serie A season preview

Atalanta

In:
Moussa Kone (mid)(Pescara, end of loan); Ivan Radovanovic (mid)(Novara, end of loan); Davide Brivio (def)(Lecce); Carlos Matheu (def)(Independiente); Facundo Parra (att)(Chacarita Juniors, on loan)

Out:
Matteo Brighi (mid)(Roma, end of loan); Cristiano Doni (att)(released); Massimo Mutarelli (mid)(released); Alessandro Carrozza (mid)(Varese, end of loan); Nadir Minotti (mid)(Lanciano, on loan); Andrea Masiello (def)(released)

In the past season, Atalanta looked like the perfect candidate for an immediate return to the Serie B where they were coming from. In fact, they were about to face the whole campaign with a heavy point-deduction and they did not seem particularly solid. Against all odds, they turned out to be one of the main surprises of the Italian football and they succeeded reaching safety with some ease. Actually, had it not been for the 6-point deduction, they could have aspired to a qualification to the Europa League. Now, Atalanta are expected to confirm all the good done in the previous season. For such a reason, the management confirmed coach Colantuono and the whole squad. In fact, apart from Doni, whose career ended with a suspension, Brighi, whose loan ended, and Andrea Masiello, who will be suspended because of match-fixing, no other relevant players left. Youngsters like Carrozza and Minotti were given the chance to earn some playing time somewhere around the Peninsula. Colantuono should thus be able to rely on an unaltered starting eleven with only one exception. Instead of suspended, and released, Masiello, the newly-arrived Matheu should be acting as a right-back. The feeling is that they lack some alternative to Denis up-front. In the past season, they relied too much on his goal-scoring capabilities. At the moment, they got a 2-point suspension because of match-fixing.

Target:
Atalanta should manage not being involved in the struggle to avoid relegation. However, in order to confirm an extraordinary campaign as the past one, players like Schelotto, Denis and Moralez will have to repeat themselves and this could not be that easy.

Bologna

In:
Marti Riverola (mid)(Barcelona), Cristian Pasquato (att)(Udinese, on loan); Gianluca Curci (gk)(Roma); Mathias Abero (def)(Nacional Montevideo); Rogerio Carvalho (def)(Genoa); Marco Motta (def)(Juventus, on loan); Tiberio Guarente (mid)(Sevilla); Cesare Natali (def)(free agent); Federico Rodriguez (att)(Piacenza, end of loan)

Out:
Matteo Rubin (def)(Siena); Luigi Vitale (def)(Napoli, end of loan); Andrea Raggi (def)(Monaco); Gabi Mudingayi (mid)(Inter); Marco Di Vaio (att)(released); Ishak Belfodil (att)(Parma); Simone Loria (def)(end of loan); Jean-François Gillet (gk)(Torino)

In the past season, since coach Pioli’s arrival at the helm of the team, after a tragic beginning with Bisoli in charge, Bologna became one of the most interesting teams of the Serie A. Their second half of the season was characterized by an outstanding run that brought them from the dangerous grounds all the way up to the 9th standing of the table. Protagonists of such run were players like Ramirez, Diamanti and captain Di Vaio. Of these three stars, so far, only Diamanti was confirmed despite the offers made by some richer clubs. In fact, Ramirez is on the verge of leaving while Di Vaio joined Montreal Impact after 4 seasons and 65 goals scored for Bologna. Unfortunately for Pioli, this one was not the only important departure. Bologna lost at least one regular in all sides of the pitch. In goals, Gillet joined Torino and his place in the starting eleven should be taken by Agliardi, who had the opportunity to show his own skills in more than one occasion in the past season. The back three was weakened by Raggi’s departure for Monaco but the management wisely signed Natali in. The former Fiorentina defender should provide the otherwise young squad with some experience and muscles. In the midfield, Mudingayi’s departure will certainly represent a major loss. Krhin will be expected to replace him, taking the squad on his shoulders after a rather dull season. Riverola, who signed in from Barcelona, could replace Ramirez, in case of the latter’s departure, as the attacking midfielder to support Acquafresca, who will have to prove that he is not the bad player seen in the last couple of seasons. Pasquato and Carvalho could provide more depth both in the attack and the defence. Motta seems likely to earn himself a place on the right flank of the midfield, since Rubin returned to Siena. Portanova, who is involved in the match-fixing scandal, is risking a meaningful suspension.

Target:
Bologna should not have too many problems in reaching a quiet safety but a lot will depend on Pioli’s ability in blending in the new-comers with the rest of the squad. Ramirez’s loss, in case he was sold, could prove to be deadly for them.

Cagliari

In:
Marco Sau (att)(Juve Stabia, end of loan); Luca Rossettini (def)(Siena); Vincenzo Camilleri (def)(Reggina, on loan); Danilo Avelar (def)(Karpaty)

Out:
Michele Canini (def)(Genoa); Moestafa El Kabir (att)(Mijallby, on loan); Alessandro Agostini (def)(released); Rui Sampaio (mid)(Olhanense, on loan)

After another disappointing campaign, characterized by an anonymous fifteenth standing on the table and an array of different men in charge of the team, one might have expected Cagliari management to be particularly active during the transfer season. As occurred in the previous summer, though, this did not happen. It almost feels as if President Cellino had lost whatever interest he had in the team and in its strengthening. Coach Ficcadenti, who was confirmed at the helm despite two not particularly brilliant stints at the beginning and at the end of the past season, so far saw the departure of two players only. In fact, Canini joined in Genoa while El Kabir made the journey back to Sweden, where he was coming from. Only the former was a regular in the starting eleven and his place should be taken by Rossettini, who arrived from Siena. Among the youths who arrived during this summer, Sau could become a protagonist of the next season. While on loan at Juve Stabia in Serie B, he succeeded scoring 21 goals. He should become a scoring alternative to Pinilla, with Ibarbo and Thiago Ribeiro more likely to start from the bench. Even though they were not particularly active during the transfer season, Cagliari at least managed to confirm the spine of the squad with players like Astori and Nainggolan, thus resisting to the several offers received from some bigger clubs.

Target:
Cagliari should not be involved in the fight to avoid relegation since the backbone of the squad is a valid one. However, they do not seem likely to reach anything more than a quiet safety. The top ten would be a bonus.

Catania

In:
Pablo Alvarez (mid)(Saragozza, end of loan); Mariano Andujar (gk)(Estudiantes, end of loan); Mirko Antenucci (att)(Torino, end of loan); Keko (mid)(Grosseto, end of loan); Federico Moretti (mid)(Grosseto, end of loan); Fabio Sciacca (mid)(Grosseto, end of loan); Rafael Martinho (mid)(Cesena, end of loan); Souleymane Doukara (att)(Vibonese); Takayuki Morimoto (att)(Novara, end of loan); Amidu Salifu (mid)(Fiorentina, on loan); Alberto Frison (gk)(Vicenza); Lucas Castro (mid)(Racing)

Out:
Felipe Seymour (mid)(Genoa, end of loan); Giulio Ebagua (att)(Varese, end of loan); Marco Motta (def)(Juventus, end of loan); Juan Pablo Carrizo (gk)(Lazio, end of loan); Tomas Kosicky (gk)(Novara, on loan); David Suazo (att)(released); Andrea Campagnolo (gk)(released); Luca Calapai (def)(Barletta); Rafael Martinho (mid)(Verona)

After a few turbulent seasons, characterized by disastrous beginnings and some brilliant second halves of the campaign, with Montella in charge Catania succeeded coming real close to making history. In fact, up to some stage they seemed to be capable of reaching an unpredictable and unhoped-for qualification to the European competitions. Eventually, right when consistency was needed from them, they started losing several games in a row and so it was the end for their dreams of glory. And they even fell out of the top ten. Unfortunately for them, coach Montella decided to leave after one season only and he joined in a richer Fiorentina. Catania management opted for a seasoned replacement even though with no experience at all in the top flight of the Italian football. 49-year-old Maran made some impression when he reached the Serie B with Cittadella due to the aggressiveness and the quality of the play offered. After some not particularly bright experiences, he obtained some plause while at helm of Varese in the past season. Maran will be given an almost unaltered squad comparing to the past campaign. In fact, apart from Carrizo, who returned to Lazio, and Motta, who ended up in Bologna, only some fringe players left the team during the summer. In goals, Frison from Vicenza, at his first experience in Serie A, seems likely to make the starting eleven. Alvarez, who is back after spending some time with Zaragoza, should make it back as a right-back. Maran usually adopts an hyper-offensive 4-4-2 and this could mean some main change for Catania, who have been playing in a 4-3-3 formation for several seasons. In the attack, Bergessio and Gomez could have an alternative in Morimoto and Antenucci, who are both back from some spells on loan. Thanks to the return of several loanees and to the arrival of a few new youngsters, Maran could have to deal with an excessively wide squad.

Target:
Catania should be able to reach safety easily but it will depend a lot on how rapidly Maran will be able to adapt himself to the Serie A. And his players to the new formation.

