After reviewing the most likely title contenders and teams expected to enter the race for European places in part 1 of our season preview, the time has come to turn to mid table sides. These teams should have too much quality to go down, but they are not really expected to challenge for Europa League places this term. Mid table mediocrity is the word of the day here, but even that is better than to be featured in part 3 of the preview, which will be dedicated to teams fighting for their lives.
Having allowed themselves to enter the relegation struggle last term, it is no wonder that Fiorentina spent heavily in off-season in order to make sure the same scenario doesn’t happen this season. Viola have done well to sign a plethora of both talented and experienced players, while they were some notable departures as well. There is no doubt the team have more quality than last term, but new coach Vincenzo Montella is aware he will need some time to make the team his own. The squad rebuilding process is likely to end up costing Fiorentina the opportunity to mount a successful top 6 challenge, but their place in the top half of the standings should never come into question. Had the club managed to add Dimitar Berbatov to the side on transfer deadline day, they would have a chance to fight for European places, but veteran Luca Toni and out-of-form Mounir El Hamdaoui won’t be able to help Stevan Jovetic a great deal this season.
Last season: 13th
Important arrivals: Facundo Roncaglia (Boca Juniors), Mattia Cassani, Giulio Migliaccio (both Palermo), Mounir El Hamdaoui (Ajax), Matias Fernandez (Sporting Lisbon), Borja Valero, Gonzalo Rodriguez (both Villarreal), Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool), David Pizarro (Roma), Luca Toni (Al Nasr), Nenad Tomovic (Genoa), Stefan Savic (Manchester City).
Important departures: Matija Nastasic (Manchester City), Juan Vargas (Genoa), Andrea Lazzari (Udinese), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Cesare Natali (Bologna), Alessandro Gamberini, Valon Behrami (both Napoli), Ricardo Montolivo (Milan).
Probable starting line-up (3-5-2): Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Savic – Cuadrado, Aquilani, Pizarro, Borja Valero, Pasqual – El Hamdaoui, Jovetic.
Prediction: Top table finish
Pick: Fiorentina to finish in top 10
Bologna have been making steady progress over the last few years and they seem to have finally made the transition from relegation strugglers to genuine top table side. Important players Marco Di Vaio, Gaston Ramirez and Gabi Mudingayi may have left the club, but with Alessandro Diamanti staying and Alberto Gilardino, Michele Pazienza and few other experienced players arriving, il Felsinei should be able to repeat the impressive showings from last season. Their Renato Dall’Ara is likely to remain a genuine fortress, while the massive experience of their players and Diamanti-Gilardino link in attack should also see them bring quite a few points from the travels. Another mid table finish looks on the cards for Bologna and bear in mind that Betfair offers great odds on il Felsinei to finish in the top half of the standings.
Last season: 9th
Important arrivals: Marti Riverola (Barcelona B), Cristian Pasquato (Udinese, loan), Gianluca Curci (Roma, loan), Manolo Gabbiadini, Marco Motta (both Juventus, loan), Tiberio Guarente (Sevilla), Cesare Natali (Fiorentina), Michele Pazienza (Juventus), Alberto Gilardino (Genoa).
Important departures: Gaston Ramirez (Southampton), Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Jean-Francois Gillet (Torino), Gabi Mudingayi (Inter, loan).
Probable starting line-up (3-5-1-1): Agliardi – Roger Carvalho, Antonsson, Cherubin – Motta, Perez, Pazienza, Guarente, Morleo – Diamanti – Gilardino.
Prediction: Top table finish
Pick: Bologna to finish in top 10
Udinese pulled off quite a shock by winning the race for the final Champions League berth last season, given they had stayed without a number of starters before the season started. The Zebrette were hoping for a similar scenario when they decided to cash in on Asamoah, Isla and Handanovic, but I just don’t see that happening. The club did sign some promising youngsters, but they cannot be expected to play a major role in a competition as strong as Serie A just yet. The early elimination from the Champions League could prove to be a blessing in disguise given that Francesco Guidolin’s squad clearly lack a strength in depth, but I still don’t expect Udinese to enter the race for European places. The boss himself said that Serie A survival was the first objective and who are we to doubt his assesment.
Last season: 3rd
Important arrivals: Willians (Flamengo), Thomas Hertaux (Caen), Allan (Vasco da Gama), Davide Faraoni (Inter), Maicosuel (Botafogo), Andrea Lazzari (Fiorentina), Mattias Ranegie (Malmo).
Important departures: Kwadwo Asamoah, Maurizio Isla (Juventus), Samir Handanovic (Inter), Thierry Doubai (Sochaux), Antonio Floro Flores, Gabriel Torje (Granada).
Probable starting line-up (3-5-1-1): Brkic – Benatia, Danilo, Domizzi – Basta, Lazzari, Pinzi, Pereyra, Armero – Muriel – Di Natale.
