Monday Oct 23, 2017  
     
 
  24/08/2013: Serie A Preview: Part IV
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Sampdoria
I expected i Blucerchiati to fare much better last season than they actually did, and although I think Ciro Ferrara was sacked rather harshly, I think the decision will actually be better for the club in the long run. Delio Rossi's career has been a mixed bag so far. He has been relatively successful at the majority of clubs he has managed but when he has failed, he has failed miserably, with Fiorentina being the most recent and most notable example. Sampdoria's success will depend largely on what Rossi is able to extract from this side. Rossi joined the club just before Christmas last year and he instantaneously made them a difficult outfit to break down with Sampdoria boasting the best defensive record of teams who finished outside the top 10 in Serie A last season. Sampdoria pulled off some shock results along the way – including doing the double over Juventus – and in truth, it was those spectacular efforts that kept them in the league. However, Rossi can use Sampdoria's defensive strength to begin building a strong side. The one area where the team requires obvious improvement is in attack. They have lost Mauro Icardi to Inter, who purchased 50% of the player's card for 6 million euro and before the window closes, it is crucial that they reinvest the money into a striker who can bag 10 a season. If they find that player and if Rossi continues to take to Sampdoria like a duck to water, I fully expect them to be the most improved side in Serie A this season.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 8th

Sassuolo
The minnows from Emilio-Romagna have been knocking on the door of Serie A for quite a number of years now and with ex-Roma midfielder and Scudetto winner, Eusebio Di Francesco in charge, they finally made the step up to Serie A by winning the Serie B championship. In the end, they just pipped Hellas Verona at the post but in truth, they looked likely winners from the off and their success was a much more emphatic feat than the final league table suggests. If they merely kept that team together, I would have tipped them to survive this season, but they haven't – they have added some more firepower and I would now be massively surprised to see them go straight back down. They lost their instrumental forward Richmond Boakye who has gone back to Juventus, but they've brought in Simone Zaza by going into a co-ownership agreement with the Old Lady. They've also added prominent Romanian forward Marius Alexe. At the back, Reto Ziegler has arrived with bags of experience and Francesco Acerbi will also be looking to revive his career after it all went wrong at Milan. Sassuolo will be happy to have just half the impact fellow minnows Chievo Verona had on the division when they arrived in Serie A in 2001, but one potential stumbling block for Sassuolo is a change of stadium. Sassuolo's own Stadio Enzo Ricci has a capacity of 4,000 which proved too small for Serie B, so the club have spent the last five seasons playing in Modena's Stadio Alberto Braglia. Now, Sassuolo have moved to Reggiana's Stadio Citta del Tricolore. If they can turn that place into something of a fortress for them, a mid-table finish is possible.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 13th

Torino
Torino racked up 39 points last season (after a -1 deduction), which is normally your target to avoid the drop and at no stage during the season did they look in any real danger. Rolando Bianchi was able to carry his Serie B form into Serie A as many people had expected him to do and defensively, they were as impressive as anyone at times with Kamil Glik and Angelo Ogbonna forming a formidable partnership with Danilo D'Ambrosio and Matteo Darmian, who both emerged as wing-backs worthy of consideration for Azzurri call-ups. Torino have lost Ogbonna and Bianchi and if they did so a year ago, they would have been tipped to finish dead last in the league but I think they proved last season that neither player is instrumental to the way they play. Although they were certainly important figures, Ogbonna was the weak link in Torino's back four at times and Bianchi's goal tally was modest enough for a player of his calibre. Ciro Immobile has come in for the ex-Lazio forward and if Immobile can build on his early promise at Genoa, he will deliver the goods for them. As for the loss of Ogbonna, I think between Cesare Bovo's experience and the youth of Nikola Maksimovic, they can adequately cover Ogbonna's departure to Juventus. In saying that, they will do well to beat the drop because on paper, they have not improved and the teams who have come up looks just as good if not better. Giampiero Ventura's experience may prove vital, but it will be a close run thing.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 17th

Udinese
As the Serie A season begins, there is no club under the spotlight more than Udinese. Having lost 3-1 at home to Slovan Liberec in Europa League qualifying during the week, fans of Serie A are lamenting the fact that Udinese once again pipped Lazio and Roma to a Europa League spot through Serie A only to throw the opportunity away. Udinese were unlucky, and they may still believe they can progress, but it is more likely that Guidolin and Di Natale will be left with Serie A and the Coppa Italia as the focus. Udinese have finished in the Top 5 three seasons running now – it is officially not a fluke and I see no reason why that run cannot continue - especially if Europe is now out of the question. Di Natale is a year older and at some point, the wheels will fall off the wagon there, but Udinese were keeping Matej Vydra on standby in pre-season before sending him off to West Brom for the season. That suggests to me that Guidolin has confidence in Di Natale to repeat his antics for one final season and if Luis Muriel can develop his game, Udinese's strikeforce is as potent as any other side. I also think their mercato has been astute so far – Nico Lopez flopped at Roma, but was he ever going to succeed there? That could be a steal, and I also like the look of Jadson, the 19-year old midfielder who has been brought in from Botafogo. Another one to watch is Piotr Zielinski, who was touted as a potential superstar following his limited run outs last season. Udinese appear to have a bit more depth this season and plenty of room for improvement, and as long as Di Natale's body holds up, the Serie A fans may have to worry about them in Europe this time next year.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 5th

Verona
Hellas Verona's long-awaited return to Serie A will add a bit of spice to the division and neutrals will be glad to see that they look in excellent shape as they commence their bid to remain in the division. They have had an excellent mercato and have visibly improved their side. First and foremost, they have managed to retain Daniele Cacia, who managed 23 goals in Serie B in 2012-13. Cacia has often struggled to produce goals in Serie A and it would not surprise me if he struggles once again, but they have prepared for this possibility. They have added experience in the form of Luca Toni - who I fancy to do some damage in Verona - and Samuele Longo is another excellent addition. If Longo can deliver on his promise, Verona are well set in attack. They also look to have some ability in midfield – Jorginho has caught the eye of many Serie A sides and the capture of Ezequiel Cirigliano would surely have made a few sporting directors envious. Bosko Jankovic, who arrives from Genoa, is an intelligent player who will give Verona an extra dimension. As good as Hellas could be going forward, their defence looks to be Serie B standard though, and you could say the same about their coach, Andrea Mandorlini, who has struggled to hold down a job anywhere. I expect Hellas to stay up but they either need to get off to a good start, or president, Maurizio Setti needs to be prepared to wield his axe and/or get out his cheque book out in January. They have enough talent in that side to be able to make the Top 10 with a few tweaks, but they also look a few steps in the wrong direction away from Serie B. If the keep things as they are, they should be fine.

LazioLand.com Prediction: 15th
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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