The new season of Serie A soccer kicks off tomorrow with Verona against AC Milan as the first match.
This season promises to be one of the most interesting yet, certainly for a long time, as sides bolstered with intriguing signings go head-to-head for the Scudetto. Italian football has had its fair share of problems in bygone years. However it’s time for the once great league to show the world it’s back. That Calcio is back.
Below is a club by club guide to the 2013-2014 Campeonato.
Last Season 15th
The Bergamo based club rarely, if ever, trouble the true heavyweights of Serie A; nonetheless they’re a club with a proud tradition in the league and their ability to produce their own players often sees them through campaigns. It is often seen as a feeder club and players such as Alessio Tacchinardi and current captain and long-serving defender Gianpaolo Bellini have either served the club with honour or moved on for a hefty price and bigger things. Manager Stefano Colantuono will most probably look to another season of consolidating their position in the top tier, though a fairly impressive orobici squad including Andrea Consigli and Marko Livaja may look to improve on last year’s 15th placed finish. Striker German Denis will be expected to grab the goals at Stadio Atleti with the likes of Luca Cigarini and Giacomo Bonaventura also expected to play their part. Veteran defender Mario Yepes is also a welcome addition to the squad.
One to watch: Giacomo Bonaventura. The midfielder has recently been capped by Italy.
Last Season 13th
Again, Bologna are a side not accustomed to mixing it at the top end of the table toward the business end of the season. A powerhouse in the 20s and 30s it’s been a long time since they’ve won anything of note. That won’t change this season either. A position of last year’s 13th position may be deemed a success again this time around by boss Stefano Pioli. The rossoblu boast new signing, ex Man City striker Rolando Bianchi, who replaces the exciting Manolo Gabbiadini and veteran Alberto Gilardino up front. He joins a squad with the likes of Robert Acquafresca and Rene Krhin at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. The departure of Saphir Tadir to Inter is a blow, his energetic style of play would have been a great boon to the side.
One to watch: Rolando Bianchi. The experienced striker will be the focal point.
Last Season 11th
Continuing in the same vein, Sardinian club Cagliari also can’t be accused of getting amongst the big boys on any consistent level. Indeed, a solitary title in 1970, inspired by the legendary Gigi Riva is their only success to date. Last season saw a fairly strong mid-table finish and it would be some achievement if they could replicate that this time around. However there are well-documented problems with their stadium, Stadio Is Arenas has been shut down and the club will play in Trieste. Gaffer Ivo Pulga keeps the chassis of his squad together, with striker Thiago Ribeiro the only real loss. Players like Radja Nainggolan and Davide Astori have been linked to moves to bigger clubs but remain. A boost for the rossoblu if they are to maintain their progress.
One to watch: Davide Astori. A solid centre-half, he’ll be crucial
Last Season 8th
An excellent season for the rossazzurri last season saw the club miss out on European football only because of a poor run-in. Nonetheless the Sicilian club were mightily impressive and it would be a fantastic year for them if Rolando Maran can repeat the same result. Again, Catania have never really won anything of note, but there’s no reason the good work cannot continue and the elefanti start building for European qualification. An incredibly Argentine player heavy roster at the Stadio Angelo Massimino has been augmented by the arrivals of the returning Maxi Lopez and Sunderland target Gino Peruzzi.
One to watch: Sebastian Leto. The new striker must bag some goals if Catania are to succeed.
Last Season 12th
One of those clubs that seem to be perpetually in Serie A without doing anything of any mention. It seems the target at the start of every season is merely to remain in it. The mussi volanti will be under no illusions that this will be the case again, and they’ll do it too. They’re known for their, ahem, dull style of football and under new coach Giuseppe Sannino, Chievo fans could be forgiven for hoping for better fare; but 12th again will do nicely. No matter how it’s done. Signings at the Stadio Bentegodi include the loan deal of winger Boadu Acosty from Fiorentina and full back Manuel Pamic.
One to watch: Boadu Acosty. It may be that the loanee puts some spark into the Verona based club.
Last Season 4th
We come on to one of the more vaunted clubs in the league now with Fiorentina. Expectations are high at Stadio Artemio Franchi and the viola will be hoping another 4th place is achievable, though this may be unlikely with the strengthening done by other clubs. The departure of Stevan Jovetic to Manchester City is a blow but his fee will let the Florence based club strengthen. In his place comes hugely experienced Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich. He’ll be relied upon to fire them to success, he has to frankly. Though they are studded with some big names alongside him, namely Giuseppe Rossi, Adem Ljajic and fellow new signing Joaquin. Striker Rossi desperately needs a good season after a terrible injury ruled him out last season. By and large, coach Vincenzo Montella has a very good squad to call upon and they’ll do well but not as well as 2012/2013.
