Italian Serie A Preview

by Joshua McGehee


The last of my previews of the big five leagues in football covers Serie A in Italy.  While the league has been dominated by Juventus for almost a decade, it's a league that is rising in popularity here in America and in depth.  There has been a consistent group of challengers to Juventus the past few seasons, such as Napoli, Roma, and the two major teams from Milan.  While the Old Lady will be title favorites once again, there is a lot of intrigue across the different parts of the table. How will the season play out?  That's why I'm here to preview all 20 teams in the league this year, the transfers that will impact each squad, and which players to watch out for during the season.


Juventus

  • Last Season: Champions
  • Transfers In: Gianluigi Buffon (PSG), Danilo (Manchester City), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Adrien Rabiot (PSG), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Gonzalo Higuaín (Chelsea)
  • Transfers Out: João Cancelo (Manchester City), Andrea Barzagli (Retired), Leonardo Spinazzola (AS Roma), Moise Kean (Everton)

The football world was shocked last summer when one of the best to ever do it, Cristiano Ronaldo, made the switch from Real Madrid to Juventus.  The Italian giants didn’t need any extra help seeing that they had won every Serie A title since the 2010/2011 season.  With Ronaldo in the fold, Juve would cruise to another first place finish, boasting the league’s best defense once again.  The club brought back legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon to back up Wojciech Szczesny and have focused on shoring up the midfield with the additions of Ramsey and Rabiot.  If he sticks around, winger Paulo Dybala could be the key to Juve’s success, as he struggled to deal with the presence of Ronaldo and saw his goal tally fall from 22 to five last season.  Former Chelsea and Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri will be under pressure from game one to deliver more than just the league title for his new club.

Player to Watch: Matthijs de Ligt

At the end of Ajax’s stunning quarterfinals victory over two legs vs. Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, one of the Dutch club’s players stood out among the rest.  Matthijs de Ligt, who scored the winning goal in the second leg, was one of the world’s breakout stars last season.  He became captain of Ajax at 19-years-old and was vital at both ends of the pitch.  The likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG were after him this summer, but it was the team known for their defense in Juventus who attained his services.  The center back is a perfect blend of strength and skill, as his finishing ability on corners is only outdone by his defensive instincts.  The Dutchman can only get better and he will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills on the biggest stage in Europe.


Napoli

  • Last Season: 2nd Place
  • Transfers In: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (FC Empoli), Konstantinos Manolas (AS Roma), Eljif Elmas (Fenerbahce), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)
  • Transfers Out: Raúl Albiol (Villarreal)

After a 91-point season the year before, it wasn’t a shock to anyone when Maurizio Sarri announced he would be moving on to a bigger club in Chelsea last summer.  While they did suffer a drop in points, Napoli were able to finish in second place again under the direction of the experienced Carlos Ancelotti.  The club finished in the top five in goals scored and goals conceded in league play last season and have retained much of their talent for this season.  Konstantinos “Kostas”Manolas joins from Roma to form quite the defensive duo with Kalidou Koulibaly.  The arrival of Mexican international Hirving “Chucky” Lozano should do wonders for the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik up top, as Napoli finally look to end Juventus’ title reign.

Player to Watch: Dries Mertens

Despite being 5’7” and 32-years-old, Metens still playing at an elite level.  The winger was second on the team last season with 16 goals and led Napoli with 11 assists.  The Belgian international has the ability to play out wide or up the middle, utilizing his dribbling skills and powerful left foot to make plays happen.  As long as his body doesn’t betray him, Mertens should once again be one of best attacking players in Serie A.

