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Wednesday February 27 2013
Maran’s marauding Catania

Rolando Maran’s Catania are being spoken of as potential European qualifiers after a fantastic season to date. Luca Cetta praises the Etnei

Sicily’s Serie A representatives are currently experiencing contrasting fortunes. While Palermo struggle from one crisis to another – Gian Piero Gasperini is back in the coaching hotseat three weeks after being dismissed – Catania purr smoothly. So smoothly in fact, they are being spoken of as possible European qualifiers.

The Elefantini have quietly progressed to seventh, with victories over impressive duo Lazio and Fiorentina, plus Roma, standouts. After 26 matches they sit just two points from the Europa League places and five from the Champions League. President Antonino Pulvirenti declared this week “just to even be in the European fight is an honour.”

Their latest result was a 2-1 victory at Parma – where they had never triumphed – secured with 10 men following Nicola Legrottaglie’s dismissal. First half goals from Francesco Lodi and Keko sealed only their third away win of the campaign.

Catania are on track to surpass their highest number of home wins – 11 – in a Serie A campaign, currently two adrift of that number. Their record at the fortress Stadio Angelo Massimino is a major catalyst for this Euro push. It is away from the foot of Mount Etna where the concern lies. Since returning to the top flight in 2006-07, Catania have won just 12 matches on the road, with this season’s three the most since that first one back.

Yet simply avoiding relegation is no longer the aim. “It is something to be very proud of that we no longer have to talk about safety in February,” said Coach Rolando Maran. “We are doing something great and we know it. Now we must target other objectives, but always remaining humble.”

Midfielder Lucas Castro, one of 10 Argentines in the squad, has lofty aspirations. “It's important for us to reach Europe next season...The goal is to go as far as possible and to pursue as high a position as possible.”

Following their weekend triumph Maran had to rein in expectations. “Champions League places? Let’s not go overboard…” But they are glancing at competitions alien to them. “We can’t hide anymore,” noted Pulvirenti. “We owe it to the city and the fans to try to stay onboard that train of dreams which could take us into Europe.”

Catania’s highest ever Serie A finish is eighth, achieved twice in the 1960s. They are on target to eclipse that mark despite losing the impressive Vincenzo Montella at the conclusion of last term and hiring Serie A novice Maran. The 49-year-old had never contested a top-flight campaign in 30 years as a player and Coach before moving to Sicily, but after guiding Varese to the Serie B Play-Off Final, the Trento native has seized the opportunity.

Maran has continued Montella’s path, building upon a strong spine in a 4-3-3 shape. Central defensive pairing Legrottaglie and Nicolas Spolli protect Mariano Andujar, while midfielder Mariano Izco, Lodi and Sergio Almiron offer a mixture of battling and creative qualities.

Star regista Lodi was so impressive last term he was considered by Cesare Prandelli for the Euro 2012 squad. That form has carried over to the new season and with it has come interest from Milan and Inter.

Further afield is a trident attack which includes pocket rocket Alejandro Gomez – another to command interest elsewhere, including from Montella, who wanted to take him to Fiorentina – and Gonzalo Bergessio, their leading scorer with seven.

Catania are not exactly prolific scorers – just 34 goals in 26 games – but a miserly home defensive record – only 10 goals conceded – and a 2013 consisting of just one loss and two goals conceded in eight matches means they are to be taken seriously in the European reckoning.

There’s no avoiding the subject given the constant reminders of their position. Whether Catania can book trips to Britain and Eastern Europe later this year may be determined in the next month. The Etnei face Inter, Juventus, Udinese and Lazio in a March of truth. Should they achieve the target or not, credit must go to Maran and his squad for an outstanding campaign.

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Have your say...
Just goes to show what good coaching and a hard working bunch of players can do. Solid at home is the key for Catania. I think they'll just miss out on European football, but impressive stuff from a smaller club with limited funds.
on the 1st March, 2013 at 6:18am
@ Daniel Giambrone

I agree that there are too many teams in the Serie A that are reliant on foreigners. I picked on Inter particularly because they have had their share or Argentine recruits and Catania has just as many Argentines, if not more.
on the 28th February, 2013 at 8:33am
Catania have done well in 2areas. 1.being open minded whilst also being a tad fortunate with their selection of coaches. a dip was projected post montella, but that hasn't been the case at all. consistency with style and mentality is crucial. 2.they also have a president who has stood firm when it has come to other clubs wanting their top players. they have managed to hold onto the spine of the team, and the progression is there for all to see. Marchese is v.underrated&Lodi is a polished gem.
on the 27th February, 2013 at 3:11pm
Vito Doria, you could argue that there are many "mini-Inter's" in Serie A. Teams such as: Catania, Udinese, Lazio, Fiorentina etc only seem to field 2-3 Italians per game, (if that). I don't like this, especially when Italy is producing a large amount of promising young players. At present, in the BPL, only 30% of the players are English. In Serie A, foreign players make up over half the numbers. Inter really bug me because they have some amazing young Italians, but don't give them a chance.
on the 27th February, 2013 at 2:41pm
let's face it! Catania is doing a good job, so as other Serie A teams such as Fiorentina. Ther is going to be an interesting matches ahead; something to show the spectators that Serie A has quality which is not found in other European Leagues. The Margin is narrow between the teams that are in 2nd to 8th place currently. The power of Italian clubs come out in months of March & April, so just imagine the neck to neck challenges that will be between clubs like; Lazio, Fiorentina, Roman, InterMilan
on the 27th February, 2013 at 12:35pm
Thanks to their plethora of Argentinians, Catania could be classified as a mini-Inter. Jokes aside, they work on a budget like Udinese and they can punch above their weight.

Lodi is my favourite player in Catania's squad. Aside from Pirlo, he is the best free-kick taker in the Serie A.
on the 27th February, 2013 at 11:23am

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