Chievo Verona

In:
Roberto Guana (mid)(Cesena, end of loan); Pablo Granoche (att)(Varese, end of loan); Paul Papp (def)(Vaslui); Pavol Farkas (def)(Vaslui); Isaac Cofie (mid)(Sassuolo); David Di Michele (att)(Lecce); Adrian Stoian (mid)(Bari); Marco Rigoni (mid)(Novara)

Out:
Michael Bradley (mid)(Roma); Nikola Gulan (def)(Fiorentina, end of loan); Paolo Sammarco (mid)(Spezia); Francesco Acerbi (def)(Milan); Davide Mandelli (def)(released); Fernando Uribe (att)(Nacional); Mickael Facchinetti (def)(Lausanne)

Since their first arrival in the top flight of the Italian football in 2001, Chievo Verona’s transfer campaigns have been characterized by several departures among the key stars and the arrival of groups of young or experienced players coming from not particularly successful seasons. So far, this policy paid off and, apart from being relegated once, they always managed to survive in Serie A. As a matter of fact, in the recent past, with Di Carlo, Pioli and then Di Carlo again in charge, Chievo Verona managed to reach safety with quite some ease. Actually, they could have gone for more than just a place in the top ten but, whenever expected to make a quantum leap, they always failed to for some reason or another. This summer proved to be no exception to the rule. Coach Di Carlo saw Bradley and Acerbi, two of the main players from the past season, go. Together with them a whole group of players, who had hardly had any chances to earn any playing time, left too. Uribe, Mandelli, Gulan will all be wearing other shirts in the next season. With Bradley gone to Roma, Rigoni arrived from Novara. He could act as the attacking midfielder in a diamond or on the flanks of the midfield. Papp should take Acerbi’s place in the heart of the defence. Di Michele’s arrival should strengthen an attack that, in the past season, was only better than Cesena’s, who ended up at the bottom of the Serie A. Apart from these experienced new-comers, it has to be seen whether among the players returning from loan, such as Guana and Granoche, or the new youths, such as Stoian and Cofie, someone will be able to earn some playing time.

Target:
Chievo Verona are aiming at a quiet safety and they should reach it with some ease as long as the newly-arrived will be able to blend in together with the others.

Fiorentina

In:
Haris Seferovic (att)(Lecce, end of loan); Ahmed Hegazi (def)(Ismaily); Mounir El Hamdaoui (att)(Ajax); Facundo Roncaglia (def)(Boca Juniors); Francesco Della Rocca (mid)(Palermo); Emiliano Viviano (gk)(Palermo); Cristiano Lupatelli (gk)(Genoa); Juan Cuadrado (mid)(Udinese, on loan); Matias Fernandez (mid)(Sporting CP); Borja Valero (mid)(Villareal); Gonzalo Rodriguez (def)(Villarreal); Alberto Aquilani (mid)(Liverpool); David Pizarro (mid)(Roma)

Out:
Amidu Salifu (mid)(Catania, on loan); Riccardo Montolivo (mid)(released); Edoardo Pazzagli (gk)(Milan); Amauri (att)(released); Daniel Kofi Agyei (mid)(Juve Stabia, on loan); Matos (att)(Bahia); Houssine Kharja (mid)(El Arabi); Per Kroldup (def)(released); Cesare Natali (def)(released); Marco Marchionni (mid)(released); Alessandro Gamberini (def)(Napoli); Valon Behrami (mid)(Napoli); Lorenzo De Silvestri (def)(Sampdoria, on loan)

Since coach Prandelli left the team in order to become the manager of the Italian national team, Fiorentina turned into some extras of the Italian Serie A. They just became incapable of fighting for anything more than a place in the limbo, that is far away from the European spots and from relegation. A big change was needed at a managerial level and so it was decided that Montella, who had brilliantly impressed with Catania, was the right man. This change at the helm of the team was also accompanied by a real revolution in the squad. No less than seven regular players from the previous season were let go. Among them, Montolivo, Behrami, Natali, Gamberini and Amauri. Unlike the past season when almost no new players had arrived during the summer, this time Fiorentina management made quite an effort in order to strengthen the squad and to replace some of the players who left. In goals, Viviano will take Boruc’s place since the Polish international was released. Roncaglia and Rodriguez will be expected to act in the back three together with confirmed Nastasic. The midfield was utterly renewed: Borja Valero, Pizarro, Aquilani and Cuadrado are all expected to provide both the quality and the muscles that were missing in the recent past. In the attack, El Hamdaoui, who joins in with one-year delay, will make it straight to the starting eleven. Fiorentina supporters hope that Jovetic will not be sold before the end of the transfer season, as it appears likely, for it would be a major blow since no comparable player was hired.

Target:
Fiorentina have all the potential needed in order to fight for a place in the European competitions but it will all depend on how rapidly coach Montella is able to blend in such a group of players coming from so many different teams and leagues. Players who are often looking for a personal redemption.

Genoa

In:
Felipe Seymour (mid)(Catania, end of loan); Ciro Immobile (att)(Pescara, end of loan); Sebastien Ribas (att)(Sporting CP, end of loan); Dejan Lazarevic (mid)(Padova, end of loan); Diego Polenta (def)(Bari, end of loan); Vincenzo Rennella (att)(Cesena, end of loan); Steve Von Bergen (def)(Cesena); Andy Polo (att)(Universitario); Daniel Toszer (mid)(Genk); Anselmo (att)(Palmeiras); Michele Canini (def)(Cagliari); Julian Velazquez (def)(Independiente); Andrea Bertolacci (mid)(Lecce); Nenad Tomovic (def)(Lecce); Giammario Piscitella (att)(Roma); Alexander Merkel (mid)(Milan); Alexandros Tzorvas (gk)(Palermo); Jara Martinez (att)(Palermo, on loan)

Out:
Rodrigo Palacio (att)(Inter); Kevin Constant (mid)(Milan); Giuseppe Sculli (att)(Lazio, end of loan); Fernando Belluschi (mid)(Porto, end of loan); Cristiano Lupatelli (gk)(Fiorentina); Miguel Veloso (mid)(Dinamo Kyiv); Kaka Kaladze (def)(retired); Steve Von Bergen (def)(Palermo);

Ever since they made it back to the top flight of the Italian football, Genoa have been trying to become one of the protagonists of the Serie A. Thanks to President Preziosi, loads and loads of cash have been spent during the summer in order to strengthen the team and to make it a competitive one. Quite paradoxically, with the passing of time, Genoa have become worse and worse. In fact, at the very beginning, with Gasperini at the helm, they even managed to compete for a European spots while in the very last season, at some stage, they found themselves fighting in order to avoid relegation. Another summer and another group of new faces joined in while one main player ended up leaving, lured by the money of one bigger club. For sure, Palacio’s departure to Inter represents a major loss for Genoa but, to tell the truth, his absence could allow Gilardino to get back to his usual scoring standards. Standards he could not reach while pairing with the Argentinean striker. Coach De Canio, who was confirmed after sealing safety in the last weeks of the past season, will have to deal with a completely renewed squad. Canini, Velazquez and Tomovic will be expected to bring some solidity to a defence that conceded 69 goals in the past season. Genoa had, by far, the worst defence of the Serie A. Toszer, Bertolacci and Anselmo could give some depth to a midfield that lost Miguel Veloso and Constant. Kucka will have to prove that he is a leader in the middle of the park. As for the attack, apart from Gilardino, De Canio will be able to count on Immobile, the top scorer of the past Serie B with 28 goals. Few teams can boast such a firepower up-front. Genoa are risking some point-deduction due to the allegations of an involvement in the match-fixing scandal. A final decision will be taken in September.

Target:
Genoa should be able to avoid the mazes of the fight for safety but they do not seem capable of making the quantum leap needed to reach a European spot. De Canio could be the right man in the right place, though.

Internazionale

In:
Philippe Coutinho (att)(Espanyol, end of loan); Jonathan (def)(Parma, end of loan); McDonald Mariga (mid)(Parma, end of loan); Rodrigo Palacio (att)(Genoa); Giulio Donati (def)(Padova, end of loan); Samir Handanovic (gk)(Udinese); Matias Silvestre (def)(Palermo); Gabi Mudingayi (mid)(Bologna)

Out:
Mauro Zarate (att)(Lazio, end of loan); Angelo Palombo (mid)(Sampdoria, end of loan); Andrea Poli (mid)(Sampdoria, end of loan), Lucio (def)(released); Ivan Ramiro Cordoba (def)(retired); Paolo Orlandoni (gk)(retired); Luc Castaignos (att)(Twente); Francesco Bardi (gk)(Novara, on loan); Marco Faraoni (def)(Udinese)

In the summer 2011, Inter started what was expected to be a complete renewal both at a managerial and technical level. After a glorious winning streak with Mancini and Mourinho at the helm, it was time for a big change. Unfortunately for them, such a change occurred but it proved to be far from positive. They found themselves out of the fight for the Scudetto and, for some time, they flirted dangerously with the bottom ten. It was only towards the end of the campaign that they succeeded saving their season, obtaining an unhoped-for qualification to the Europa League with Stramaccioni in charge. Thanks to such a positive result, the former coach of the junior team was confirmed at the helm of the team. However, the renewal of the squad continues. Zarate, Poli and Palombo, who were on loan from Lazio and Sampdoria, returned home while Lucio was let free to sign in for Juventus. Both Maicon and Julio Cesar are currently looking for a new shirt to wear. The Brazilian goalkeeper even had to cope with the arrival of his substitute, Handanovic from Udinese. Silvestre should represent the perfect replacement for Lucio in the back four while Mariga and Mudingayi should be competing for a place in the middle of the park where Guarin will become a regular after a few not particularly impressive performances at the end of the past season. Palacio should make it straight to the forward three together with Sneijder and Milito, hoping that the latter will maintain his outstanding scoring form. Coutinho is due to become their main alternative up-front.

