In the final part of our Lega Pro season preview, The Football Express takes a look at some of the teams and players to watch out for over the coming months.
So the transfer window is over and in Italy’s third and fourth tiers the start of the new campaign is just around the corner. But who are the teams to watch out for and what players will stand out this term?
In the past, all divisions in the lower tiers have been regionalised but that does not seem to be the case this season in C1. In section A for example, teams will travel as far south as Taranto and as far North as Como on their quest for promotion to Serie B.
The stand-out team in the A division is without doubt Sorrento Calcio. Play-off semi-finalists last season, the Rossoneri have bought big during the summer and look set for an all-out assault on automatic promotion this time around. Under the ownership of the Gambardella family and under the tutelage of new coach Maurizio Sarri, brought in from Alessandria, the team has been strengthened considerably and look the side to beat in 2011-12.
During the summer, the club lost its talisman when Brazilian striker Paulinho (Capocannoniere for this division last season)returned to his parent club Livorno. Sarri recognised the need for a strong presence up front and immediately signed Ciro Ginestra from Crotone. The 33-year-old brings vast experience from a career spent mainly in Italy’s lower reaches. Late on Wednesday, the club also announced the signing of 22-year-old Bulgarian striker Andrey Galabinov from Livorno, a player who spent a succesful season at Lumezzane in 2009-10. Gambardella and Sarri will expect their new acquisitions to take over from where their former Brazilian hit-man left off.
Benevento, with former Sorrento coach Giovanni Simonelli now in charge will also be looking for automatic promotion this campaign after they too suffered play-off heartache last season. Foggia, now in the post Zeman era could also mount a title challenge as could Pisa, who finished strongly last year after the appointment of Dino Pagliari as head coach.
The B section of C1 resembles a Serie B graveyard with all four teams that were relegated last season thrown back together in Italy’s third tier. Frosinone, Triestina, Portogruaro and Piacenza will all be looking to bounce back immediately after disastrous campaigns last term.
In Tuscany, the fans of AC Prato are probably still in dreamland after their team was promoted from C2 last season. Initially, the team lost the play-off final to Carrarese but were later asked to participate in C1 after the financial collapse of several teams during the summer. Their forward line will be led by a Vieri, not Christian, but his brother and former Australian international Max who starts his third campaign with the Biancazzurri. There were rumours that Christian would return to action this season for the Tuscan club, but that now seems unlikely.
In both A and B sections of C2 it will be derby day every week with the authorities grouping the divisions into what is effectively a north/south divide. In section A (the northern section) some big clubs are on their way back after several years in the footballing wilderness thanks to a series of financial calamities.
AC Rimini 1912, to quote the full vernacular, are back in Italy’s fourth tier after winning the Serie D play-offs last season. The club reformed under its current name in 2010 and under the management of Luca D’Angelo will fancy their chances of a second consecutive promotion to Italy’s third tier. Mantova and Treviso are two other fallen giants on the road to recovery but the smart money for championship glory will be on Alessandria.
I Grigi have had a dreadful summer, firstly being demoted to C2 due to their former president, Giorgio Veltroni’s involvement in calcio’s much publicised betting scandal and then losing their coach Maurizio Sarri to Sorrento and striker Stefano Scappini to Sampdoria. But under new coach Alessio De Petrillo, the club from Piedmont have added experience to their back-line by signing former Milan and Napoli defender Danilele Daino who returns to the place of his birth in the twilight of his career to try to propel the club back into C1 at the first time of asking.
Section B of C2 will also welcome back a giant of yesteryear with Perugia, like their counterparts in the A division, looking to return to the glory days of the late nineties when they were a regular member of Italy’s top-flight. A decade or so of financial collapse saw the club reform in 2010 as ASD Perugia and it is only this summer that it has taken back its original name of AC Perugia. Last season saw the Grifoni promoted as champions of Serie D division E as well as winning the Coppa Italia for their respective championship.
Catanzaro is a club now into its fourth incarnation. In the summer after relegation to Serie D, the team from Calabria were given a reprieve and re-admitted to C2. New president Giuseppe Cosentino took over the club in June and immediately installed former Reggina legend Francesco Cozza as his new coach. The Southerners will be hoping for a much improved campaign this season and Cozza has strengthened his front-line by bringing in Australian youngster Christian Esposito on loan from Novara. The 21-year-old came through the youth ranks at Albinoleffe and this season will be a chance for him to make a name for himself in Italy’s fourth tier.
The big kick-off is almost here and The Football Express will keep you informed on all the happenings in Italy’s third and fourth tiers throughout the coming months in what promises to be another incident packed campaign. Viva Lega Pro!
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