Friday Aug 18, 2017  
     
 
  21/08/2013: Serie A Preview: Part I
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Atalanta
Credit where credit is due, Stefano Colantuono has impressed in his three years in charge of Atalanta. Immediate promotion to Serie A was followed by an incredible first season in Serie A as La Dea easily secured a second season in the division despite a six point deduction, and they were 10 points clear of the drop last time out. You would expect Atalanta to kick on from here but they had issues last season. Although they have cemented their place in Serie A through experience, they very definitely began to fade last year and Colantuono will need to inject some fresh energy into the dressing room and somehow, I think the recruitment of 37 year-old Mario Yepes and 32 year-old Giulio Migliaccio is not going to have the desired effect. In saying that, Atalanta have more than enough quality to avoid the drop for a third season running and their best business of the summer may be keeping Giacomo Bonaventura at the club for another season. German Denis guarantees goals – which is a guarantee most teams in the bottom half will not have – and Matteo Ardemagni should offer something more in attack coming off the back of a 23-goal haul in Serie B last season. They will not have it easy, but Atalanta should finish comfortably mid-table.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 12th

Bologna
It could be a long season for the Rossoblu. Bologna finished 13th in Serie A last season and they have Alberto Gilardino to thank for that achievement as his goals certainly kept them from being embroiled in a relegation battle. Last season, Bologna were the joint-top goalscorers out of the teams who finished outside the top 10 of Serie A along with Torino and ironically, Gilardino has been replaced by ex-Torino forward Rolando Bianchi, who they hope will prove effective in leading the line this season. As long as Bologna can keep Alessandro Diamanti at the club, they will fancy their chances of staying up. His goal tally for Bologna in Serie A is less impressive than one might expect (14 in 64) but with Bianchi in tow, they should have enough firepower. Bologna's defence and midfield is certainly of greater concern to manager, Stefano Pioli. Bologna lost Saphir Taider to Inter yesterday – a player who has helped steady the midfield over the last two seasons – and I wonder if their ageing defence will have enough protection with Tiberio Guarente returning to Sevilla as well. They look very thin in that area but the transfer window remains open and Pioli is an intelligent guy who should be able to find a formidable starting line-up with what they already have. I can see Bologna losing touch with the Top 10 this season, but there are surely three weaker teams in the league.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 16th

Cagliari
Self-proclaimed Serie A experts regularly tip Cagliari for relegation and the same critics have been confounded year after year for an entire decade now. I was convinced their time was up when they replaced Massimo Ficcadenti with the completely inexperienced Ivo Pulga after three league games last season. Although Pulga got off to a flier, it appeared Cagliari's luck was running out when they finished the first half of the season in the relegation zone. In the end, they finished in 11th having showed the type of form that you would expect of a side chasing a spot in Europe. When you consider that the Sardinians had been travelling the length of the county to play 'home' games, this is an exceptional feat. As it stands, Cagliari have kept the nucleus of that team together, although Davide Astori will probably leave before the window shuts. Nevertheless, they remain packed with quality. Radja Nainggolan is one of the most coveted midfielders in Serie A and despite their experience, Daniele Conti and Andrea Cossu are among the most underrated midfielders in the division. There was hardly a better left-back in the league than Danilo Avelar once he broke into the team and with Marco Sau, Victor Ibarbo, Nene and Mauricio Pinilla in attack, there are few teams with more options going forward. If these players pick up where they left off last season, Cagliari will upset the traditional order but given Pulga's lack of experience and the volatile nature of their president, Massimo Cellino, they may well have to settle for the same again.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 14th

Catania
Since they arrived back in Serie A, Catania have gone from strength to strength and under the guidance of the unheralded Roberto Maran, Catania finished 8th last season and posted a record points tally for the club in the division. President and owner Antonino Pulvirenti has said that for the first time in seven years, Catania now have a project which could be taken as code for 'we won't sack Maran' as Catania have made nine managerial changes in total since 2006. Despite changing manager on a regular basis, Pulvirenti has managed to keep the squad together by almost exclusively signing Argentinians with Italian passports and there is no doubt that such a focused policy has helped cultivate a side that are technically brilliant and potentially deadly on the counter. They might find this season a little more difficult though. Alejandro Gomez, who many would have regarded as their star player, has gone to Metalist Kharkiv and there's talk of their top goalscorer in Gonzalo Bergessio leaving the club as well with Lazio being a possible destination. I don't think either will be particularly missed and the addition of Gino Peruzzi – an incredibly highly rated defender – suggests that Catania are conducting some clever work behind the scenes. It will be tough for them to replicate their record-breaking form of last season, but a Top 10 placing could yet be on the cards.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 10th

Chievo Verona
Chievo Verona may be minnows, but they are quickly becoming veterans of Serie A having finished 12th last season, securing a twelth Serie A campaign since the turn of the millennium. That impressive league position was not enough to save Eugenio Corini his job though, and the Flying Donkeys have put their trust in Giuseppe Sannino for the forthcoming season. It is an ambitious move and Sannino could be an inspired choice as his stock was most certainly rising until he was fired from Palermo by the ever unpredictable Maurizio Zamparini after just three Serie A games last season. Sannino should get a while longer at Chievo than he did at Palermo, but I think they will have a tough time avoiding the drop and he might not last the season. With Hellas Verona returning to Serie A, Chievo will now be pushed into the background and although they ended the 2012-13 season well, they spent much of the season looking as though they may get dragged into the relegation battle. At this moment in time, their team looks quite flimsy on paper – Sergio Pellisier's influence has diminished of late, Alberto Paloschi is looking less and less like the real deal and Cyril Thereau wants out. Sannino worked wonders to keep Siena up against all odds in the 2011-12 season, but on that occasion, he had Mattia Destro firing on all cylinders. It is difficult to see who is going to bang them in for Sannino this time around and perhaps the script is written for Hellas to send Chievo back to the abyss.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 18th
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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