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  23/08/2011: 2011-12 Serie A Preview: Part II
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Catania

2010-11 League Position: 13th

This will be the Sicilian club's sixth season in a row in Serie A but the last half decade has resembled anything but a smooth ride. They managed to avoid the drop last season with a few games to spare and recorded their highest points tally since their return to the top flight in the process.  It was ex-Lazio midfielder Diego Simeone  who got credited with making the difference with his ultra-attacking brand of football. His appointment was a natural choice for their president, Massimo Lo Monaco, considering the distinct South American flavour at the club. It was a brave move though: the decision was made midway through the season and not long after Marco Giampaolo had the team hovering around the Top 10.

Simeone has since departed but it looks like Lo Monaco wants to keep their attacking philosophy going with ex-Roma striker Vincenzo Montella now in the hotseat. Lo Monaco is also, presumably, the only person on the planet who saw something in Montella during his spell at Roma. It is a gamble on Catania's behalf but as we have seen in the past, they at least have a president who can fire as quick as he can hire. For most sides, that is a worry but for Catania, it is most certainly a blessing.

As for their squad, it remains largely unchanged, although the sale of Matias Silvestre to archrivals Palermo leaves a gaping hole at the back. Nevertheless, they are solid, if very average and that tends to be good enough to stay up. Montella will have a tough time proving he is up to the task but in Lo Monaco, they can trust. Just.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 14th

Cesena

2010-11 League Position: 15th

My money was always on Cesena to stay up last season and although they flirted with relegation, they never really looked like going down and negotiated safety with relative ease in the end. That hasn't stopped Igor Campedelli from whipping his wallet out though and with the talented Marco Giampaolo now at the helm, the future looks bright for Cesena.

Crucially, they have managed to hold onto Marco Parolo and Emanuele Giaccherini who emerged as top players in last season's survival campaign with the former even earning an Azzurri cap for his troubles. The worry this time around will be that Serie A now knows what to expect and will be better prepared for the Seahorses but Campedelli has countered that argument by bringing in a host of names with Serie A experience. Roberto Guana, Gianluca Comotto, Marco Rossi, Antonio Candreva, Eder and Adrian Mutu have arrived to give Cesena some serious depth, especially in attack where Giampaolo appears to have a plethora of options.

The ex-Siena coach is known for his rather organised and defensive approach to the game and this should make Cesena a fiercer prospect who could give their opposition a real hard time on the counter. They are undoubtedly the best placed of the relegation candidates for survival and I would be disappointed if they settled for a third season in Serie A. That will surely be their minimum goal going into the new season, but Giampaolo's boys can certainly do more. The Seahorses are dark horses: with a rub of the green, the Top 10 is not beyond them.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 13th

Chievo Verona

2010-11 League Position: 11th

Stefano Pioli's efforts in Verona last season has subsequently earned him a move to Palermo. Ironic really, considering the efforts of his predecessor, Mimmo Di Carlo saw him with the opportunity to take on the poisoned chalice at Sampdoria. After some unhappy months in Genoa, he's now getting another crack at the whip in Verona where he will be expected to deliver.

Although Chievo finished comfortably in the mid-table last season,  much of that can be attributed to their flying start. Once star striker Sergio Pellissier's goals started drying up, they started to struggle in the league and they've spent most of the summer trying to find someone, anyone, who can muster a similar threat in front of goal. They've ended up with Alberto Paloschi, on loan from Milan, who despite his talent, only has eight Serie A goals in his four Serie A seasons. Mimmo Di Carlo will be hoping somebody finds a pair of shooting boots.

It was Chievo's defence that shone last season. It ended up being the fourth best in the league and to put that statistic into perspective, they conceded 23 goals less than Palermo who finished three places and ten points ahead of them. Chievo have options at the back and it is difficult to see how a backline of their quality could suddenly collapse badly enough for them to end up in Serie B. There is no doubt though that life will be that bit harder than it was last season.

Mimmo Di Carlo has had his shot at the big time and now has to revert to life with the minnows of Verona once again. He has a tough task on his hands to macth Pioli's achievements but I cannot see him being a complete failure.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 15th

Fiorentina

2010-11 League Position: 9th

The Viola made some sweeping statements at the end of the season when they declared that their summer would very much be a case of out with the old, in with the new.  A couple of months on, and things don't look too different in Florence. Alberto Gilardino, who has been linked to half of Europe at this stage is still present while midfielders Riccardo Montolivo, Juan Vargas and Alessio Cerci all remain even if speculation continues to surround them too.

Should they all stay, their midfield will be much sharper than last season with the new acquisitions they have made. Houssine Kharja has arrived from Inter and he will certainly add a bit of creativity to the midfield, as will Andrea Lazzari who has been drafted in from Sardinia. Add to the melting pot the return of Stevan Jovetic and Fiorentina look a serious threat going forward. They missed him terribly last season and this may be the season that he finally launches himself properly onto the world stage. That is, if the reports that Chelsea are ready and waiting to make an offer are untrue.

Combine their attacking prowess with a very good defensive record under ex-Lazio defender Sinisa Mihajlovic's guidance and Fiorentina should be tough opponents for anyone this season. The jury is still out on the Serbian coach though: he doesn't look a patch on Cesare Prandelli, who took them to the Champions League and as the top teams of the division continue to improve season in, season out, it doesn't get any easier for Mihajlovic.  Nevertheless, Fiorentina currently look good on paper and although they might not have sufficient depth when the transfer window closes, a repeat of last season is certainly on the cards. If Jovetic can rediscover his genius, they can go a little further.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 8th

Genoa

2010-11 League Position: 10th

Genoa messed up last season. After Enrico Presiozi decided that Gian Piero Gasperini was no longer for him early in the season, he found himself lacking in good options. In the end, he opted for Davide Ballardini who was out of work since his spectacular failure at Lazio and il Grifone eventually stuttered into the top half of the table. Having poached Alberto Malesani from Bologna, there is renewed optimism at Genoa and the crazy president will be hopeful that he has found Gasperini's heir.

In summers past, we have become accustomed to Presiozi and his chequebook as he bought player after player after player. Luckily for the Rossoblu, the financial crisis has hit Italy hard and kept the chequebook at bay. Finally, we may now see a Genoa side go into Serie A with a degree of stability and cohesiveness.

That is not to say Presiozi has been completely out of the picture. Sebastian Frey has arrived from Fiorentina to give Genoa a safe and experienced pair of hands between the sticks while the likes of Kevin Constant, Alexander Merkel and Lucas Pratto have also arrived and will rejuvenate the squad with their youth and enthusiasm.

All in all, Malesani has a very interesting bunch at is disposal and the responsibility rests on is shoulders to make something out of this lot. It is not the best Genoa squad that Presiozi has assembled but it is the first squad that actually looks like a team and considering what the average Ballardini managed to achieve with them last season, you can expect Genoa to sneak back into the Top 10 and give those who have adopted the Presiozi approach a spot of bother.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 7th

 
 
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