Chievo Verona broke into the top 10 last term and finished ninth, four clear of 10th placed Empoli and four points off 9th placed Lazio in what can definitely be regarded as a fine season, especially having finished in 14th the season before and very narrowly avoiding relegation placing 16th the season before that.
Consolidating in the top half
This season, the obvious objective is to ensure they remain within the top 10 and don’t teeter towards the relegation zone all too often. Perhaps optimistically, they could aim for a Europa League spot but that isn’t as likely with the teams who secured the spots for this coming and those who narrowly missed out all strengthening in a hope of retaining or securing a spot. They finished 11 points off sixth place and as tough a pill it will be to swallow should take great pride in a finish between 7th and 9th, where they finished last term.
A horrible start to the season
The Flying Donkeys have been handed arguably the worst start possible. They start the season welcoming a rejuvenated Inter side before travelling to Florence to do battle with Fiorentina and then come up against Lazio in Rome. A game with Udinese will be a huge relief on match day four but on match day five they face tough opposition again in Sassuolo before rounding up their opening six with a tie against last year’s runners up Napoli. Chievo manage a single victory against Lazio last term but asides from that failed to beat any of the other sides last term in both meetings and could find themselves in danger very quickly.
Their closing six fixtures are a lot more kinder. First up is Torino at home then a trip to Genoa follows on matchday 33. They then play host to Palermo and Roma either side of an away game with Sampdoria before wrapping up the 2016/17 Serie A season with a game against Atalanta.
With the relegation of arch rivals Hellas last year, Chievo have no major derbies to look forward to this term but can claim the city as their own being the side in the higher league.
Ins: Paul-Jose M’Poku ( Standard Liege - £3.4m ), Fabio Daprela ( free transfer ), Stefano Sorrentino ( free transfer ), Luca Baldassin ( free transfer ), Antonio Cinelli ( free transfer ), Federico Alonzi ( free transfer ), Mattia Bani ( free transfer ), Antonio Floro Flores ( free transfer ), Fabrizio Danese ( free transfer ) and Fabrizio Cacciatore ( free transfer )
Paul-Jose M’Poku is no stranger to the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi having played on loan last term. He didn’t provide any goals or assists but has obviously left a lasting impression on the coaching team. A high fee will come with high expectations and longer spells in the first team this term may enable him to play to his full potential. Stefano Sorrentino is no stranger either having made over 150 appearances in gialloblu and brings massive experience to the side. Antonio Floro Flores, Fabrizio Cacciatore also made loan moves permanent.
Outs*: Nikola Ninkovic ( Genoa – 468K ), Fabian Sporkslede ( NAC Breda – free transfer ), Albano Bizzarri ( Pescara – free transfer ), Edimar ( Cruzeiro – free transfer ), Simone Pepe ( released ), Walter Bressan ( released ), Giampiero Pinzi ( released ).
*plus 22 loans and 4 expired loans
The name that instantly jumps out is that of Simone Pepe. The veteran, who has four scudetto to his name came in last August and spent just under half the season out injured. He arrived and was expected to do an alright job at minimum, despite being past his best years, but ultimately failed hence there being no extension to what was initially a one-year-deal.
Keeping the squad together
As aforementioned, there was a trio of players who turned loan moves into permanent moves and very few exits involving key players from last year. The squad is by no means a young one and with many in the twilight years of their careers and most of the squad’s deals expiring, there will no doubt be many inspired performances from those wanting to perhaps go out on a high or those wishing to extend their stay in Verona further.
Stefano Sorrentino is likely to take the number one jersey for the season, with well over 300 appearances in Italian football, the majority of which coming in the top flight giving the side another veteran presence in and a great leader too.
Defensively, Chievo have plenty depth and can definitely out fox some of the younger sides in the league lacking experience. Last season they had the eighth best defensive record which shows life in the old boys yet.
In midfield, they’re very well set and influential Valter Birsa is likely to lead the way while their abundance of wingers will all be trying twice as hard to ensure they keep a place in the team when granted the opportunity, fine well knowing two or three others can come in in place of them.
Long serving Sergio Pellissier is still at the disposal of the gialloblu this term as he enters his sixteenth season with them. Not one for scoring lots of goals, Pellissier will be heavily relied on to keep the morale in the dressing room having been with the side when they first entered Serie A 16 years ago. Riccardo Meggiorini will likely be the go to man for goals having netted five last season while giving a helping hand in eight other goals. The loss of Alberto Paloschi in January was a sore blow to take with him on par to easily hit double figures leaving with eight goals at the time and it is perhaps only striker where they could really improve on.
Birsa to bring brilliance
Slovenian midfielder Valter Birsa is going to be the star man for Chievo this term and will be expected to continue last season’s impressive form of six goals and seven assists into this term possibly even breaking double figures in one of if not both of them.
Maran still in charge
Rolando Maran is in control for a third season running and will no doubt be heavily calling on the veterans to deliver. Maran still has two years on his current contract and given success this season will likely head the new era at the club as many of the veterans hang up their boots. There is unlikely to be much fiddling with the tactics either that secured them their high finish last year and the 4-3-1-2 is likely to be in use from the word go.
Will they meet objectives?
With a horrible start, Chievo could very well find themselves in danger sooner rather than later but keeping largely the same squad has its benefits and they can certainly build on last season given they don’t lose morale before the season has really got going after just six weeks. A similar placing definitely isn’t out with their capability.