Target:
Inter should always be fighting for the Scudetto but, at the moment, they seem to lack some quality and depth in all the areas. Moreover, it has to be seen whether Stramaccioni is going to cope with a whole season in charge at the top level or not.

Juventus

In:
Vincenzo Iaquinta (att)(Cesena, end of loan); Jorge Andres Martinez (att)(Cesena, end of loan); Michele Pazienza (mid) (Udinese, end of loan); Kwadwo Asamoah (mid)(Udinese); Mauricio Isla (mid)(Udinese); Sebastian Giovinco (att)(Parma, end of loan); Nicola Leali (gk)(Brescia); Paul Pogba (mid)(free agemt); Lucio (def)(free agent); Richmond Boakye (att)(Sassuolo); Alberto Masi (def)(Pro Vercelli)

Out:
Marco Borriello (att)(Roma, end of loan); Eljero Elia (mid)(Werder Bremen); Alex Manninger (gk)(released); Fabio Grosso (def)(released); Alessandro Del Piero (att)(released); Milos Krasic (mid)(Fenerbahce); Marcelo Estigarribia (mid)(Deportivo Maldonado, end of loan)

After an array of useless and ineffective revolutions, both at a managerial and technical level, at last in the past season Juventus managed to get back at the top of the Italian football. And they did it in great style. In fact, not only they won the Scudetto without ever losing any games but they came real close obtaining a magnificent double, had they not been defeated by Napoli in the final of the Italian Cup. That surely was an extraordinarily sad day for Juventus since it was the very last time Del Piero wore a black and white shirt. A symbol of the team for two decades, the captain was let go quite mercilessly. The minute the season ended, Juventus management started thinking about life without Del Piero and, most of all, they dedicated themselves to the strengthening of the squad in consideration of their return to the European competitions. This strengthening started with the signing of Isla and Asamoah from Udinese. The former is an extraordinary jolly, who could act both in defence and in the midfield once he has recovered from a serious injury, while the latter will add both depth and muscles in the middle of the park. After an exceptional stint with Parma, the Atomic Ant Giovinco made it back to Turin and he is expected to replace Del Piero in the heart of the supporters and of the attack. As long as he earns himself a place in the starting eleven. Lucio came as a free agent after an experience with Inter: he should provide a reliable alternative to Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini and Caceres, even though he appeared quite out-of-form in the pre-season. At the very same time, a whole bunch of players was let go quite unregrettingly. This was the case of Krasic, Grosso, Elia and Manninger. In order to face the new season, Juventus still need to find a top player for the attack. Van Persie and Suarez already found a new home and so the Old Lady is risking starting the new season without a heavy striker. Matri, Quagliarella, Vucinic and Giovinco himself do not seem likely to provide the firepower needed from a team aiming at fighting for both the Scudetto and Champions League. However, Juventus’s troubles could arise from a 10-month suspension coach Conte could be given due to his involvement in the match-fixing scandal. Carrera is set to replace him, unless proven differently.

Target:
Juventus have all it takes to win the Scudetto again. A lot will depend on how the new coach will be able to replace Conte. As for the Champions League, there is something still missing.

Lazio

In:
Juan Pablo Carrizo (gk)(Catania, end of loan); Giuseppe Sculli (att)(Genoa, end of loan); Mauro Zarate (att)(Inter, end of loan); Luis Pedro Cavanda (def)(Torino, end of loan); Sergio Floccari (att)(Parma, end of loan); Pasquale Foggia (mid)(Sampdoria, end of loan); Ederson (mid)(Olympique Lyonnais)

Out:
Simone Del Nero (mid)(released); Ayodele Makinwa (att)(released); Javier Garrido (def)(Norwich City, on loan)

In the last couple of seasons, with coach Reja in charge, Lazio came real close to obtaining an un-hoped for qualification to the Champions League. Unfortunately for them, though, they always ended up failing such an extraordinary result in the very last weeks of the season. Thus, aiming at some improvement, the management decided to replace Reja with Petkovic. At his first experience in the Italian football, the Serbian coach is expected to obtain a big result with a rather unchanged squad. In fact, apart from Ederson, who will be providing some more quality in the midfield, no new players were really signed. On the other hand, a whole group of players returned from their more or less successful loans all around the country. Zarate is the one who could actually make it back to the starting eleven, provided he is not sold before the end of the transfer campaign. He is the only player who could actually form a decent forward two together with Klose. Kozak should represent an alternative up-front while Sculli and Foggia are expected to leave. As a matter of fact, a whole group of fringe players, like Makinwa or Del Nero, who had almost no opportunities to show their skills in the recent seasons, were let go without any regrets. Lazio could be punished, together with some of their players, Mauri above all, for match-fixing. A final decision will be taken in September. If so, their ambitions would be downsized.

Target:
Lazio do not seem likely to fight for anything more than a place in the Europa League. Given Petkovic’s lack of experience in Serie A and a lack of depth in the squad, Lazio could even fall out of the fight for the European spots.

Milan

In:
Gabriel (gk)(Cruzeiro); Francesco Acerbi (def)(Chievo Verona); Edoardo Pazzagli (gk)(Fiorentina); Riccardo Montolivo (mid)(Fiorentina); Kevin Constant (mid)(Genoa); Bakaye Traoré (mid)(Nancy); Cristian Zapata (def)(Villarreal)

Out:
Alberto Aquilani (mid)(Liverpool, end of loan); Maxi Lopez (att)(Sampdoria); Clarence Seedorf (mid)(Botafogo); Alessandro Nesta (def)(released); Gennaro Ivan Gattuso (mid)(Sion); Mark Van Bommel (mid)(Psv); Gianluca Zambrotta (def)(released); Filippo Inzaghi (att)(retired); Thiago Silva (def)(PSG); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (att)(Psg); Mattia Desole (def)(Monza)

After a season-long fight with Juventus, Milan ended up losing the Scudetto due to a lack of depth in attack and in defence. One would have expected them to strengthen the two areas during the Summer but the team’s management decided for something different. In fact, they opted for the departure of their two main stars, Thiago Silva and Ibrahimovic, and, up to date, they hardly did anything in order to properly replace them. As a matter of fact, coach Allegri’s position could become extremely difficult since he is somehow at odds with the management. After Thiago Silva’s departure, Milan’s defence was, so-to-speak, strengthened by the arrivals of Acerbi from Chievo Verona and Zapata from Villareal. The former could represent an excellent option for the future while the latter has been too often struggling with injuries in the past couple of seasons. In the midfield, Montolivo is expected to provide some creativity. With Seedorf, Gattuso, Van Bommel and Aquilani gone, his arrival, together with Constant’s and Traore’s, might not be sufficient to give the needed depth to a team that is going to fight for both the Scudetto and the Champions League. However, Milan’s main troubles will affect the attack. Ibrahimovic’s loss is one that can only be tackled by the arrival of another top player. No such player has been signed this far and this can only lead to a struggling season. The only good news is that Gabriel and Pazzagli arrived and this could mean an alternative to Abbiati for the future.

Target:
Unless anything changes in the next few days, Milan do not seem to be capable of fighting for the Scudetto. They might have to fight for a place in the European competitions or just be happy with a place in the top ten.

Napoli

In:
Lorenzo Insigne (att)(Pescara, end of loan); Leandro Rinaudo (def)(Novara, end of loan); Davide Bariti (mid)(Vicenza); Valon Behrami (mid)(Fiorentina); Alessandro Gamberini (def)(Fiorentina)

Out:
Ezechiel Lavezzi (att)(Psg); Ignacio Fideleff (def)(Parma), Jacopo Dezi (mid)(Barletta)

In the last couple of seasons, Napoli became protagonists of the Italian Serie A. In 2010-2011, they even reached an historical qualification to the Champions League. Things were not as bright in the past campaign during which they were never capable of fighting for the Scudetto. However, they managed to bring the Italian Cup home and they made some impression in the main European competition. During the summer, the management was expected to sign in several new players, given the lack of real alternatives to the regulars. As a matter of fact, their transfer season began with Lavezzi’s departure. He had become the real heart and soul of the team in the last five years. Surprisingly enough, no new stars were hired instead. Insigne came back after an impressive season on loan with Pescara, where he managed to score 18 goals and to provide several assists. It has to be seen, though, whether he and Vargas will be given a chance to make it straight to the starting eleven. Other important signings were those of Behrami and Gamberini from Fiorentina, who should increase Mazzarri’s options both in the midfield and in the defence. One has to wonder, though, whether these new arrivals will prove enough for Napoli to become real candidates for the Scudetto. The preseason and the final of the Italian Super Cup, lost against Juventus, gave the feeling that Napoli could adopt a more cautious attitude, comparing with the past, and that they are more likely to rely on counter-attacking than they ever did. And this could be a problem for them.

Target:
They do not seem likely to fight for anything more than a European spot. The Scudetto look like a chimera since they have not really strengthened the squad and the regular players are still missing some real alternatives.

