free, Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (loan, Udinese), Aleksejs Gilnics (loan, Athletic FC), Raphael Martinho (loan, Catania), Vincenzo Rennella (loan, Genoa), Eder (€5m, Empoli), Alessio Briglia (undisclosed, Bellaria), Tibor Cica (undisclosed, Limhamn Bunkeflo), Giacomo Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Edoardo Bonicelli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Vicenza), Luca Caldirola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Inter Milan), Luca Garritano (undisclosed – co-ownership, Inter Milan), Jacopo Luppi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Luigi Palumbo (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Marco Rossi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Guillermo Daniel Rodriguez (undisclosed, Penarol), Jorge Martinez (loan, Juventus)

Out: Kadir Caidi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Davide Ella Ballardini (loan, Carrarese), Sacha Cori (undisclosed – co-ownership, Carrarese), Marco Tattini (undisclosed – co-ownership, Foligno), Yuto Nagamoto (€4.9m, Inter Milan), Thomas Fabbri (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Simone Tonelli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Vicenza), Giacomo Bassoli (loan, Santarcangelo), Angelo Gregorio (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Luca Caldirola (loan, Inter Milan), Luca Garritano (loan, Inter Milan), Jacopo Luppi (loan, Bellaria), Emmanuele Giaccherini (€3m – co-ownership, Juventus)

The bookmakers prediction for the Cavallucci Marini who were returning to the top flight of Italian football since 1990 as an adventure for a season. Cesena managed to retain their Serie A status.
The Seahorses huffed and puffed with surprising results and expected ones. Marco Parolo and Emanuele Giaccherini were the discovered gems in the giant killing Cesena side.
Marco Giampaolo has been extremely busy with recruitment in the summer and one that has caught the eye is experienced Serie A campaigner, Adrian Mutu who will be the focus of all eyes with his personal troubled life. Antonio Candreva is another exciting transfer. These players are expected to take them to next level in the Serie A all things being equal. On-loan Davide Santon has returned to his parent club.
Cesena have managed to keep their stars with new contracts. It appears the ambition of the club is shifting. The Seahorses need to improve defensively  and score more than the 38 goals of last season if they are to escape relegation once again this season or dream of a mid table finish.

BOLOGNA FC   (finished 16th last season)

In: Saphir Taider (free, Grenoble), Mikael Antonsson (free, FC Copenhagen), Robert Acquafresca (loan, Genoa), Luigi Vitale (loan, Napoli), Daniele Vantaggiato (loan, Padova), Alessandro Diamanti (€1.5m – co-ownership, Brescia), Jean-Francois Gillet (€1.4m, Bari), Nico Pulzetti (€1.3m, Livorno), Massimo Coda (€300k, Cremonese), Dejan Stojanovic (€300k, Lustenau), Federico Agliardi (undisclosed, Padova), Jose Angel Crespo (undisclosed, Padova), Angelo Gregorio (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Kadir Caidi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Cesare Rickler (undisclosed – co-ownership, Chievo Verona), Federico Rodriguez (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Riccardo Pasi (€1m – co-ownership, Parma), Saphir Sliti Taider (undisclosed, Grenoble), Gian Marco Pavarotti (undisclosed, Carpi), Simone Loria (free, AS Roma), Panagiotis Kone (loan, Brescia)

Out: Alessandro Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Chievo Verona), Giacomo Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Riccardo Regno (undisclosed, Livorno), Miguel Britos (€9m, Napoli), Kadir Caidi (loan, Santarcangelo), Jacopo Luppi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena)

Despite the financial difficulties which resulted in points deduction last season , Bologna managed to beat the drop. Unpaid wages and taxes rocked the club last season but they managed to pull through. A new and better season is on the horizon.
Marco Di Vaio’s 19 goals scored last season was more than half the league goals scored by the Rossoblu in a campaign were their defense was very generous to the opponent.
Pierpaolo Bisoli’s side have had a busy transfer window. Their biggest loss is Emiliano Viviano whose return to Inter is surprising. Alessandro Diamanti’s capture is a big one for the Red-Blues. The former Brescia trequartista is expected to form a formidable trio with Di Vaio and Acquafresca.
Their terrible defense from last season has been reinforced only with three centerbacks and a fullback, but none of whom are truly proven in Serie A. If the team they put together can gel, a mid-table finish is easily within reach.

LECCE   (finished 17th last season)

In: Moris Carrozzieri (free, Palermo), Juan Cuadrado (loan, Udinese), Christian Obodo (loan, Udinese), Julio Sergio (loan, AS Roma), Rodney Strasser (loan, AC Milan), Nenad Tomovic (loan, Genoa), Andrea Bertolacci (€500k, AS Roma), Daniele Cacia (€1.1m, Piacenza), Massimo Oddo (loan, AC Milan)

Out: Jeda (loan, Novara), Antonio Rosati (€2.9m, Napoli), Raffaele Schiavi (undisclosed, Vicenza), Giuseppe Caccavallo (undisclosed, Crotone), Giuseppe Vives (undisclosed, Torino), Filippo Falco (loan, Pavia), Fabio Romeo (loan, Pavia), Daniele Cacia (loan, Padova)

Lecce returned to the Serie A in the 2010-11 season after being crowned Serie B champions the season before. The Apulian based club have been in and out of the Serie A so the objective of the season was to stay up. Erstwhile coach Luigi Di Canio brought the club back to the big stage and managed to keep them up for another season.
Transfers activities at Stadio Via del Mare have been loan signings from bigger clubs and one or two additional youngsters.
One of the biggest acquisition is Christian Obodo from Udinese, a deal that could help both parties as he needs to get his career back on track while helping his team out with his Serie A experience.
The Salentinis biggest loss is coach Luigi Di Canio who left at the of last season. It’s difficult to see how Lecce will perform under new head coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
A long season awaits fans at Stadio Via del Mare. I won’t be surprised to see Lecce go down.

ATALANTA made a quick return back to the top-flight after a year’s hiatus. The Bergamo club won the Serie B title last season. A few decent acquisition have been made by coach Stefano Colantuono which should provide them with enough quality to stay up but the Orobici have a six-point deduction as penalty for their  involvement in the much publicised betting scandal. This penalty could be decisive during the course of the season.

AC SIENA also returned immediately after their demotion just a year ago and missed out on the Serie B title narrowly. The Tuscan outfit enjoyed a good preseason with star player Gaetano D’Agostino raring to go.
The atmosphere at Stadio Artemio Franchi is buzzing as the White-black prepare for life once again in the Serie A under Giuseppe Sannino. It could be a long season after all.

NOVARA are back in the Premier division after over half a century absence. The Piedmont club lost the Serie B title after a late collapse last season but will be gearing up for bigger challengers now.
Some of their fans are still over the moon with the prospects that their darling club will be locking horns with Italy’s heavyweights like Inter, Juventus etc.
Manager Attilio Tesser has performed a “Paul Lambert’s Norwich” with two successive promotions to different tiers of football.
Biancoazzurri have brought in some decent Serie A players to beef up their squad as they prepare for life on the big stage. It could be an immediate return for them but their fans can enjoy the moments while it last.

This preview should help set the tune for the Serie A 2011-12 season.
I personally love the Calcio because of its intrigues, the impressive tactical approach of the coaches and the passion of the fans and players.

I hand over my whistle to Pierluigi Collina.