Some key departures threatened to rock Sassuolo, but, Ciro Di Brita says, it's all about what happens up front.
Coach: Roberto De Zerbi
Last season: 11th, 43 points
Player of the Year 2018-19: Domenico Berardi
Look out for: Francesco Caputo
Sassuolo finished in 11th place in the Serie A table last season on 43 points, only five ahead of Empoli, who dropped down to Serie B in the last relegation spot. However, they pretty much downed tools for their final four games where they failed to win and picked up only two points with two home draws against Frosinone and Roma.
The Neroverdi had a great start to their last campaign with wins over Inter, Genoa and Empoli in their first three home games. Their good home form was the reason they avoided the drop, losing just four times in total last term, against Milan, Juventus, Atalanta, and Sampdoria.
On the road they ran into trouble, winning just four times on the travels, against SPAL, Chievo, Frosinone, and a floundering Fiorentina side in April. De Zerbi’s men found scoring difficult in the second half of the season, where they found the back of the net on just 23 occasions.
This summer saw the departures of some of last season’s key players, such as Merih Demiral, who joined champions Juventus, Stefano Sensi, who left for Inter, and Kevin Prince-Boateng, snapped up by Fiorentina.
Ciccio Caputo arrived after proving his goalscoring ability with Empoli in the previous campaign, while Pedro Obiang returned to the peninsula after his stint in London with West Ham. Young midfield prospect Hamed Junior Traore, who also shined for the relegated Tuscan club, will have another year to impress in Serie A. Meanwhile, German right-back Jeremy Toljan has come in from Borussia Dortmund and will replace Pol Lirola, who joined La Viola.
Sassuolo have changed their line-up dramatically over the past couple of years and this year’s squad seems to be a bit more physical and imposing than the previous few collections.
With Obiang, Traore, Mehdi Bourabia, Alfred Duncan, Jeremie Boga, and Manuel Locatelli fighting it out alongside captain Francesco Magnanelli for a place in the midfield, Coach De Zerbi has a wide selection of players to choose from.
If he can get forwards Caputo and Berardi firing on all cylinders his side could have an outside chance of competing for a Europa League qualification spot - on, the other hand, if they struggle to find any cohesion up front it could be another long hard difficult season for the Neroverdi.
The Coach: Roberto De Zerbi
Roberto De Zerbi made his name at Benevento by playing an attacking brand of football and was hired by the Neroverdi last year to reignite what had become a boring team after Eusebio De Francesco left for Roma.
Last season there were glimpses of some decent football as they did just about enough to comfortably stay up, this year he’ll want his side to do a bit better.
Key summer signing: Francesco Caputo
Journeyman Francesco Caputo almost kept Empoli in Serie A last season single handed by finding the back of the net 16 times. Sassuolo wisely decided to bring the Apulian hitman in to add some much-needed firepower, as they struggled for goals last season. Domenico Berardi was their top goal scorer last term with a paltry return of eight.
Key summer sale: Stefano Sensi
Diminutive playmaker Stefano Sensi joined Inter in a deal potentially worth around €25m this summer and the Italy international has hit the ground running for the Nerazzurri. Sassuolo have replaced him with former Sampdoria midfielder Pedro Obiang.
Predicted XI [4-3-3]: Consigli; Toljan, Ferrari, Marlon, Rogerio; Bourabia, Locatelli, Obiang; Berardi, Caputo, Boga