Palermo

In:
Francesco Benussi (gk)(Torino, end of loan); Mauro Cetto (def)(Lille, end of loan); Luca Di Matteo (mid)(Lecce, end of loan); Santiago Garcia (def)(Novara, end of loan); Jasmin Kurtic (mid)(Varese, end of loan); Adam Simon (mid)(Bari, end of loan); Nicolas Viola (mid)(Reggina); Franco Brienza (mid)(Siena); Paulo Dybala (att)(Instituto Cordoba); Michel Morganella (def)(Novara, end of loan); Samir Ujkani (gk)(Novara); Egidio Arevalo Rios (mid)(Club Tijuana)

Out:
Matias Aguirregaray (def)(M. Wanderers); Matias Silvestre (def)(Inter), Francesco Della Rocca (mid)(Fiorentina); Emiliano Viviano (gk)(Fiorentina); Armin Bacinovic (mid)(Verona, on loan); Afriye Acquah (mid)(Parma, on loan); Federico Balzaretti (def)(Roma)

Only a couple of seasons ago, Palermo were fighting for a place in the Champions League, they missed it by an inch, and President Zamparini was talking about Scudetto quite seriously. Then, things took a different turn, some key players were sold, several mistakes were made and Palermo had to be content with reaching a mere safety. During the current transfer campaign, more key players left. It was certainly the case of Viviano, Balzaretti and Silvestre. Such losses represent a major blow indeed for the team that was now trusted in coach Sannino’s hands. First of all, he will be expected to re-build the defence. Due to such departures and due to the fact that Palermo, in the past season, conceded 62 goals, with just Genoa and Novara having done worse. In goals Ujkani should make it straight to the starting eleven while Cetto should be back in the heart of the back four after a spell in France on loan. Mantovani should move from the bench and become the new left-back. Morganella and Garcia should give more depth to what was a troublesome defence. In the middle of the park, a few players returned from loans but Rios could represent an interesting new arrival. An alternative to Migliaccio or Donati. Brienza, possibly the most important player arrived during this transfer campaign should give some experience and quality to an already remarkable attack.

Target:
Palermo seem likely to obtain a rather quiet safety. At the moment, they seem unlikely to fight for anything more than just that. If so, they will however need to improve their away record that in the past season was tragic.

Parma

In:
Graziano Pellé (att)(Samp, end of loan); Sotiris Ninis (mid)(Panathinaikos); Mirko Pigliacelli (gk)(Roma); Emilio MacEachen (def)(Penarol); Pavol Bajza (gk)(Dubnica); Amauri (att)(free agent); Raman Chibsah (mid)(Juventus, on loan); Ishak Belfodil (att)(Bologna); Dorlan Pabon (att)(Atletico Nacional); Marco Parolo (mid)(Cesena); Floriano Vanzo (mid)(Tubize); Ignacio Fideleff (d, Napoli); Afriye Acquah (mid)(Palermo, on loan); Aleandro Rosi (def)(Roma)

Out:
Jonathan (mid)(Inter, end of loan); McDonald Mariga (mid)(Inter, end of loan); Stefano Okaka (att)(Roma, end of loan); Sergio Floccari (att)(Lazio, end of loan); Stefano Ferrario (def)(Lecce, end of loan); Rolf Feltscher (def)(Padova, on loan); Danilo Pereira (mid)(Roda IC, on loan); Sebastian Giovinco (att)(Juventus, end of loan); Francesco Valiani (def)(Siena); Yamnaine (def)(Roma); Andrea Rossi (def)(Cesena)

In the past season, at some stage, while there were only a few weeks to play, Parma found themselves too dangerously close to the abysses of the relegation zone. Any management would have opted for sacking the coach in charge in order to give the team some new energies. Luckily for them, Parma stuck with coach Donadoni and this, eventually, paid off. Thanks to an incredible run, they reached the eighth standing of the table and came real close to the European spots. Thus, Donadoni was wisely confirmed at the helm of the team but a few players, who had been fundamental for the results obtained during the past season, left during the summer. Players like Giovinco, Mariga, Floccari and Jonathan all returned to the clubs they were coming from. So, the management had to go for some valid replacements. Possibly not expensive and both young and experienced. Having lost Giovinco’s magics up-front, Parma hired Amauri, who had positively impressed while with them in 2010-2011. He will make it straight to the starting eleven with Belfodil, Pabon, Pellé and Palladino to provide him with some support. MacEachen and Fideleff are candidates for the back three while Rosi could represent a valid alternative for the right flank of the midfield. Despite the negative season offered with Cesena, Parolo should become a leader in the middle of the park with Acquah pushing for some playing time after some obscure seasons with Palermo.

Target:
Parma are aiming at something more than just a mere safety but it will all depend on how rapidly the group will gel and how in-form some players, such as Amauri, are going to be.

Pescara

In:
Elvis Abbruscato (att)(Vicenza); Uros Cosic (def)(Red Star); Giuseppe Colucci (mid)(Cesena); Birkir Bjarnason (mid)(Standard Liege); Lucas Chiaretti (att)(Taranto); Juan Quintero (mid)(Envigado); Mervan Celik (att)(GAIS); Antonino Ragusa (att)(Reggina); Mattia Perin (gk)(Padova); Luca Crescenzi (def)(Bari); Jonathas (att)(Brescia, on loan); Vladimir Weiss (mid)(Espanyol); Manuele Blasi (mid)(Lecce); Christian Terlizzi (def)(Varese); Vukusic (att)(Hajduk)

Out:
Moussa Kone (mid)(Atalanta, end of loan); Ciro Immobile (att)(Genoa, end of loan); Lorenzo Insigne (att)(Napoli, end of loan); Marco Sansovini (att)(Spezia); Luca Ariatti (mid)(released); Gianluca Nicco (mid)(released); Andrea Gessa (mid)(Cesena); Marco Verratti (mid)(Psg)

Against all odds and expectations, in the past season Pescara succeeded taking by storm the Serie B. In fact, thanks to a squad largely composed by players on loan from bigger clubs, Zeman was the responsible of such a masterpiece. The team succeeded scoring an incredible 90 goals. They were capable of destroying their opponents and, at times, they were also capable of taking some very harsh beating. Immobile was one of the stars of the team with his 28 goals: he was the top scorer of the Serie B. Insigne was his partner up-front together with Sansovini while Verratti acted as the leader in the middle of the park. All these players left during the summer as they were called back from their original teams or they were sold for huge sums of money. Zeman too decided to sign in for Roma, feeling that this would have been his last chance to lead a top team. So, for their return to the top flight after 20 years, the management was forced to re-build the team from the foundations. Stroppa, a former Zeman’s pupil, was charged with the team and he will be asked to repeat the wonders shown in the past season at least in terms of play. For such a reason, he was granted with a whole group of new players, both young and experienced. Experience will be fundamental especially in defence and in the midfield where Terlizzi, Colucci and Blasi were signed in. In goals, Perin arrived from Padova and he is at his first experience at the top level. In the attack, Stroppa will have to rely on a bunch of youngsters coming from all the corners of the world. Celik and Bjarnason could be expected to make some difference.

Target:
Pescara will be fighting in order to remain in the top flight but it will be far from easy for them. A lot will depend on how rapidly both the coach and the players will get used to the new league.

Roma

In:
Marco Borriello (att)(Juventus, end of loan); Luca Antei (def)(Grosseto); Julio Sergio (gk) Lecce, end of loam); Alessandro Florenzi (mid)(Crotone, end of loan); Dodò (def) (Corinthians); Leandro Castan (def)(Corinthians); Panagiotis Tachtsidis (mid)(Verona); Tomas Svedkauskas (gk)(Fiorentina); Michael Bradley (mid)(Chievo Verona); Wesley Yamnaine (def)(Parma); Claudiu Bumba (mid)(T.Mures); Piris (def)(Sao Paulo); Mattia Destro (att)(Siena); Federico Balzaretti (def)(Palermo); Marquinhos (def)(Corinthians), Zdenek Zeman (coach)(Pescara)

Out:
Giommaria Pigliacelli (gk)(Parma), Cicinho (def)(Sport Recife); Marco Cassetti (def)(released); Antunes (def)(Pacos de Ferreira); Federico Viviani (mid)(Padova, on loan); Fabio Borini (att)(Liverpool); Gianluca Curci (gk)(Bologna); Juan (def)(released); Fabio Enrique Simplicio (mid)(released); Leandro Greco (mid)(Olympiakos); Giammario Piscitella (att)(Genoa); Valerio Verre (mid)(Siena); Josè Angel (def)(Real Sociedad); Aleandro Rosi (def)(Parma), Gabriel Heinze (def)(Newell’s Old Boys); Stefano Okaka (att)(Parma);

Roma’s supporters are waiting for the arrival of a second Messiah to bring them back at the top of the Italian football. In the past season, Luis Enrique was expected to be the one but he proved to be otherwise. And so he was let go. Now, Zeman, who returns at the helm of the Wolves after thirteen years, was hailed as the one and he will be expected to give the team the personality and the play they have been missing in the recent past. He will be asked to repeat the wonders shown by Pescara in the past season. In order to obtain such results, the management first decided to get rid of all those players who had had little playing time in the recent past and whose wages represented a bit of a burden for the club. So, Cicinho, Cassetti, Curci, Juan, Enrique Simplicio, Rosi, Jose Angel and Heinze were all let go. A major loss was certainly represented by Borini’s departure. Luckily enough, Destro signed in and he should provide the goals together with Totti, Lamela and Osvaldo. In the past season, the defence leaked like a sieve and so it was strengthened by Castan’s, Piris’s and Balzaretti’s arrivals. They cannot prove to be worse than their predecessors. In the midfield, Gago returned home to Spain and Bradley, from Chievo Verona, was hired. And this surely is an improvement. Then, there is a group of youngsters, like Dodo and Tachtidis, who could earn some playing time as it always happens with Zeman’s teams. De Rossi seems likely to leave for an irresistible offer. If it happened, Roma would lose most of their strength in the midfield.

