This weekend signals the beginning of the new Italian Serie A campaign so, rightfully so, here’s Sports Pundit final part of our season preview.
Part three of our 3-edition series goes through the clubs from P-U, including Palermo, Parma, AS Roma, Sampdoria, Siena and finally Udinese.
If you would like to read the season previews for Atalanta Bergamo, Bari, Bologna, Cagliari, Catania, Chievo Verona and Fiorentina, click here.
If you would like to read the season previews for Genoa, Internazionale, Juventus, Lazio, Livorno, AC Milan and Napoli, click here.
Maurizio Zamparini continues to generate controversy in Sicily after appointing Catania boss Walter Zenga to the top job at Palermo in the summer. Ignoring all that, Zenga arrives with a brave promise of big things at the Renzo Barbera and *Rosanero *fans will be enthused. Zenga, a former Italy international, has done well in his previous jobs but this will be his most important role yet.
Last season, Palermo went close to qualifying for Europe and on their way they unearthed a number of gems including impressive Danish defender Simon Kjaer. He remains in Sicily and will be a key for another European push but Palermo have lost classy stopper Marco Amelia, which is a worry. Fabrizio Miccoli is the key man in attack and Edinson Cavani, Fabio Simplicio and tricky new signing Javier Pastore will support him.
But upon his arrival at Palermo, Zenga boldly claimed with the players at his disposal, they could aim for the Scudetto. Realistically that won’t happen, but qualifying for Europe is definitely a worthy goal. Miccoli alongside Cavani represents a dangerous attack but the loss of Amelia means defensively Palermo might have a few concerns. Nevertheless, they should be there or thereabouts.
**Fantasy Gun; **Fabio Simplicio
*Last season; *‘2nd in Serie B (19-19-4)**Top scorer; ‘Cristiano Lucarelli & Alberto Paloschi (12)
Francesco Guidolin’s newly promoted Parma have admittedly got modest goals for the new season. It is all about survival. The 1999 UEFA Cup winners are easing their way back into football’s top tier, but their taking baby steps.
Nevertheless, suffering only four losses for the whole of last season’s successful Serie B campaign bodes well for a side who enjoyed the best defensive record in the second tier. If Parma can carry on elements of that, as well as continue their fine home form (they were undefeated at the Ennio Tardini in the league last season) then they’ll have something to build on.
Guidolin has made two major signings to boost their survival hopes in the shape of Bulgarian forward Valeri Bojinov and experienced defender Christian Panucci. Those two will be crucial to Parma’s hopes of survival in Serie A. Positive progress fromDucali’s list of youngsters would help too, with McDonald Mariga, Alberto Paloschi and Davide Lanzafame hopefully ready to step up. But Guidolin will be aggressive yet modest, survival is the goal.
**Fantasy Gun; **Christian Panucci
*Last season; *‘6th (18-9-11)**Top scorer;’ Francesco Totti (13)
AS Roma missed the UEFA Champions League spots last season and now the pressure is firmly on boss Luciano Spalletti. The *Giallarossi *boss continues to deliver entertaining football at the Stadio Olimpico but seemingly at the expense of a tight defence. Roma conceded a horrible 61 goals in Serie A last season, so if progress is going to be made, it’ll require improvements in defence.
Nevertheless, the powers that be at AS Roma haven’t been willing to bring players in during the summer, with the only acquisition of note being winger Stefano Guberti. Roma have also lost Alberto Aquilani to Liverpool but on the positive side, they’ve retained defender Marco Motta. Throw in names such as Daniele De Rossi, Julio Baptista and Francesco Totti and it’s clear Roma will be challenging the elite.
The major concerns for Spalletti are centre-half Philippe Mexes’s plight after a mixed campaign last time out, along with Totti’s fitness as the superstar heads well into veteran status. Roma also had a slow start last campaign and Spalletti will be weary of a similar occurrence but with an early start to this season (due to the Europa League) perhaps the reverse could happen. The Scudetto seems out of reach for Roma, but the top four is a chance. De Rossi is the one who will need to lead the way.
Fantasy Gun; Daniele De Rossi
*Last season;’ 13th (11-13-14)*Top scorer;’ Antonio Cassano (12)
Luigi Del Neri has arrived in Genoa to re-direct the Sampdoria ship back to where it was going in 2007-2008. After their sixth place finish of that season, the *Blucerchiati *struggled last term with a slow start before finishing strong enough to easily avoid a relegation battle. But with a squad boasting stars like Antonio Cassano, Del Neri has been brought in to get Sampdoria pushing for Europe.
Cassano is Sampdoria’s key man, but his inconsistency led to the side’s inconsistency. Nevertheless, when strike partner Gianpaolo Pazzini arrived at the club in January, the pair discovered a promising relationship, which bodes well for the future. Angelo Palombo, Daniele Dessena and new signing Fernando Tissone boast quality too, so Sampdoria has reason for optimism.
Despite a change in coach, Sampdoria haven’t made too many changes on the field, which is potentially a good sign for a side who improved in the second half of last season. Del Neri is an astute manager who won’t settle for second best at the Luigi Ferraris, so Sampdoria may just mount a worthy challenge for European qualification.
**Fantasy Gun; **Antonio Cassano
*Last season; *‘14th (12-8-18)**Top scorer;’ Massimo Maccarone (9)
Siena seem to just keep on finding away to survive in Serie A, with boss Marco Giampaolo guiding them to a relatively safe 14th place finish last term. Nevertheless, another relegation battle for the Bianconeri is on the cards.
Siena were quite solid at the back last season but have lost defensive pair Daniele Portanova to Bologna and Juan Zuniga to Napoli. Another departure is creative midfielder Houssine Kharja to Genoa. But Siena have added Juve pair Albin Ekdal and Michele Paolucci along with Cagliari midfielder Michele Fini. Having scored the second fewest goals in Serie A last season, Paolucci’s arrival as well as that of Brazilian hitman Reginaldo, is a welcome boost for the Robur.
And Siena seem to always uncover a few gems and as previous mentioned, they seem to always find a way to survive. Clearly, Giampaolo has a few tricks up his sleeve. And if Siena can score a few more goals, then there’s no doubt they’ll be capable of staying up yet again.
**Fantasy Gun; **Simone Vergassola
*Last season; *‘7th (16-10-12)**Top scorer; ‘Fabio Quagliarella (13)
After a season riddled with inconsistency, Udinese will be hoping boss Pasquale Marino can get them playing the way they did late last season with a push for European football in mind. Incredibly, Udinese went the furthest of any Italian club in Europe last season but perhaps that came at the expense of their league campaign. So now, without any distractions, Marino might be able to steer them into a top six finish.
And despite the loss of key attacker Fabio Quagliarella to Napoli, *Zebrette *have a long list of forward options and remain strong, as 61 goals last season indicates. Antonio Di Natale and Simone Pepe are arguably the guns in attack, while Gaetano D’Agostino (who stays at the club despite a transfer saga with Juventus) is creator in the middle. Plus they’ve added powerful striker Bernardo Corradi from relegated Reggina.
Should Di Natale regain his full fitness, Udinese may have the ability to mount a serious challenge in the top quarter of the league. Udinese’s youthful defenders like Chilean Mauricio Isla, Andrea Coda and Cristian Zapata will need to find their feet on the road, with the club’s away form proving costly at times. But Marino’s attacking approach may need to be restrained too, in search of some consistency.
**Fantasy Gun; **Gaetano D’Agostino