 

Atalanta

  • Last Season: 3rd Place
  • Transfers In: Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahce), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Gent), Luis Muriel (Sevilla FC)
  • Transfers Out: Etrit Berisha (SPAL), Gianluca Mancini (AS Roma)

It’s going to be very difficult for Atalanta to top their accomplishments from last year.  After battling with the other big clubs in Italy all year, and having to play in the UEFA Europa League, Atalanta clinched their first ever trip to the UCL with a 3-1 comeback victory vs. Sassuolo on the final day.  Their third-place finish was fueled by the league’s best scoring record at 77 goals, the main reason why they were able to take points away from the bigger clubs.  Longtime manager Gian Piero Gasperini was able to keep most of his team together this past summer, including Alejandro Gómez (seven goals, 11 assists) and Josip Ilicic (12 goals, seven assists).  Atalanta will need all the help they can get as they try to make more history domestically and in Europe this year.

Player to Watch: Duván Zapata

If you’re looking for the player most responsible for Atalanta’s incredible season, look no further than Zapata.  On loan from Sampdoria, Zapata led the club and was second in Serie A with 23 goals.  The forward was also able to contribute seven assists in league play.  If the 28-year-old puts together another season like last year, Atalanta will have no choice but to make him a permanent member of the squad.

 

Inter Milan

  • Last Season: 4th Place
  • Transfers In: Diego Godín (Atlético Madrid), Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo), Valentino Lazaro (Hertha Berlin), Nicolò Barella (Cagliari), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
  • Transfers Out: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari), Keita Baldé (AS Monaco), Ivan Perisic (Bayern Munich)

It has been a few years since Inter Milan were the kings of Italy, but they are slowly working their way back to the forefront of the league.  While they were knocked out of the UCL in the group stage, they put together a solid run to the Europa League quarterfinals before losing to Eintracht Frankfurt.  Domestically, Inter were able to best their rival’s AC Milan both times in league play.  The storyline for Inter this season will be their adjustment to their new manager, former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.  Conte’s defensive style is very demanding but seeing as though Inter conceded the second lowest amount of goals last season, the talent is there to make the transition successfully.

Player to Watch: Romelu Lukaku

While Inter Milan were great defensively last season, their offense lagged behind severly when measuring up to the clubs who finished ahead of them.  They also lost Ivan Perisic (8 goals) to Bayern Munich this summer and have tried to offload the troublesome Mauro Icardi (11 goals) for quite some time.  Enter Lukaku, who went out with a whimper at United after scoring only 12 goals in the EPL while dealing with numerous injuries and sometimes erratic playing time.  Lukaku is still only 26-years-old and is still very much capable of putting together a 20-goal season.  The defenses and style of Serie A might be tougher, but Lukaku is able to stay healthy, he is built to handle the scoring load at his new club.

 

AC Milan

  • Last Season: 5th Place
  • Transfers In: Theo Hernández (Real Madrid), Léo Duarte (Flamengo), Rade Krunic (FC Empoli), Ismaël Bennacer (FC Empoli), Rafael Leão (Lille)
  • Transfers Out: Ignazio Abate (Free Agent), Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea), Patrick Cutrone (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Unfortunately for AC Milan and its supporters, it was a season of coming up short last year on multiple fronts.  Despite winning their last four league matches, the club came up one point short of their rivals Inter Milan for the final UCL spot.  They also crashed out of the Europa League during the group stage and were unable to win any of Italy’s domestic cups.  That type of disappointment was guaranteed to bring change as Marco Giampaolo will be the new manager in charge of restoring this club to its former glory.  The club are in a fight to keep hold of 20-year-old goalkeeping prodigy Gianluigi Donnarumma from leaving, but the rest of the squad who posted a great defensive record are returning.  The likes of Suso and Frank Kessié will be the ones to lead the attack and try to get Milan back into Europe next season.

Player to Watch: Krzysztof Piatek

Known for his sliding finger guns celebration after each goal, Piatek became an international revelation last season at AC Milan.  The 24-year-old began the year at Genoa, where he racked up 13 goals in 19 games in the league.  He was sold to Milan in January, where he scored nine goals in 18 appearances for the club and finished third in Serie A with 22 goals total.  Piatek is in the prime of his career and will only have to worry about domestic fixtures this year.  If AC Milan have a successful season, he will be a big reason why.