Target:
Zeman’s teams always represent a bit of a gamble. They are renown for scoring plenty of goals and for conceding just as many. They could reach anywhere in the top ten but they seem unlikely to fight for something as big as the Scudetto.

Sampdoria

In:
Fernando Tissone (mid)(Mallorca, end of loan); Angelo Palombo (mid)(Inter, end of loan); Andrea Poli (mid)(Inter, end of loan); Fabrizio Cacciatore (def)(Varese, end of loan); Maxi Lopez (att)(Milan); Lorenzo De Silvestri (def)(Fiorentina), Tommaso Berni (gk)(Braga); Marcelo Estigarribia (mid)(Deportivo Maldonado, on loan); Daniele Padelli (gk)(Udinese, end of loan)

Out:
Pasquale Foggia (mid)(Lazio, end of loan); Graziano Pellé (att)(Parma, end of loan); Bruno Fornaroli (a, Panathinaikos); Federico Piovaccari (att)(Novara, on loan)

Only two seasons ago, Sampdoria managed to obtain an historical qualification to the Champions League. Against all odds, they had managed to reach the top four of the Italian football and they seemed bound to stay there. In fact, the squad was composed by several stars or potential ones and time seemed to be on their side. Quite shockingly, the following season turned into a real nightmare: after the immediate elimination from the playoffs of the main European competition, the stars left and the team slowly sank towards the bottom three. One year later, Sampdoria are back to the top flight of the Italian football, thanks to an unexpected win in the playoffs of the Serie B, while they had ended the regular season on the sixth standing. Giuseppe Iachini, responsible of such a success, was not confirmed at the helm of the team and was replaced by a more fashionable Ferrara, whose experience with Juventus had been quite tragic. During the transfer campaign, first of all, those players on loan from bigger clubs made it back home. This was the case of Pellé, Foggia and Fornaroli. At the very same time, though, some of Sampdoria’s most interesting players, that is Palombo, Poli and Tissone returned from their spells with Inter and Mallorca respectively. They will all strengthen the midfield while Maxi Lopez was hired in order to provide the squad with some scoring alternative to Eder. De Silvestri and Estigarribia should earn some spots in the starting eleven as full-backs or as wingers.

Target:
Sampdoria should be fighting in order to avoid relegation. Their safety will depend on Ferrara’s ability and on how rapidly will the players re-adapt themselves to the top flight. They have a 1-point deduction.

Siena

In:
Pablo Hernan Dellafiore (def)(Novara, end of loan); Matteo Rubin (def)(Bologna); Francesco Valiani (mid)(Parma); Andrea Campagnolo (gk)(Catania); Valerio Verre (mid)(Roma); Ribair Rodriguez (mid)(Belgrano); Luis Neto (def)(CD Nacional)

Out:
Zeljko Brkic (gk)(Udinese, end of loan); Luigi Giorgi (mid)(Novara, end of loan); Luca Rossettini (def)(Cagliari); Franco Brienza (mid)(Palermo); Andrea Rossi (def)(Parma); Paul Codrea (mid)(released); Alessandro Gazzi (mid)(Torino); Mattia Destro (att)(Roma)

Miracles cannot happen twice. Last season, Atalanta obtained an incredible safety despite a 6-point deduction that seemed likely to affect their own campaign. This season, Siena will be asked to repeat such a performance since it is going to be their turn facing the Serie A with a 6-point deduction because of some responsibility in match-fixing. And a bigger penalty could occur once a final judgment is taken in September. In the past campaign, quite against all odds and despite the lack of experience of the man at the helm, Siena succeeded reaching safety with quite some ease. In particular, they proved to be quite solid defensively and they offered some aggressive and spectacular football. Calaiò and Destro, up-front, did some wonders,until the captain’s season ended through injury. This season, things will have to change necessarily. Coach Sannino was attracted by Palermo’s money and so Siena opted for Cosmi, who came real close to saving Lecce despite a very negative beginning of the season. He is known for the way his teams play and for they never give up fighting. He will not be able to count on Gazzi, Brkic, Rossettini, Destro and Brienza, who joined some bigger clubs. Thus, in goals, Pegolo, who had the opportunity to show his skills while Brkic was injured, will make it straight to the starting eleven. Dellafiore and Neto, who arrived from Portugal, should be competing for a place in the back three while Rodriguez, Valiani and Rubin could provide some alternatives for the midfield where D’Agostino will be expected to become the leader. The feeling is that Destro was not properly replaced yet since Calaiò’s partner should be found among Bogdani, Paolucci and Larrondo.

Target:
Siena are the perfect candidate for relegation especially if they do not manage to overcome their handicap as rapidly as possible. The squad seems somehow incomplete and new signings are absolutely needed.

Torino

In:
Jean-François Gillet (gk)(Bologna); Nicolas Gorobsov (mid)(Timisoara, end of loan); Matteo Brighi (mid)(Roma); Marco Migliorini (def)(Chieti); Mario Santana (mid)(Cesena); Gianluca Sansone (att)(Sassuolo); Alessandro Gazzi (mid)(Siena); Pablo Caceres (def)(Mallorca); Guillermo Rodriguez (def)(Cesena)

Out:
Manuel Iori (mid)(Chievo Verona, end of loan); Nnamdi Oduamadi (att)(Milan, end of loan); Francesco Benussi (gk)(Palermo, end of loan); Ferdinando Coppola (gk)(Milan, end of loan); Christian Pasquato (att)(Juventus, end of loan); Stefano Guberti (mid)(Roma, end of loan); Mirko Antenucci (att)(Catania, end of loan); Davide Morello (gk)(released); Luciano Zavagno (def)(retired); Francesco Pratali (def)(released); Andrea Gasbarroni (mid)(released)

3 seasons. That is how long it took Torino in order to make it back to the top flight of the Italian football. And they made it with some style, becoming the joint leaders of the Serie B together with impressive Pescara. Torino management perfectly knew that with Ventura at the helm of the team they would have been fighting for a return to the Serie A and, at the very same time, they would have offered and aggressive and spectacular play. And that is exactly what happened. Now that the Serie A is a reality, Torino hope they will repeat all the good Bari had done in occasion of their return to the top flight with Ventura in charge. Of course, a lot had to be done in order to strengthen the squad during the transfer season. In fact, Ventura lost several players from the past season since their loans had ended. This was, for instance, the case of Pasquato, Benussi, Guberti and Antenucci. Thus, the management opted for a group of experienced players, who have already been protagonists in Serie A. In goals, Gillet will certainly make it straight to the starting eleven while Brighi and Gazzi, who knows Ventura well from his time with Bari, will provide the team with some quality in the middle of the park. Santana should support Bianchi, who is always included in the departing list, and Meggiorini up-front. Rodriguez should represent some alternative to Ogbonna in the heart of the defence while Caceres will contend for a place as left-back. Torino got a 1-point deduction for some involvement in match-fixing.

Target:
Torino will be fighting for safety and it will not be easy for them. They seem quite solid in defence and in the midfield while the attack looks a bit too light. Some new signings are to be expected.

Udinese

In:
Gsbriel Silva (def)(Novara, end of loan); Gabriele Angella (def)(Reggina, end of loan); Zeljko Brkic (gk)(Siena, end of loan); Luis Muriel (att)(Lecce, end of loan); Chris Obodo (mid)(Lecce, end of loan); Marco Faraoni (def)(Inter); Fernando Forestieri (att)(Bari, end of loan); Andrea Mazzarani (mid)(Novara, end of loan); Allan (mid)(Vasco da Gama); Willians (mid)(Flamengo); Thomas Heurtaux (def)(SM Caen); Maicosuel (mid)(Botafogo)

Out:
Michele Pazienza (mid)(Juve, end of loan); Kwadwo Asamoah (mid)(Juventus); Mauricio Isla (mid)(Juventus); Antonio Floro Flores (att)(Granada); Gabriel Torje (mid)(Granada); Samir Handanovic (gk)(Inter)

Summer 2011: Udinese had just reached an historical qualification to the Champions League when they saw three among their main stars leave. The feeling was that the Black and Whites would have been incapable of repeating themselves without the likes of Sanchez, Zapata and Inler. Summer 2012: after reaching an outstanding third place and another qualification to the main European competition, Udinese management let go another array of key players and they replaced them with a group of hopeful and good-willing youngsters. After seven seasons among the posts, Handanovic joined Inter and so his place should be taken by Brkic, who returned home after an experience with Novara. Unfortunately for him, he seems to be a bit too injury-prone and an alternative could be highly needed. The defence remained untouched: coach Guidolin will thus be able to count again on the extraordinary Danilo, Benatia and Domizzi, with plenty of alternatives sitting on the bench. The midfield is the area that changed the most with Isla and Asamoah who joined in Juventus. Badu could be expected to become a protagonist after a couple of seasons as a substitute. Allan and Willians arrived from Brazil and they should represent some reliable alternatives to the regulars in the middle of the park. In the flanks, Basta should be back at full strength with Pereyra likely to play a major role with the passing of time. Faraoni, who arrived from Inter, should also represent some option together with Gabriel Silva. In the attack, Torje and Floro Flores were loaned out to Granada: they should not be missed. In fact, captain Di Natale, 80 goals scored in the last three seasons but he is not becoming any younger, will be supported by Luis Muriel, who shone with Lecce in the past campaign and is said to be better than Sanchez at his age. The “Wizard” Maicosuel, who is said to be quite similar to Ronaldinho Gaucho also for his partying habits, should be able to gain some playing time as an alternative to the two regulars.