One to watch: Giuseppe Rossi. A feared marksman, this year is so important
Last Season 17th
Last season was one to forget for Genoa fans; a last day, seat of the pants dice with relegation was avoided and they live to fight another season. That will be very much in effect this season too, because fight they will have to. The grifone have appointed a new, untested coach in former Parma and Lazio midfielder Fabio Liverani and their squad hasn’t been especially strengthened over the summer. This, added to the departures of seasoned keeper Sebastian Frey and Italian u21 international Ciro Immobile namely mean the odds could be stacked against them as they bid to survive again. However there is the return of Alberto Gilardino which may mean a goal threat at Ennio Tardini. He will have to call upon his experience if they are to have a sniff at more than a great escape. The rossoblu though may be staring down the trapdoor to Serie B, which will be sad predicament for the 9 time champions.
One to watch: Mattia Perrin. The 20 year old goalkeeper is highly rated and will get his chance.
Last Season 9th
It hasn’t been a good time for the blue half of Milan in recent seasons, none more so than last campaign. Their 9th place finish was the worst in nearly 20 years and the club has been in rapid decline since the seemingly other lifetime tenure of Jose Mourinho. Andrea Stramaccioni has been replaced by Walter Mazzarri and with his arrival comes a number of very shrewd signings. Out go long serving Dejan Stankovic and mercurial Antonio Cassano and in their place come the exciting Mauro Icardi from Sampdoria and Saphir Tadir from Bologna. A newer, younger and more vibrant team seems to be the remit of the regime at the San Siro and it would take a brave man not to at least back Inter to improve massively on 9th. However a European finish should be the least expected of the nerazzurri. Though those halcyon days of 2009 are a long way past now, Inter still retain the likes of Esteban Cambiasso, Diego Milito and Javier Zanetti. Their vast experience will be crucial alongside other arrivals, powerful striker Ishak Belfodil and the solid centre back Hugo Campagnaro.
One to watch: Mauro Icardi. A big season awaits the undoubtedly talented attacker.
Last Season 1st
The Old Lady of Turin have set the standard in recent years, having done nothing but strengthen since their return to Serie A in 2007; there is a galaxy of talent at the disposal of manager Antonio Conte. Simply put, they’re the best Italy has to offer and are getting better; a title win last season will surely be repeated and with their new Juventus stadium, the Turin based club is more than likely gearing up for an assault on the Champions League now. The bianceroni are well stocked in every department, legendary keeper Gianluigi Buffon is protected by a wealth of top defenders, the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Leo Bonucci and new arrival Angelo Ogbonna. ‘MVP’ ( Marchisio, Vidal and Pirlo) is still one of the most effective midfield trios in the world, backed up by Paul Pogba. An attack that was already full with Sebastian Giovinco, Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vucinic and Simone Pepe is joined by Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez. It truly is a frightening prospect. The team that finishes above Juve will win the title, it’s that simple.
One to watch: Carlos Tevez. After a controversial but prolific number of years in England, Tevez should fill his boots in Italy.
Last Season 7th
It could very well be that one day Rome is finally ready to explode onto the footballing map again after so long without any major success; not this season though. Lazio had a good, solid term last year alongside a European campaign and 7th place was impressive but looking at their squad, it seems another showing of that standard could be hard to repeat. There are some very good players at Stadio Olimpico, the ilk of Miroslav Klose, Hernanes and Antonio Candreva form the base of a solid side; but is it enough? The arrivals of midfielders Lucas Biglia and Felipe Anderson bolster the squad no end however and manager Vladimir Petkovic needs them to settle quickly if the biancocelesti are to enjoy another fruitful year. A 4-0 Super Cup thumping at the hands of Juventus doesn’t bode well though.
One to watch: Antonio Rozzi. The 19 year old striker is being tipped for big things.
Last Season Promoted from Serie B
It could be argued that Livorno may be a bit of an unknown quantity, that they’ll be able to surprise a lot of teams or they came up with a swashbuckling team. This isn’t the case though; Livorno scraped into Serie A through the play-offs last season and ultimately their squad doesn’t seem to cut muster at this level. What’s noticeable straight away is the dearth of top flight experience at the Armando Picchi, it’s hard to pinpoint who Livorno can hang their hat on to help dig them out of the probable struggle they’ll face against much classier opposition. Manager Davide Nicola does have a willing squad but they’ll have to play out of their skins to avoid a quick return to Serie B. Signings seem to have been conducted through the loan market, these include Francesco Bardi and Marco Benassi from Inter and Cristiano Picchi from Fiorentina. Their development will be key to the amaranto, alongside any goals from last season’s top scorer Paulinho Betanin, though it’s going to be a season of hurt.