 

AS Roma

  • Last Season: 6th Place
  • Transfers In: Pau López (Real Betis), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea), Gianluca Mancini (Atalanta), Jordan Vertout (Fiorentina), Leonardo Spinazzola (Juventus)
  • Transfers Out: Konstantinos Manolas (Napoli), Daniele De Rossi (Boca Juniors), Steven Nzonzi (Galatasaray), Stephan El Shaarawy (SH Shenhua)

After qualifying for the UCL the past five campaigns, AS Roma will have to settle for the Europa League this year after finishing three points behind Inter Milan in fifth.  While Roma advanced to the knockout round in the UCL, they got off to a slow start in Serie A and were unable to catch up to the other teams.  The team has a new manager in Paulo Fonseca and will have a new leader on the field as club legend Daniele De Rossi moved on this summer after 18 years with the club.  Former Manchester City outside back Aleksandar Kolarov leads a vibrant back line that likes to be involved in the offense.  Midfielders Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolò Zaniolo are some of the faces of the team’s youth movement.  If he stays, striker Edin Dzeko will look to improve upon his total of nine goals last season and help Roma get back to challenging for the league title.   

Player to Watch: Cengiz Ünder

Ünder is another one of Roma’s blossoming stars on offense.  The 22-year-old scored three goals and led the team with seven assists in league play.  Ünder likes to take on defenders on the outside and is excellent at providing service to Dzeko and other teammates or scoring himself.  The Turkish international would be a candidate to step up should the club lose one or two more offensive players before the window closes.


Torino

  • Last Season: 7th Place
  • Transfers In:
  • Transfers Out: Emiliano Moretti (Retired)

Torino showed some improvement last season by finishing two spots higher in the table than the previous year.  They conceded the fifth fewest amount of goals in the league, which facilitated a run starting in February where they only lost two of their final 17 matches.  The club focused on retaining players who were on loan on a permanent basis this summer instead of new signings.  Players like Simone Zaza at striker and Ola Aina in defense will have to continue to improve upon their initial season with the club, while manager Walter Mazzarri will hope to get another great season from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu in order for Torino to potentially challenge for UCL qualification through Serie A or the Europa League.

Player to Watch: Andrea Belotti

While Torino struggled to score goals at times, they were able to depend upon Belotti to get them on the board more times than not.  The 25-year-old led the club with 15 goals in league play, more than double the next best total on the team.  The Italian almost appeared in every match for “I Granata”, and with no major signings to date, will once again be a big part of Torino’s offense for this upcoming season.

 

Lazio

  • Last Season: 8th Place
  • Transfers In: Denis Vavro (FC Copenhagen), Jony (Málaga), Manuel Lazzari (SPAL)
  • Transfers Out: Rômulo (Genoa), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina)

You would think that Lazio supporters would be disappointed after the team bowed out to Sevilla in the Europa League and finished three spots lower in the table than the previous season in Serie A.  However, trophies change perception, which is what happened when Lazio beat Atalanta 2-0 to win the Coppa Italia.  The goodwill from that win has manager Simone Inzaghi and others believing that small improvements on both sides of the ball could lead to an immediate bounce-back season.  Lazio will still be able to depend upon Francesco Acerbi and Stefan Radu in defense, while leading goal-scorer Ciro Immobile is also still around.  Lazio will get another crack at the Europa League, but will set their sights on an improvement in Serie A as well.

Player to Watch: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Milinkovic-Savic has been a wanted man by the big clubs in Europe ever since he broke out during the 2017/2018 season with 12 goals.  The central midfielder saw that total dip to five last season, but his overall skills and control of the game have not been diminished.  Savic is pretty big at 6’3” and is still only 24-years-old.  The Serbian international has committed to Lazio despite interest from elsewhere and he will have opportunities in Italy and Europe this season to continue his development on a big stage.