Target:
Udinese cannot be expected to repeat the wonders shown in the past two seasons. Truth be said, with Guidolin in charge they always managed to reach a qualification to the European competitions. Thus, they could represent a real drifting mine. A lot will depend on their performance in the European pitches.

season preview / line ups

  Manchester City – Southampton FC  

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Man City

Transfer in: Emanuel Adebayor (Tottenham – return from loan), Roque Santa Cruz (att), Betis – return from loan), Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Transfer out: Owen Hargreaves, Stuart Taylor, Wayne Bridge, Vladimír Weiss, Greg Cunningham

Southampton

Transfer in: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham), Steven Davis (Rangers), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace)
Transfer out: Dan Harding, Bartosz Bialkowski, Lee Holms, Ryan Doble, David Connolly, Radhi Jaidi, Aaron Martin


 
Wigan Athletic vs Chelsea 

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Wigan

Transfer in: Ivan Ramis; Fraser Fyvie; Ryo Miyaichi ( loan from Arsenal); Arouna Kone (Levante)
Transfer out: Hugo Rodallega, Mohamed Diame, Hendry Thomas

Chelsea

Transfer in: Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) Eden Hazard (Lille), Thorgan Hazard (Lens); Oscar (Internacional); Yossi Benayoun (return of loan from Arsenal)
Transfer out: Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Romelu Lukaku; Jacob Melli, Jose Bosingwa

Umbro Athletic Bilbao Home Shirt 2012/13 Athletic Bilbao v Real Betis 

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Athletic Bilbao Season Preview

The escapades of last season surely ranks as one of the greatest years in Bilbao’s recent history as they watched their prodigious squad reach two major finals (Europa League & Copa del Rey) as well as challenge briefly for Champions League qualification. Alas however Los Leones failed in all three pursuits, having the carpet pulled from underneath just as glory beckoned.

Pride remains the predominant keyword associated with Bilbao despite the agonising lengths the club went to in their unsuccessful efforts for victory. Born and bred Basque blooded battlers both on and off of the pitch, the cantera policy ensures that the historic morals of the club remain. Far from xenophobic, the loyalty shown within the San Mames is astonishing as the production line continues to develop exciting players for both Athletic and Spain.

Of those, Iker Muniain is the next youngster causing a stir in Europe. Present in the first team squad since the age of 16, Muniain made the top European clubs really take notice last season as his stellar performances in the Europa League propelled Athletic to the final. Now 19, the hot Pamplona prospect featured in 58 games for the club last year, scoring 9 times from the wing but assisting Fernando Llorente’s goalscoring greatly. He’ll be the main threat for Bilbao this season.

Along with Llorente, Javi Martinez, Markel Susaeta and Ander Herrera, Muniain is the next Bilbao talent to be linked with a  big-money move. Each player from the list has been subjected to transfer speculation so often that it’s difficult to believe that they could still remain at Bilbao for the upcoming season.

Sadly however, Bilbao are heavily reliant on the income from transfers as their new stadium drains funds, giving coach Marcelo Bielsa a headache.

Despite this, the club renewed the contract of their Argentine boss after the impressive 2011/12 season. Bielsa conjured up some insane sorcery to not only guide Bilbao so far but he instructed them to play a brand of football so pleasing to watch which could devastate opposing sides, like Manchester United found out in the Europa League.

As for this year, Bilbao would yet again perform miracles to match the standard of last season. The continual struggle to keep their talented youth products may prove too elusive and the lack of depth could again cause untimely fatigue at the crucial stages of the season. Despite that, Bilbao will play their exciting style of football and will be a danger in domestic competition. Write them off at your peril.

Last Year:

La Liga: 10th

Europa League: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid)

Copa del Rey: Runners-up (Lost 3-0 to Barcelona)

Signings:

In:

Ismael Lopez free from CD Lugo

Aritz Aduriz €2m from Valencia

Out:

Igor Gabilondo Free to AEK Larnaca

Pablo Orbaiz free to Rubin Kazan

One to Watch: Iker Muniain

Prediction: 7th

Betis Season Preview

Returning to La Liga following promotion in 2010/11, Betis’ season of consolidation was about as much as could have been asked of them. A whirlwind start of five wins from their first five games triggered fans to dream and took them to the summit of the league, but inevitably it wasn’t to last. A run of six straight defeats then followed until their results became more sporadic and Betis hovered above the relegation zone for a while.

Avoiding the drop back down to the Segunda straight away was the first objective outlined at the start of the season and it was duly achieved as the Andalucian side finished six points ahead of 18th placed Villarreal.

That target will surely remain once again for the folowing campaign.

Betis were once a force in Spain, regularly challenging for Europe. Those ambitions have been put on hold in recent years however and despite being back in the top tier, the aim of European qualification remains a little farfetched, but not impossible.

Levante were the surprise package of last season and nearly gained qualification for the Champions League. The emergence of Malaga has made that ambition much tougher for the less financially-endowed clubs but the Europa League can still be targeted by Pepe Mel.

Avoiding ‘second season syndrome’ must be conquered prior to that however and if it appears that another season in mid-table beckons for Betis then a late surge could put them into contention. La Liga poses many teams of similar ability though and Betis must be wary of being sucked into the relegation mix before they make a break for 7th.

Currently, Betis appear inferior to surpass the likes of Osasuna, Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao and local rivals Sevilla for those European spots. Whether or not they go on to disprove that depends much on how prolific Ruben will be.

Ruben has spent the majority of his career below La Liga but finished as third-top Spanish scorer in the division last year with 16 goals. He seems to have found his home south of Deportivo at last having been so nomadic during his six year spell in A Coruna. He and Jonathan will aim to improve upon the 47 goals Betis ammounted last season, the highest behind Rayo Vallecano in the bottom half, but the loss of Santa Cruz back to Manchester City will be a blow for the club.

Nevertheless, Betis have Benat behind these two supplying the ammunition.

Benat capped an impressive season by earning a call up to the Spanish squad in May. The 25 year old Bilbao graduate has attracted attention from teams across Europe as he looks to build on last season and remain in the ‘fringe player’ category of the European Champions’ team.

Betis claimed just eight draws to their name last season, most likely attributed to the amount of goals conceded in the final 15 minutes (17). Against a fatigued Atletico Madrid, Betis mauled the Rojiblancos throughout but conceded a 94th minute equaliser and in the process dropped two points. If they can keep it tight for the full 90 minutes and supply Ruben with enough chances then Betis could be an outside bet for the top 10 if the dreaded second season syndrome doesn’t kick in.

Last Season:

La Liga: 13th

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Cordoba 2-2 on away goals)

Signings

In:

Paulao Santos free from Saint-Etienne

Joel Campbell loan from Arsenal

Juan Carlos Perez loan from Braga

Ruben Perez loan from Atletico Madrid

Out:

Iriney Santos free to Granada

Inaki Goitia free to CD Mirandes

Ezequiel Calvente loan to Freiburg

Juan Calahorro free to Alcorcon

Javier Matilla loan to Murcia

One to Watch: Benat. Also look out for Mario, sent off thrice in 12 games last season!

Prediction: 12th

 Real Madrid vs Valencia 

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Real Madrid Season Preview

Last season Real Madrid accumulated a record 100 points to clinch La Liga and, in doing so, they wrestled the domestic Spanish title off arguably the greatest club team in European football history. It will count among Jose Mourinho’s greatest achievements in football management and, for someone with the Special One’s track record so far, that is some accolade. Mourinho has now won domestic titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, which is a first for a top level coach. It would have been easy for Mourinho to walk away having achieved that feat, but he is determined to remain with the Spanish giants until he has won his third European Cup medal in a third different country. Looking at the players the Portuguese has at his disposal, why would he ever want to leave. Although Barcelona may argue that their first eleven is still untouchable, Madrid president Florentino Perez has assembled possibly the greatest squad of players in the history of club football. Real Madrid have a first team which stuns and dazzles – as they showed recently in a 5-1 demolition of Italian giants AC Milan during their pre-season tour of the US – but they could also field a second eleven which would surely finish third in La Liga were they to compete separately and might just win every other domestic league abroad under different circumstances. In lieu of their strength, Real Madrid’s transfer movement this summer has been unprecedentedly quiet. At the time of writing, they hadn’t actually made any new signings from outside of the club entity; the only addition so far is young forward Alvaro Morata, who has been promoted permanently from Real Madrid Castilla. Only one member of the first team squad from last year, Hamit Altintop, has left the club and it looks as though there will be very few changes in 2012-13. It would be very strange if we reached the end of the transfer window and nobody had come in. The Merengues are known to be chasing a second right back to compete with Alvaro Arbeloa for a starting berth and another midfielder to take some of the pressure off the ever-present Xabi Alonso. Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur is thought to be the main target and that could lead to the departure of Nuri Sahin – on a loan deal at least – who was plagued by injuries on his debut season at the Bernabeu last year. Whatever happens, Real Madrid will be the team to beat this season both in Spain and in Europe, as they look to retain their La Liga title and end their obsession with earning a tenth European Cup title. They scored a record number of goals last season and, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain furthest forward and Angel di Maria, Kaka and Mesut Ozil offering support, they will have a good go at breaking that record once again.Target:
Winning La Liga is massively important just to keep Barcelona in their place but their burning obsession with winning the Champions League for a tenth time is no secret.

