Graham (follow on Twitter: @grahamsibley)
Fri 31 July 2009

Just One Scudetto: Serie A Season Preview 2009/10

Something new for you now on SPAOTP. Here's Sp3ktor with the first in a regular series of round-ups on Italian football - and what better way to start than a look at each of the twenty participating clubs.

Atalanta
Very much a yo-yo club, these close neighbours to the Milanese giants finished a creditable 11th last season. Such is the way in Italian football, only seven of the teams in Serie A are starting with the same head coach as they started the previous season. Atalanta's coach - former Gazza team-mate Angelo Gregucci - is one of the new appointments. His only previous Serie A coaching experience is as assistant to Roberto Mancini at Fiorentina, and a disasterous five-week spell as manager of Lecce. Bodes well, then.

Bari
The club that took David Platt to Italy in 1991 returns to the top flight as champions of Serie B. They could struggle, though, as the mastermind of their promotion, coach Antonio Conte, has left the club. In just over a year he turned a team facing relegation into champions. Of course being a stalwart of Juventus in the Nineties and the manager's position there going spare, all the attention he got inevitably led to him being linked with the job - attention Bari didn't like, obviously. Giampiero Ventura, a journeyman coach who's seen his last two Serie A teams relegated has taken the helm. Bari's badge reminds me of cornflakes.

Bologna
It took a last day victory to keep Bologna in Serie A in their first season back in the top flight. New man in charge, Giuseppe Papadopulo, is their sixth head coach in just over three years. He has a good record of getting promotions so perhaps they're thinking a bit more long term with this appointment.

Cagliari
The Sardinian club finished comfortably mid-table last campaign, winning as many as they lost and having a goal difference of -1. Not bad considering they started by losing their first five games under new head coach Massimiliano Allegri (left) - a young coach with a solid reputation in the lower leagues.

Catania
With manager Walter Zenga crossing Sicily to coach their bitter rivals Palermo, Catania have picked a very inexperienced coach in Gianluca Atzori to try and keep them in Serie A for a third season. They finished 15th last time out but that was more down to them taking their foot of the gas after they achieved safety - losing six of their last eight. They have an elephant on their badge; the only other club I can think of with that is Coventry City. Their kit seems to be modelled on Crystal Palace, even down to the white-with-red-and-blue-sash away kit.

Chievo Verona
Chievo seriously struggled at the start of their first season back in the top flight picking up just 9 points in their first 17 games. The appointment of Mimmo Di Carlo as head coach turned their fortunes around, seeing them lose just four games in the second half of the season. Most of these were draws, however, so they only just escaped a quick return to Serie B.

Fiorentina
Mired in recent controversy, Fiorentina were given more than a slight helping hand in getting back to Serie A after reforming in 2002. They're back to winning ways too having secured a second consecutive Champions League qualification. Manager Cesare Prandelli is the current Serie A Coach of the Year.

Genoa
Genoa have been in storming form under coach Gian Piero Gasperini since rising from Italy's third tier in 2006. Both seasons in the top flight have seen them qualify for Europe despite having a very thin squad and regularly losing their best players to bigger clubs. 34-year-old Hernan Crespo from Inter will be leading the line for them this campaign, having to fill the boots of 24-goal-scoring Milito who goes in the other direction. Genoa are one of the few clubs to retain the word 'Cricket' in their full title (Napoli and Milan dropped it years ago). If that's not a good enough reason to like them, I don't know what is.

Inter
The dominant team since the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, Inter have won the last four Scudetti and with the Special One in charge there's not much to suggest any different this season. They've lost the league's top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic but seeing as they've got Samual Eto'o and a wad of cash in return, there shouldn't be too many grumbles on the blue side of Milan.