Sampdoria

  • Last Season: 9th Place
  • Transfers In: Tommaso Augello (Spezia Calcio), Julian Chabot (FC Groningen), Fabio Depaoli (Chievo Verona), Mehdi Léris (Chievo Verona), Morten Thorsby (Heerenveen), 
  • Transfers Out: Lorenzo Tonelli (Napoli), Joachim Andersen (Lyon), Riccardo Saponara (Fiorentina), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Grégoire Defrel (AS Roma)

While Sampdoria would have loved to see more improvement in their table position, they were able to put together a nice season.  The club claimed victories over AC Milan, Atalanta, and Napoli in league play, as well as a 2-0 victory vs. Juventus on the final day of the season. Eusebio Di Francesco, who was sacked by Roma in January, takes in charge of a team that had a solid goal-scoring record, but an average defense.  The club were able to hold on to goalkeeper Emil Audero on a permanent basis but were unable to do the same for striker Grégoire Defrel (11 goals).  Players such as midfielder Gastón Ramíez and defender Nicola Murru will also have to step up due to the departures of Dennis Praet and Joachim Andersen in order for Sampdoria to avoid slipping any further.

Player to Watch: Fabio Quagliarella

It isn’t often when a player can continue to hold off Father Time but that is what Quagliarella has been able to do.  The 36-year-old led all of Serie A last season with 26 goals while also adding eight assists.  Quagliarella is truly a duel threat forward, as his passing ability is only outmatched by his ability to shoot the ball (141 total, 57 shots on target).  While he’s shown little sign of slowing down, Sampdoria could do to have a few players step up this season to keep Quagliarella fresh throughout the new season.

 

Bologna

  • Last Season: 10th Place
  • Transfers In: Mattia Bani (Chievo Verona), Stefano Denswil (Club Brugge), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Sint-Truiden), Jerdy Schouten (Excelsior), Andreas Skov Olsen (Nordsjaelland)
  • Transfers Out: Federico Mattiello (Atalanta), Filip Helander (Rangers), Erick Pulgar (Fiorentina)

Bologna looked certain for relegation at the midway point of last season, sitting on 14 points and having just sacked manager Filippo Inzaghi.  Siniša Mihajlović took over for his second term with the club and immediately steered them in the right direction.  The team went on to gain 30 points the rest of the way and finish mid-table.  Coming off of that stressful season, it was announced in July that Mihajlović was battling leukemia but would stay on as manager.  Bologna struggled to score last year but managed to hold onto their top offensive threats in Riccardo Orsolini and Federico Santander.  If the club are able to rally around their manager like last season, they should avoid the stress of a relegation fight.

Player to Watch: Lukasz Skorupski

While Bologna’s defensive record wasn’t stellar last season, Skorupski shouldn’t receive much blame for it.  The goalkeeper started every match for the club in league play, making 119 saves.  The Polish international will hope that some of the team’s new signings will help improve the defense and keep him out of situations that require making difficult saves.


Sassuolo

  • Last Season: 11th Place
  • Transfers In: Mert Müldür (Rapid Vienna), Andreaw Gravillon (Inter Milan), Hamed Junior Traorè (FC Empoli), Pedro Obiang (West Ham), Francesco Caputo (FC Empoli)
  • Transfers Out: Pol Lirola (Fiorentina), Merih Demiral (Juventus), Federico Di Francesco (SPAL), Stefano Sensi (Inter Milan)

Sassuolo only managed to win nine games last season but they finished mid-table due to their 16 draws in league play.  The club got off to a good start but saw their form dip as the calendar flipped to the holiday season.  It took going unbeaten in the month of April to confirm their league status for this season as Roberto De Zerbi did just enough in his first year as manager.  Goalkeeper Andrea Consigli had a solid year and will be back in between the pipes.  Sassuolo have held on to most of their goalscoring talent, but will have to see big steps in production in order to maintain their spot in Serie A.

Player to Watch: Francesco Caputo

Caputo was picked up from relegated FC Empoli by Sassuolo this summer after his impressive season last year in Serie A.  The forward scored 16 goals and added three assists in league play while appearing in every match.  Caputo is 32 years old but should still have a few more good years left to help Sassuolo in their bid to climb up the table.