Last Season:

La Liga: 1st

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Barcelona 4-3 on agg)

Signings:

Out:

Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago €5million each to Valencia

Hamit Altintop €3.5million to Galatasaray

Pedro Leon loan to Getafe

One to Watch: Ronaldo

Valencia Season Preview

Can Valencia win La Liga?

I was always told it was best to begin with a joke. Maybe humour isn’t my strong point…

The fact that the question above is usually followed by an instant dismissal of Valencia’s title dreams, almost as quick as Messi changes direction, makes glum reading for Valencia supporters.

Only in a handful of leagues will the 3rd placed team not have a significant hope of challenging for the title. It’s a dismal situation for Valencia, struggling for success amidst the league, cup and European duopoly of ‘Bardrid’ as Valencia finished a whopping 30 points adrift of runners up Barcelona!

Perhaps a more suitable query would be to ask whether Valencia are the greatest challengers to the La Liga giants. Now I bet that has a few of you scratching your head and/or chin.

Atletico Madrid have strengthened within the last 8 months to become a Champions League contender and we all know about the spending of Malaga (up until now as it seems it could all go up in smoke), no less Valencia who sold Isco and Joaquin to the South coast side last summer.

Atleti halted Valencia’s European run in the semi-finals of the competition on their way to winning it, probably the turning point in the Valencia-3rd place dynasty.

Valencia have always been a selling club, losing key players annually. Jordi Alba departed for Barcelona in the summer yet Atletico maintained their squad from last season, looking to go from strength to strength. Valencia constantly have to rebuild and the resurgence of Atletico and the pressure of an immeasurable Malaga side could begin the club’s downfall after clinging onto 3rd for so many years.

Unai Emery, frequently chastised by the fans, has departed too paving the way for previously inexperienced Mauricio Pellegrino. Things aren’t looking too promising already. Why can’t Rafa Benitez just drop at the gates of the Mestalla?

Pellegrino may be the next best thing however having assisted Rafa at Liverpool and Inter. Can Benitez’s disciple bring similar success as his predecessor? If so it will probably be bigger than the next coming of Jesus!

Pellegrino may have lost Alba and Aduriz but his incoming transfers help ease the loss of the duo. Joao Perreira, Fernando Gago and Sergio Canales are handy players and are likely to be perfect at setting up Roberto Soldado (should Valencia not lose grip of their star man).

The gap, sadly, is growing between the top two and the chasing pack. Valencia simply cannot match the sort of revenue Real, Barca or even Atletico Madrid manage to bring in. The club face a struggle to keep their grip on 3rd place but Champions League qualification should still be attainable. They’ll just have to watch over their shoulder for Atletico Madrid and not focus on the inevitable yardage between themselves and ‘Bardrid’.

Last Season:

La Liga: 3rd

Copa del Rey: Semi-finals (lost to Barcelona 3-1 on agg)

Europa League: Semi-finals (lost to Atletico Madrid 5-2 on agg)

Signings:

In:

Andres Guardado free from Deportivo

Sergio Canales & Fernando Gago both €5million each from Real Madrid

Joao Perreira €3.7million from Sporting Lisbon

Jonathan Vieira €2.5million from Las Palmas

Out:

Hedwiges Maduro free to Sevilla

Michel free to Levante

Angel Dealbert free to Kuban Krasnodar

Bruno Saltor free to Brighton

Aritz Aduriz €2million to Athletic Bilbao

Jordi Alba €14million to Barcelona

Mahmet Topal €4.5million to Fenerbahce

Miguel Angel Moya €1.8million to Getafe

One to Watch: Joao Perreira

Prediction: 3rd

 FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad 

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FC Barcelona Season Preview

Last Season:

La Liga: 2nd

Copa del Rey: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Champions League: Semi-final (lost to Chelsea 3-2 on agg)

Signings:

In:

Jordi Alba €14m from Valencia

Out:

Henrique free to Palmeiras

Seydou Keita free to Dalian Aerbin

Ruben Mino free to Mallorca

One to Watch: Messi

It was the end of an era. Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s legendary midfielder of the 1990s, managed Los Cules during the most successful spell in the club’s history. Barca won 14 major honours in just four seasons under the Catalan boss, including three successive La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies. Now breaks the dawn of a new era under Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova and his first task is to wrestle control back from Barcelona’s great rivals Real Madrid, who usurped Barca as the kings of Spain under controversial manager Jose Mourinho in 2011-12. How the Catalan giants respond to that humiliation could define the success of the club over the next few years. Vilanova will be under an intense spotlight, but there have been no paradigm shifts in the club’s policy to suggest that the blaugrana army will be any weaker under the new management. The players claim nothing has changed and that the Tito Team has very much the same style and approach of the Pep Team; unsurprising when Vilanova has been schooled by Guardiola over the past four years. The team does not look any weaker, either. Even though there has been a slowing down in the transfer market in Spain, brought about inevitably by the deep economic depression the country finds itself in, Barca look stronger if anything having signed Jordi Alba to replace liver tumor victim Eric Abidal at left back and have seen just one senior player, supporting midfielder Seydou Keita, leave the club. Barca expect to be stronger this season thanks to the variety of promising young players who continue to pour out of La Masia. Gerard Deulofeu, Sergi Roberto, Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra and Cristian Tello could all figure prominently this year to supplement the senior veterans. Meanwhile, apart from Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez, nobody is in danger of slowing down due to age – those two (especially Xavi) still lead the way when fit. David Villa’s return to full fitness is like having a new 40 million euro signing so Vilanova will have plenty of options and he is still likely to sign a top class centre back before the transfer window closes. A season preview of Los Cules wouldn’t be complete without mention of the fact that they still have the best player of all-time leading the attack and Lionel Messi, who scored a whopping 73 goals in all competitions for Barca last season to smash all previous records, has looked even sharper in pre-season than he did last year. 

Target:
Barcelona will aim to win everything but the main priority will be bringing the league trophy back to Catalunya. Along with Real Madrid, they will also start the season as Champions League favourites and they will look to live up to that billing.

Real Sociedad Season Preview

Media hype and excitement has been largely focused around two or three teams in the build up to the new La Liga season and that probably suits Sociedad. In fact if it could continue for the remainder of the season then I don’t imagine hearing too many complaints from Philippe Montanier as his team aim to slip beneath the radar.

Levante surprised us with their determined stance last season and it appears that Sociedad are well placed to follow in their path with a vibrant squad centred around an attacking quartet which could bring many admirers.

Northern Spain plays host to many teams who enjoy playing the game in a fluid manner (with the exception of Osasuna at times). Largely overshadowed by their neighbours Bilbao, Sociedad have quietly crawled their way back amongst the chasing pack in La Liga and now possess a dangerous squad which could progress within the next few seasons.

Antoine Greizmann is the gem within the attack-minded midfield. The Frenchman at just 21 is an integral figure in Sociedad’s team and often chips in with crucial goals and assists. He’s also a team player; when through one-on-one against Racing and on a hat-trick, Greizmann set up a teammate to make the score 3-0.

Carlos Vela is another youngster who excelled last season and will look to Greizmann and Xabier Prieto as his folly when in the mood for goals next season. Arsenal finally allowed the Mexican to leave for Spain after a few difficult years there and should capitalise on his 12 goals last year while on loan. Vela formed a destructive partnership with Imano Aggiretxe last year, scoring a combined 24 goals in league and cup competitions.

Youth isn’t just an isolated feature in the attacking department; all of Sociedad’s first XI are under 30 after Mikel Aranburu retired last season. Aranburu spent his whole career with Sociedad and sadly hung up his boots at the climax of the last campaign. His absence should introduce 19 year old Ruben Pardo to the squad, another exciting central midfielder who has been blooded through the famous youth system, Bilbao kept at an arms length constantly (notoriously famous for their predation of Sociedad’s youngsters).

And defensively Sociedad have strong, youthful players in Martinez and Estrada, as well as Mikel Gonzalez. Martinez has attracted plenty of attention following a solid season and was named in many pundit’s teams of the year. The youngster is unlikely to begin the season however as he will be part of the Spanish Olympic football team for the early weeks in August.

Montanier has a strong, youthful squad at his disposal and more importantly one which can score goals. The only forseeable problems could be having to cope with the loss of Aranburu and the lack of experience available and the all important opening game. Barcelona.

Sociedad can quite easily challenge for Europe this season but a number of injuries could alter the shape of the whole team. Getting the first game out of the way and putting together a consistent run of results will be the tricky part but they have plenty of quality and look a good bet to be the surprise package of La Liga this season.

Last Season:

La Liga: 12th

Copa del Rey: Round of 16 (lost to Mallorca 6-3 on agg)

Signings:

In:

Gonzalo Castro free from Mallorca

Out:

Mikel Aranburu retired

Borja Viguira free to Alaves

Vadim Demidov free to Eintracht Frankfurt

One to Watch: Carlos Vela

Prediction: 9th

 Levante vs Atletico Madrid 

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Levante Season Preview

Who says La Liga is boring and predictable? Ok the title race proved a pretty elitist affair in contrast to the rest of the division and Real Madrid and Barcelona’s finances do explode off the chart compared to their 18 fellow Primera amigos, but when teams like Levante surprise us all by finishing 6th then much of the previous becomes insignificant.