One to watch: Francesco Bardi. The keeper had a fantastic U21 European Championships in the summer. A real talent. He’ll flourish, he has to!
Last Season 3rd
Should the unlikely happen and Juventus not retain their title, it’s a good bet that A.C. Milan will have been one of two to wrestle it off of them. Let’s start off by waxing lyrical about their forward line. It’s hugely impressive. The brilliant but infuriating Mario Balotelli is joined by quickly emerging Stephan El-Shaarawy, exciting M’Baye Niang and of course, Robinho. Yes, Robinho is still at the San Siro. If they click, Milan can be a force to be reckoned with. If they don’t, Milan will be fighting for dear life for a Champions League berth. It really is that plain. A shocking start to last season had boss Max Allegri clinging on to his job; Balotelli’s arrival though galvanised the side just in time for a tilt. His influence and talent cannot be underestimated, he is the key to this rossoneri outfit. There is a noticeably fresher look to proceedings nowadays, Mattia De Sciglio is a promising defender and they’ve added to the young Italian theme with the capture of Andrea Poli from Sampdoria. It is a setup that could reap rewards as the team gels together in time. Starting with this season.
One to watch: Mattia De Sciglio. Heir apparent to the great Paolo Maldini? Perhaps. This is a massive year for him.
Last Season 2nd
There will never be a better chance for Napoli to stamp their mark on the league. The Naples side have for a number of seasons now boasted a strong team and real progress year on year. The multi-million departures of Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi to PSG in recent years are a big loss, but in their place has arrived a stable of players that would have most managers salivating and hopeful ahead of their forthcoming battles. The signings of Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon would have been enough to mount a serious challenge on Juventus. It would have been enough to make azzurri fans get over the loss of the aforementioned pair of forwards. Then you remember they also signed Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine international is an incredible coup and propels Napoli into real contention for their first title since 1990. New manager Rafa Benitez has a history of getting sides to mix it with anybody at the business end of the season. This will most likely be the case at Stadio San Paolo as well, as his signings gel with an already vibrant set of players such as Marek Hamsik, Gokhan Inler and returning starlet Lorenzo Insigne. Like Milan, they could capitalise on any Juve slip-up.
One to watch: Gonzalo Higuain. A fantastic record at Real Madrid seems to suggest he’ll plunder goals in Serie A.
Last season 10th
After a long spell out of the limelight, certainly since their glory days of the 90s; this could be the season where Parma attach the clichéd ‘dark-horse’ tag to themselves. Roberto Donadoni has overseen 2 season of sustained progess and a 10th place finish last time out seems to suggest they’re not far off a whiff of European football. Interestingly, it is also a centenary year for the club, expectations are running high at the Ennio Tardini. How then have the club addressed this? Antonio Cassano, that’s how. The arrival on loan of the fiery but uber-talented forward should mean celebrations go off with a bang in 2013/14. His arrival alongside Mattia Cassani enhances a squad that includes the likes of Daniele Galloppa, Amauri, Jonathan Biabiany and the impressive Nicola Sansone. The crociati are well stocked and vibrant. This may be a season too early for a top 5 assault, their fans will be happy for another year of progress though.
One to watch: Antonio Cassano. Always good value and a player who can turn a game, or a season, on its head.
Last Season 6th
It’s Day One at Stadio Olimpico. Again. Finally though, will this era under new manager Rudi Garcia be the one to spark a period of success? Well, so far, so…ok. Their business in the transfer market has the smell of hit and miss about it, the arrival of Kevin Strootman from PSV promises much and plenty of steel granted. Joining the Dutch international at the giallorossi are Maicon, Medhi Benatia, Morgan de Sanctis and Gervinho. Maicon and Gervinho, simply put, flopped in England. They’ll need to markedly improve if they’re to have an impact and help Roma burst into the top 5. They replace players of the calibre of defender Marquinhos, a huge money sale to PSG and Pablo Osvaldo, the talented but spiky forward. What Garcia does have at his disposal is a wealth of talent. The evergreen Daniele de Rossi and legend Francesco Totti are still key figures, whilst Miralem Pjanic is a top player along with starlet Erik Lamela. There are also a raft of young players, notably Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia Destro. All in, Roma have the nucleus of a good team. They’ll beat plenty of sides, however the umpteenth new dawn may count against them as Garcia attempts to mesh it all together.
One to watch: Erik Lamela. It won’t be long before the dazzling young forward is snapped up.