 

Udinese

  • Last Season: 12th Place
  • Transfers In: Rodrigo Becão (EC Bahia), Walace (Hannover 96), Mato Jajalo (Palermo), Ilija Nestorovski (Palermo)
  • Transfers Out: Sandro (Genoa), Valon Behrami (FC Sion), Marco D’Alessandro (Atalanta), Stefano Okaka (Watford)

After successfully helping Udinese avoid relegation at the end of the 2017/2018 season, manager Igor Tudor left the club after he was unable to agree to a new deal with the club.  With the team struggling again last season, Tudor was brought back in March and was able to get results again.  Udinese were able to finish in twelfth thanks to winning their last three league matches.  Tudor will begin the season as manager but will face a tough task in fixing an offense that only scored 39 goals last season.  He’ll be able to rely on Juan Musso in goal and will have a solid duo in Kevin Lasagna and Ignacio Pussetto to help lead the line.  If the team can continue to play well for this manager, they might stand a chance at finishing in the top half of the table.

Player to Watch: Rodrigo De Paul

Udinese’s offense was difficult to watch a lot of the time last season, but De Paul was one player to managed to put together some good totals.  The midfielder led the club with nine goals and eight assists in league play last season.  The 25-year-old excels at playing a quality ball, but his main focus is firing shots on net at a high rate.  The club is going to need everyone to step up at the attacking end of the pitch, with De Paul being the most likely to take that jump this season.

 

SPAL

  • Last Season: 13th Place
  • Transfers In: Etrit Berisha (Atalanta), Igor (RB Salzburg), Marco D’Alessandro (Atalanta), Gabriele Moncini (Cittadella)
  • Transfers Out: Emiliano Viviano (Sporting CP), Alfred Gomis (Dijon), Kevin Bonifazi (Torino), Pasquale Schiattarella (Benevento), Manuel Lazzari (Lazio), Mirco Antenucci (Bari)

This will be SPAL’s third season in a row in Serie A after previously spending 49 years to make it to the topflight.  They finished four places higher last season than the previous year, enjoying victories vs. Juventus, Lazio, and Roma in the final few months.  Scoring will be difficult for Leonardo Semplici’s men, but his squad is mostly unchanged.  Better goalkeeping play would also go a long way in ensuring that the club don’t begin another long streak in the lower division.

Player to Watch: Andrea Petagna

Petagna was loaned out last season by Atalanta to SPAL and he made the most of it.  The forward led the team with 16 goals in league play.  The club were able to sign him on a permanent basis this summer, and at 24-years-old, he still has plenty of room for improvement and growth as he leads the line for SPAL again this season.

 

Parma

  • Last Season: 14th Place
  • Transfers In: Simone Colombi (Carpi), Kastriot Dermaku (Cosenza), Gastón Brugman (Pescara)
  • Transfers Out: Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Marcello Gazzola (FC Empoli), Leo Stulac (FC Empoli)

After earning promotion to Serie A the year before, Parma were able to survive their first year back up despite a -20 goal difference.  Parma’s defense was more like Swiss cheese as they conceded the fourth most goals in league play.  It wasn’t until April when they bunkered down and reeled off five straight draws into May that eventually guaranteed them safety.  Manager Roberto D’Aversa has been in tougher situations before, but he will have to pull out all the stops to keep Parma from being relegated once again.

Player to Watch: Luigi Sepe

It’s hard to find fault with Sepe as the defense that played in front of him each and every week gave him little to no help.  Nonetheless, the Parma goalkeeper still managed to make a whopping 142 saves and started in 37 of the team’s 38 league matches.  There is hope that the defense will improve some, but Sepe will still feel like he’s under siege at times this season, and will have to make more big saves in order for Parma to stave off relegation.