Juventus
Being runners up last season wasn't good enough for the board at Juve and Claudio Ranieri was out on his ear. His replacement is Ciro Ferrara, a former team captain and latterly youth team coach in his first manageial position - an interesting choice for such a high profile job. The Old Lady welcomes back one of her favourite sons in the shape of 35-year-old Fabio Cannavaro after three seasons at Real Madrid. Regular readers of the Bundesbag on these pages will be intrigued to see how Diego, their €24.5m summer signing from Werder Bremen, performs in Serie A.

Lazio
Although winners of last season's Coppa Italia, Lazio fans have had to settle for mid-table mediocrity since finishing third in 2007. Davide Ballardini, who was in charge of Palermo last campaign, is new in post following Delio Rossi's decision to step down.

Livorno
Winners of the Serie B play-off, the Tuscan club enjoyed a brief period of modest success a few years back under Roberto Donadoni. After he left to take up the role of national team coach things all went a bit pear-shaped (for both parties). Currently managerless with the Italian Football Federation blocking the permanent appointment of stand-in coach Gennaro Ruotolo because of insufficient coaching badges.

Milan
The headlines may be all about the departure of Kaka but this season is the one where Milan have to get used to life without Maldini. Ancelotti, of course has gone to Chelsea and is replaced by local hero Leonardo, in his first managerial role; he should certainly provide his opposite number at Inter with a run for his money, if only at the press conferences. Honestly, this guy makes Mourinho look like the bloke who collects the sun lounger money.

Napoli
Roberto Donadoni makes his return to management after a disasterous tenure as national team coach. Napoli had a decent enough start last season but trailed off to finish mid-table. Nowhere near the team they were in the Eighties, they're doing ok considering they've died and been reborn since. Napoli are owned by film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis - nephew of Dino.

Palermo
Palermo have been a surprise package since returning to Serie A after a thirty-year absence in 2004 and have been buzzing around the UEFA spots since then. The biggest news for them is the installation of Walter Zenga as head coach from fierce local rivals Catania. They play in pink - live with it.

Parma
Parma make a return to Serie A after a season down in the second tier. While the heady days of the milk-carton funded mid-nineties are far behind, it was only a handful of seasons ago this club was getting regular UEFA Cup football - even reaching the semis in 2005. Their head coach Francesco Guidolin has made a habit in his professional career of returning to clubs, playing for Verona in four separate stints and having as many periods as coach of Palermo.

Roma
Last season was the worst for Roma under coach Luciano Spalletti, having to settle for a Europa League spot after getting used to Champions League football. They've finished runners-up four times since their last title in 2001. They'll be doing very well to get that high this season, especially if they lose Daniele de Rossi to Arsenal, as has been strongly rumoured (but then every decent centre half in the world is being linked with The Gunners). Supporters will be pleased though to see that Mr Roma, Francesco Totti, has signed a new five-year deal (he'll be 37 by the end). The club was formed in a merger at the behest of Mussolini. Don't hold that against them, though.

Sampdoria
Samp arrived back in the top flight strongly in 2003 but since only just missing out on a Champions League spot in 2005 they've been pretty ordinary, finishing 13th last season. Luigi Del Neri takes over as head coach, joining from Atalanta. He took over as manager of Porto after Jose Mourinho left, only to be sacked before the season even started. It was the second time that had happened to him so don't be surprised if someone else is in charge come the opening day. Sampdoria have Cassano: that makes them worth watching.

Siena
More famous for its bi-annual horse race Il Palio, Siena have been enjoying themselves in Serie A. A lower league side for much of their history, Siena are beginning their seventh consecutive season in the top flight. They're hardly setting the division on fire but they do well enough. Their head coach is Marco Giampaolo: he's one of the very few managers not new in post.

Udinese
If Udinese could keep together a run of the form they are capable of, they could be a major force in Italian football. As it is, they tend to fall away at the end or struggle if they're distracted by European qualification. They qualified for the Champions League in 2005 and a repeat certainly isn't beyond them. This will be head coach Pasquale Marino's third season in charge - a veritable eon in Serie A terms.

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