Simply beating relegation will make for a successful season for Hellas Verona, who needed the play-offs to win promotion, Stefan Girasoli writes.
Coach: Ivan Juric
Last season: Fifth in Serie B, promoted through the play-offs
Player of the Year 2018-19: Giampaolo Pazzini
Look out for: Darko Lazovic
Prediction: Fighting for survival
It was a rollercoaster ride for Hellas Verona last season, finishing fifth in Italy’s second tier culminating in a back door entrance to Serie A through the play-offs. However they are back in the big time again after a one-year absence thanks to an incredible comeback victory against nine-man Cittadella.
Hellas were two goals down after the first leg but recovered in dramatic style. The goals came from Mattia Zaccagni, Samuel Di Carmine and Karim Laribi to send the club from the City of Love into euphoria at the final whistle.
It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing and at the beginning of May this achievement seemed a long way off as World Cup winner Fabio Grosso was sacked after a poor run of results. The final straw proved to be a shock 3-2 home defeat to Livorno. Alfredo Aglietti swiftly replaced him and managed the incredible feat of promotion although strangely was not confirmed for the following season to continue his good work at a higher level.
Nevertheless, it’s been a positive summer in terms of results for Verona and new coach Ivan Juric with some fairly respectable results in high-profile friendlies. Draws against Hoffenheim and Trabzonspor were encouraging, although reaching the objective of beating relegation will still be enormously difficult. The goal is no doubt to maintain their top flight status and build again next summer.
Hellas will of course look again to the ever-green Giampaolo Pazzini, who bagged 13 goals in all competitions last season, to up his tally with more of the same. They will also need forward Samuel Di Carmine’s goals after 11 Serie B strikes last term. The team only scored 49 goals in the last regular season - all teams above them netting more - while they shipped 46 at the other end.
They have though gone down the most sensible route they could this summer, it could be argued, by bringing in a mixture of some exciting young players and Serie A proven players who Juric knows well from his Genoa days.
Other low cost options include more steel to the defence with Pawel Dawidowicz from Benfica B and Kosovo talent Amir Rrahmani from Dinamo Zagreb, along with former Italian international Salvatore Bochetti on a free, having been released by Spartak Moscow, and Koray Gunter on loan from Genoa with the option to buy. A wise purchase on-paper is Emmanuel Badu in the engine room, from Udinese, who could be another shrewd free purchase. Darko Lazovic is somewhat of a coup in right midfield with a host of other Serie A teams interested and Gennaro Tutino has joined from Napoli on loan to assist in attack.
British interest will also be peaked to see how young Scottish talent “Braveheart” Liam Henderson adapts to Italy’s premier competition. Judging by his social media account he is very much looking forward to his first taste of Serie A football after successful seasons in Serie B with Bari and then Verona.
Unfortunately for the supporters, there will be no Derby Della Scala this year with housemates and local rivals Chievo having swapped divisions. All hopes of a renewed rivalry are pinned on a Coppa meeting.
The Coach: Ivan Juric
Sacked by Genoa in December last year, the Croatian will have the remit of keeping the Gialloblu afloat and likely with his preferred style, a flat 3-5-2. If the friendlies are a sign to go by he will adopt a similar approach again for the new season. But if the results don’t come, he’ll be in the firing line.
Key summer signing: Miguel Veloso
Juric knows Veloso very well having brought him back to Genoa in the summer of 2016 and he pounced again in the summer window on his tried and tested man, grabbing Veloso on a free transfer. The former Portugal international will be key in midfield with his footballing intelligence and experience.
Key summer sale: None
Apart from minor outgoings so far this window Verona have managed to keep hold of key players and add to them with improvements in other positions.
Predicted XI [3-5-2]: Silvestri; Rrahmani, Kumbulla, Empereur; Zaccagni, Veloso, Badu, Henderson, Vitale; Pazzini, Di Carmine