 

Cagliari

  • Last Season: 15th Place
  • Transfers In: Federico Mattiello (Atalanta), Radja Nainggolan (Inter Milan), Nahitan Nández (Boca Juniors)
  • Transfers Out: Darijo Srna (Retired), Luca Pellegrini (AS Roma), Simone Padoin (Free Agent), Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan)

Cagliari limped to the finish line in Serie A last season, dropping points in their last five matches.  While the team showed little improvement under first year manager Rolando Maran, they were able to successfully avoid relegation.  Cagliari had an average defensive record, but they were held back by an offense that only scored 36 goals in league play.  The club hope to receive a boost from 31-year-old Radja Nainggolan, who began his successful career at Cagliari and played there for four years before moving on to Roma.  The loss of the retired Darijo Srna on defense will be tough to overcome, but it’s something Cagliari will have to address if they want to avoid flirting with relegation once again this season.

Player to Watch: Alessio Cragno

When it comes to a club that struggles to score, you can usually attribute any success to a great goalkeeper.  Cragno deserves all the credit in the world for last season, as he started every league match and made an incredible 155 saves.  The Italian is only 25 years old and he’ll continue to have loads of opportunities to prove himself as Cagliari will face a ton of improved offenses in Serie A this season.

 

Fiorentina

  • Last Season: 16th Place
  • Transfers In: Pol Lirola (Sassuolo), Erick Pulgar (Bologna), Milan Badelj (Lazio), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Sassuolo), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich) 
  • Transfers Out: Alban Lafont (FC Nantes), Vitor Hugo (Palmeiras), Edimilson Fernandes (West Ham), Gerson (AS Roma), Marko Pjaca (Juventus), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Jordan Veretout (AS Roma), Luis Muriel (Sevilla FC)

Fiorentina’s drop from eighth to sixteenth last season was extremely bizarre, especially when you look at the numbers.  While they did have an average goal-scoring record, Fiorentina conceded the sixth fewest amount goals in the league.  The biggest outlier was the league leading 17 draws they participated in, showing an inability to put opponents away.  Their bad run of form led to the resignation of manager Stefano Pioli and appointment of Vincenzo Montella, who kept them from being relegated.  Fiorentina have brought in a couple of experienced midfielders to boost the offense in Kevin-Prince Boateng and Franck Ribéry.  If the offense improves, Fiorentina would be a clear candidate to move into the top half of the table.

Player to Watch: Cristiano Biraghi

Biraghi was one of the few defensive players who were also able to contribute offensively last season for Fiorentina.  The Italian contribute four assists and scored one goal from his defensive position and appeared in 36 league matches last season.  Biraghi is 26 years old but is already considered one of the leaders on the defense.  The club and its supporters will look for him and the rest of the group to have another solid season defending the goal this year.

 

Genoa

  • Last Season: 17th Place
  • Transfers In: Cristián Zapata (AC Milan), Marko Pajac (Cagliari), Francesco Cassata (Sassuolo), Lasse Schöne (Ajax), Andrea Pinamonti (Inter Milan), Sinan Gümüs (Galatasaray)
  • Transfers Out: Pedro Pereira (Benfica), Ervin Zukanovic (Ahli), Esteban Rolón (Málaga), Daniel Bessa (Hellas Verona), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona), Miguel Veloso (Hellas Verona)

Genoa’s season was a turbulent one as they went from finishing mid-table the year before to a relegation fight last season.  They were able to stay up thanks to an amazing 2-0 win vs. Juventus in March and five draws across the final two months of the season.  New manager Aurelio Andreazzoli will face the difficult task of improving the squad at both ends of the pitch.  New center midfielder Lasse Schöne joins from Ajax as his experience and toughness should help solidify the middle of the field.  The likes of Cristian Romero and Ionut Radu have been retained on a permanent basis and will be key pieces to Genoa’s battle to finish in a much safer spot this season.

Player to Watch: Cristian Kouame

Kouame is another great young player fine tuning his skills in Serie A.  The forward from Ivory Coast scored four goals and added five assists in league play for Genoa last season.  Kouame is only 21 years old and has speed and durability on his side.  If he continues to progress naturally, this young man could not only help Genoa avoid relegation but might earn a call-up to the national team soon.