Last Season 14th
The Genoa based club are another case of a club who can look proudly back on their achievements of the 90s but ultimately haven’t done anything for a long time. Unfortunately, this may prove to be another season for the blucerchiati where that will continue. Sampdoria do have talent, just not enough of it and some of that has been stripped away this summer by the departures of Mauro Icardi and Andrea Poli to the Milan clubs. Manager Delio Rossi has managed to acquire the services of the fast-improving Manolo Gabbiadini to complement an attack that includes Eder up front. However the key to any success, which may be remaining in Serie A for this team, is in centre midfield where captain Angelo Palombo can dovetail with the young, powerful and impressive Pedro Obiang. Their partnership is crucial and they must help the Ennio Tardini based side get control of games. If they don’t, Sampdoria could be sucked into a relegation battle, though there will be many who believe they will finish mid-table if they do.
One to watch: Pedro Obiang. Again, like Lamela, another good season will ensure this excellent midfielder will be snapped up.
Last Season Promoted from Serie B
It’s Sassuolo’s inaugural season in Serie A. They can’t play in their own stadium as it’s too small for the top-flight and little is known about them. However they won Serie B and have certainly earned the right to compete against the big-boys of Italian football. One thing is for sure, manager Euesebio Di Francesco has managed to add top level experience to the squad, in marked contrast to Livorno. This could well be the difference to whether they survive or not. Arriving at I neroverdi are defenders Francesco Acerbi and Jonathan Rossini to bolster the backline and Simone Zaza, a most impressive signing who scored 18 Serie B goals last season. A loan deal for Reto Ziegler also adds nous. It’s going to be tough, Sassuolo will do well indeed to stay up, but they have a chance if they can get a bit of luck and give more established teams a bloody nose.
One to watch: Simone Zaza. It’ll be interesting to see how the young striker deals with expectation.
Last Season 16th
It’s no secret that Torino live in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours Juventus. Though an extremely proud club with 7 titles, their sole aim for a long time has been just to earn the right to compete in Serie A on an annual basis. Last season was successful purely for that, a 16th place finish enough to see another campaign at the top table. This one though may be one too many, Torino have lost international defender Angelo Ogbonna to Juve and Rolando Bianchi to Bologna, both could be classed as big losses, especially for a relegation battle. In their place come experienced defenders Emiliano Morretti and Cesare Bovo, two arrivals that will at least solidify the backline. An interesting addition is Ciro Immobile, the talented young striker needs a big season and indeed the weight of expectation on his shoulders may be the making of him. The jewel in the crown though for il toro though is undoubtedly Alessio Cerci. The international winger will be crucial to their chances of survival and will be hugely relied upon by boss Giampiero Ventura.
One to watch: Ciro Immobile. This is a huge season for the striker to unleash his potential.
Last Season 5th
The zebrette continue to defy all the odds by qualifying for European football and generally being amongst teams much bigger than them at the end of the season time after time. One peek at the squad sees unheralded players with the obvious standout being goal machine Antonio Di Natale, last season’s 2nd top scorer. Of course, there is also the fact that Udinese now seem to send out large chunks of their squad to Granada and Watford; the three are owned by the same people. Players like Joel Ekstrand and Almen Abdi are now at Watford permanently. All in all, it should be another successful season under Francesco Guidolin, Di Natale will be expected to find the net with the same regularity as he’s accustomed to. If he doesn’t, Udinese won’t get a sniff of the top 6 however. The only possible downside may be that an exhausting European campaign running alongside their home ties could sap the energy quickly. Though they’ve done it before.
One to watch: Antonio Di Natale. It had to be, the striker is the main man at Stadio Friuli.
Last Season Promoted from Serie B
It’s been a long time, but Verona are back. Hellas Verona. It’s an exciting time for the city with 2 top flight clubs and Hellas perhaps look the best placed of the 3 promoted clubs to stay up. Some extremely astute signings have fans of the gialloblu licking their lips in anticipation for the upcoming campaign. Coming into the squad under boss Andrea Mandorlini are veteran striker Luca Toni, a quality signing and one who will be expected to weigh in with goals; solid midfielder Massimo Donati and talented keeper Nikolay Mihaylov. The loan deals of Samuele Longo from Inter and Ezequiel Cirigliano also strengthen the squad as welcome additions. Like the other promoted sides, they will struggle and it will be very tough, many wouldn’t be overly surprised if they returned to Serie B. However, don’t be surprised also to see a good strong campaign.
One to watch: Luca Toni. The big man will be the main outlet.
Editor’s note: For viewers in the United States, the coverage of the 2013/14 Serie A season is on beIN SPORT. Coverage of Verona-Milan begins at 11:30am ET Saturday on beIN SPORT.