Prediction: Top table finish
Pick: Udinese to finish in top 10
Despite the heavy investment in the playing squad over the last few years, Palermo just couldn’t fulfill their potential and ensure European qualification, and it appears that owner Maurizio Zamparini has started to lose interest in his club. The Rossoblu have been getting weaker and weaker of late, and after finishing the previous league campaign in 16th place, they could face another difficult season. With Viviano, Silvestre and Balzaretti all leaving, the back line will be severely weakened, but at least Fabrizio Miccoli and finally fit Abel Hernandez should create a good attacking partnership. Palermo appear to still have enough quality to avoid the drop, but don’t expect the Rossoblu to create a big advantage over the bottom three sides.
Last season: 16th
Important arrivals: Steve von Bergen (Genoa), Egidio Rios (Tijuana), Paulo Dybala (Instituto), Sebastian Sosa (Cerro Largo), Samir Ujkani (Novara), Franco Brienza (Siena).
Important departures: Federico Balzaretti (Roma), Emiliano Viviano, Giulio Migliaccio (both Fiorentina, loan), Franco Vazquez (Rayo Vallecano, loan), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Mattia Cassani (Fiorentina), Matias Silvestre (Inter, loan).
Probable starting line-up (3-5-2): Ujkani – Cetto, Von Bergen, Munoz – Bertolo, Brienza, Rios, Donati, Pisano – Miccoli, Hernandez.
Prediction: Lower mid table
Featuring the right blend of domestic players and the bright talent from Argentina, Catania have been exceeding expectations of late, and they largely impressed under Vincenzo Montella last season. The talented coach is now gone, but his successor Ronaldo Maran should be able to keep the results respectable given that the entire team have stayed together. The club have signed several talented players to increase competition for places, but with the starting line-up exactly the same as last season, the Elephants can be trusted to hit the ground running early on. Catania are expected to remain a real force to be reckoned with at Stadio Angelo Massimino, while I wouldn’t recommend betting against them on the travels either. The Elephants should never enter the relegation struggle, but the top half finish is not out of the question.
Last season: 11th
Important arrivals: Takayuki Morimoto (Novara), Amidu Salifu (Fiorentina, loan), Lucas Castro (Racing Club), Alexis Rolin (Nacional).
Important departures: Maxi Lopez (Sampdoria), Cristian Llama (Fiorentina, loan).
Probable starting line-up (4-3-2-1): Andujar – Alvarez, Legrottaglie, Bellusci, Marchese – Biagianti, Lodi, Almiron – Barrientos, Gomez – Bergessio.
Prediction: Mid table finish
Pick: Catania to finish in top 10
Atalanta had their work cut out for them after gaining promotion from Serie B seeing they were slapped with a six-point penalty for their involvement in the match-fixing scandal. The team, nonetheless, quickly neutralized the penalty and went on to finish the season in mid table, which was clearly a magnificent achievement. The club management had no option but to cash in on star forward Manolo Gabbiadini, but all other key players stayed, with few more quality players arriving at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. With the squad brimming with experienced Serie A players and Moralez, Denis, Schelotto trident in attack, the Orobici should be able to avoid the relegation dogfight for the second season in a row. The team have been slapped with a new two-point penalty, but surely that won’t prove to be such a problem.
Last season: 12th
Important arrivals: Davide Brivio (Lecce), Guglielmo Stendardo (Lazio), Davide Biondini (Genoa, loan), James Troisi (Juventus, loan,), Facundo Parra (Independiente, loan).
Important departures: Manolo Gabbiadini (Juventus), Simone Tiribocchi (Pro Vercelli).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-1-1): Consigli – Bellini, Lucchini, Peluso, Brivio – Schelotto, Cigarini, Biondini, Bonaventura – Moralez – Denis.
Prediction: Mid table
After spending last few years flirting with relegation to Serie B, Parma finally made a step forward last term, when the seven-match winning run during the season finale saw them achieve an eighth-place finish. The club have since stayed without Seba Giovinco, but in came Pabon, Parolo, Rosi, Amauri, Belfodil and few other quality players to make sure il Ducali are well prepared for the start of the new campaign. By allowing several senior players to leave the club, Parma now boast a very talented side, but that doesn’t mean the team lack the experience as most of the players have at least several Serie A seasons behind them. Attractive forwards Dorlan Pabon and Ishak Belfodil should help compensate for Giovinco’s departure, and the odds are Parma will be much closer to another top table finish than the relegation zone.
Last season: 8th
Important arrivals: Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Darlon Pabon (Atletico Nacional), Ishak Belfodil (Lyon), Amauri (Fiorentina), Marco Parolo (Cesena, loan), Aleandro Rosi, Stefano Okaka (both Roma), Ignacio Fideleff (Napoli), Afriyie Acquah (Palermo).
Important departures: Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Francesco Valiani, Paolo Dellafiore (both Siena), Paolo Castellini (Sampdoria).
Probable starting line-up (3-5-2): Mirante – Zaccardo, Paletta, Lucarelli – Biabiany, Parolo, Valdes, Galloppa, Gobbi – Pabon, Belfodil.
Prediction: Mid table
Pick: Parma to finish in top 10