 

Brescia

  • Last Season: Champions of Serie B
  • Transfers In: Jesse Joronen (FC Copenhagen), Giangiacomo Magnani (Sassuolo), Florian Ayé (Clermont Foot), Mario Balotelli (Marseille)
  • Transfers Out: Simone Romagnoli (FC Empoli), Jacopo Dall’Oglio (Catania)

Brescia are back in Serie A after winning Serie B last season by a single point.  Their rise to the top league is thanks in large part to the 69 goals they scored last season.  The club grabbed headlines this summer by signing the troubled but talented Mario Balotelli, who is originally from Brescia.  Manager Eugenio Corini, who began his playing career with Brescia in the 1980s, will hope that his side are able to maintain their offensive creativity as they take on the much more structured defenses of Serie A.

Player to Watch: Alfredo Donnarumma

The Donnarumma family has quite the pedigree when it comes to soccer in Italy these days.  Gianluigi is the current starting goalkeeper at AC Milan and the future of the Italian national team.  He is joined there by his brother Antonio, who is also a goalie.  The last brother is Alfredo, who chose a position on the other side of the field as a striker.  Last season, he led Brescia with 25 goals in league play while also adding seven assists.  The 28-year-old will be part of a dynamic group of forwards who will look to keep Brescia in Serie A for the long haul.

 

Lecce

  • Last Season: 2nd in Serie B
  • Transfers In: Gabriel (Perugia), Luca Rossettini (Genoa), Andrea Rispoli (Palermo), Romario Benzar (FCSB), Yevhen Shakhov (PAOK Salonika), Diego Farias (Cagliari) 
  • Transfers Out: Lorenzo Venuti (Fiorentina), Manuel Scavone (Parma), Andrea Arrigoni (Teramo), Simone Palombi (Lazio)

Lecce joined Brescia in earning automatic promotion to Serie A by finishing second in Serie B last season.  It was their second straight promotion under manager Fabio Liverani, who’s squad had the second-best goal-scoring record in the league behind Brescia.  The club have brought in Gabriel to compete with Mauro Vigorito for the goalkeeper position.  Marco Mancosu (13 goals, five assists) and Filippo Falco (seven goals, eight assists) will be patrolling the midfield again this year as Lecce look to make a good first impression after being away from Serie A for seven years.

Player to Watch: Andrea La Mantia

La Mantia did it all for Lecce last season, leading the team with 17 goals in league play and adding five assists.  The 28 year old is in the prime of his career and made 32 league appearances for the club last year.  Combined with Mancosu and Falco, La Mantia will lead a powerful strike force that Lecce supporters hope will be successful in their return to Serie A.

 

Hellas Verona

  • Last Season: 5th in Serie B
  • Transfers In: Gennaro Tutino (Napoli), Valerio Verre (Sampdoria), Darko Lazovic (Genoa)
  • Transfers Out: Matteo Bianchetti (Cremonese), Santiago Colombatto (Cagliari), Samuel Gustafson (Torino), Karim Laribi (FC Empoli), Ryder Matos (Udinese)

Hellas Verona earned promotion to Serie A the hard way after going through two rounds of a playoff.  They defeated US Pescara 1-0 over two legs before facing Cittadella.  Cittadella won the first leg 2-0, but Verona would take advantage of two second half red cards in the second leg to win 3-0 and complete the epic comeback.  The club have a new manager in Ivan Jurić, who is coming off of three straight spells with Genoa.  Verona lost some defensive talent this summer, but still have the squad capable of at least living to fight another day in Serie A after this season.

 Player to Watch: Giampaolo Pazzini

Another one of those old strikers still getting it done, Pazzini led Hellas Verona last season with 12 goals scored.  The 35-year-old still managed to play in 29 league games despite his age and he has been a valuable servant to the club for the past few years.  Pazzini once played for AC Milan, so he is quite familiar with the pressure of playing in Serie A.  Verona will hope to rely on that experience to make sure that they stay up for a long time.