To understand the scale of what Levante achieved last year, try to imagine Wigan leading the Premier League for a bit, beating Manchester City in the 3rd game and maintaining their charge to finish in a Europa League position. And that their transfer budget amounts to half a million pounds over the last four years combined!

Spectacularly enough, all of that happened, albeit in Spain where Los Blancos rule and the Blaugrana clean up elsewhere. Ignoring the overwhelming dominance of two indomitable presences, Levante proved to Europe that success didn’t necessarily have to be built on the quickly-disappearing Euro. You might agree that a touch of Madrid’s limelight deservedly shone on Levante as their fairytale season came to an end.

In his first season with the club, Juan Ignacio Martinez took Levante to the top of La Liga and into Europe for the first time ever. Considering the team had managed a 14th place finish last term with almost all of the same players, the achievement speaks for itself. His team surprised many and managed to finish above the likes of Bilbao, Sevilla and Villarreal.

An overwhelming surprise package, Martinez’s tactics are quite the opposite. Vehemently sticking to basic orders of defending stoutly and working hard when out of possession, Levante managed to carve out wins irrespective of the growing age of their squad.

Many expected naivety to settle in whilst the team clung onto their lofty position. Fatigue and a lack of cojones became frequent words to fall from bedazzled pundit’s gaping mouths yet none of those factors affected the determined Valencian outfit. For much of the season Levante barely fluttered an eyelid and beat Real Madrid, Malaga and Atletico Madrid in the process despite the lack of chances that came their way.

Reborn, Arouna Kone became the revelation of the season. Emile Heskey’s goalscoring record looked like Lionel Messi’s compared to the Ivorian’s but 17 goals later, posting a tidy chance to goals strike ratio, and Kone had become a revered man in La Liga. Thankfully for Levante, his deal has become a permanent one this summer as more expectation lies upon his shoulders.

As impressive as they were last season, Levante surely can’t expect a similar season to the last. Limited resources will peg back the club as an extended European season beckons. A faded smugness has returned in journalist’s pieces as the joyous period in Levante’s history is predicted to return to normal. And even if it does then a season in Europe might just be the best treatment.

Martinez’s team will stick to similar tactics and Arouna Kone will again be the dangerman. Growing knowledge of a simple strategy around La Liga could affect them this year and Kone will be lucky to get as much space as he did last year as a result. Yet their impressive resolve shown last season by no means labels them as a one hit wonder.

A long drawn out season in the Europa League could prevent them from mounting another 6th placed challenge and the resulting fatigue could make relegation an issue but Levante are organised and bullish. They’ve set the bar high and the achievements of last year won’t perish their self-belief. Avoiding relegation is vital and anything else would be a bonus. Levante just want to enjoy as much of this golden period as they can.

Last Season:

La Liga: 6th

Copa del Rey: Quarter-finals (lost to Valencia 7-1 on agg)

Signings:

In:

Arouna Kone free from Sevilla

Angel Rodriguez free from Elche

Michel free from Valencia

Pedro Rios free from Getafe

Keylor Navas €200,000 from Albacete

Nickolaos Karabelas free from AEK Athens

Pape Diop €200,000 from Racing

Out:

Valdo free to Atlante

Ruben Suarez free to Guizhou Renhe

Javi Venta free to Villarreal

Xavi Torres €0.5m to Getafe

One to Watch: Michel

Prediction: 14th

Atletico Madrid Season Preview

Monaco is the venue where two managers who were given similar tasks last year will meet to discuss how they fared. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo managed to steer his beloved club to a maiden Champions League victory against all odds in Munich last May whilst concurrently Diego Simeone guided Atletico Madrid to an emphatic Europa League final win in Bucharest and both will be vying to win the European Super Cup on August 24th.

Simeone had only been in charge since the winter break ended in late January but revitalised the club and leads them into another season of European football and a brighter future.

Tactics were tweaked and Madrid began to turn more defeats into draws, sometimes better. The team, languishing in mid-table obscurity, made a sharp dash for the Champions League qualification spots but were pipped by Malaga in the end. Nevertheless, another campaign in Europe, with retaining their Europa League crown a secondary goal, provides the stepping stone so to ensure that the Champions League doesn’t elude them once again.

The 3-0 success over Athletic Bilbao gives Simeone time and confidence within the boardroom and the platform to go on and battle with Malaga and Valencia for 3rd and 4th spot.

Simeone deploys stubborn tactics which aren’t always easy to watch, but are supremely effective. If Madrid can prevent the opposition from scoring then they certainly have a chance to sneak a win through Falcao and Adrian.

These two scored 55 goals between them last season and pose a real threat to any opposition. It has taken time for their partnership to blossom but next season could result in even more goals. However, an injury to either one would be damaging to Atleti’s ambitions so another striker might be necessary ahead of the season opener against Levante, despite winger Cristian Rodriguez arriving from Porto.

Financing a transfer for an able striker might be tricky however as the club are currently millions of Euros in debt and are forced to sell key players on a regular basis. Highly rated central-defender/right-back Alvaro Dominguez was vital to the club’s success last year but has since been sold to German club Borussia Monchengladbach for €8m. A young, versatile player, Dominguez’s absence will be felt significantly in the Atleti back line, especially as Cata Diaz is likely to be his replacement. The 32 year old signed for €1m from Getafe but will surely struggle to match the standards Dominguez set in his time at the Vicente Calderon.

Defensively, Atletico still appear resolute. Diego Godin and Miranda create a strong presence in the middle whilst despite the loss of Antonio Lopez to Mallorca, Filipe is more than capable at left back. In goal, Madrid once again have Thibault Courtois between the posts as he extended his loan from Chelsea for another year.

As a result, matches can be won at both ends of the pitch with supreme firepower upfront and stern defensive bodies behind them, not forgetting exciting players such as Juanfran and Koke in midfield. Simeone has a powerful squad at his disposal but is likely to continue playing a mundane style of play. If it proves effective enough then he shouldn’t hear too many complaints. Atletico haven’t been as effective as they should have in recent years and that’s one reason why they have failed to qualify for the Champions League so often. Will this season be any different?

Last Year:

La Liga: 5th

Europa League: Winners (3-0 over Athletic Bilbao)

Copa del Rey: Round of 32 (lost to Albacete 3-1 on agg)

Signings:

In:

Thibaut Courtois loan from Chelsea

Cata Diaz €1 from Getafe

Cristian Rodriguez free from Porto

Emre free from Fenerbahce

Out:

Perea free to Cruz Azul

Fran Merida free to Hercules

Leandro Cabrera loan to Hercules

Eduardo Salvio €10m to Benfica

Ruben Perez loan to Betis

Antonio Lopez free to Mallorca

Ruben Micael loan to Braga

Alvaro Dominguez €8m to Borussia Monchengladbach

One to Watch: Torn between Thibaut Courtois and Adrian Lopez

Prediction: 4th

Friendly, Napoli (Ita) – Olympiakos Piraeus (Gre)

NAPOLI (3-5-1-1): 1 De Sanctis; 14 Campagnaro, 28 Cannavaro, 5 Britos; 11
Maggio, 85 Behrami, 88 Inler, 17 Hamsik, 6 Aronica; 24 Insigne; 29 Pandev. A
disposizione: 83 Rosati, 21 Fernandez, 20 Dzemaili, 18 Zuniga, 8 Dossena, 23
Gargano, 9 Vargas. Allenatore: Mazzarri

OLIMPIACOS (4-4-2): 42 Megyeri; 2 Maniatis, 8 Fejsa, 6 Papazoglu, 20 Cholevas;

18 Fetfazidis, 23 Siovas, 22 Tatos, 35 Torosidis; 93 Abdoun, 29 Mitroglou. A
disposizione: 1 Carrol, 9 Pantelci, 14 Castillo, 7 Fernandez, 27 Greco, 190
Torrijos, 3 Modesto. Allenatore: Valverde.

ARBITRO: Damato di Barletta

Jupiler league

Jupiler League – Season Guide 2012/2013

Also known as Eerste Divisie – look at league format

AGOVV Apeldoorn

In:
Bakx (att) (FC Den Bosch), John (att) (Osnabruck), Godee (mid) (Sparta Rotterdam), Fischer (def) (Emmen), Cruz Vicente (def) (Veendam), Brouwer (gk) (FC Twente, loan), Hengelman (gk) (Heracles Almelo), Oosterhof (gk) (Heerenveen), Langeveld (mid) (FC Twente), Brouwers (att) (FC Utrecht), Kaak (mid) (De Graafschap), Tissingh (def) (Zwolle), Schulmeister (att) (Almere City)

Out:
Van Erwijk (mid) (Graafschap), Krohne (att) (HHC Hardenberg), Kerr (mid) (Wiedenbruck), Krul (gk) (Valletta), Wille (mid) (SC Genemuiden), Siers (def) (Helmond Sport), Schwiebbe (mid) (Volendam), Cairo (att) (DETO Twenterand)

After a disastrous previous campaign, which AGOVV concluded at the 17th position in the table, the team of coach Andries Ulderink can only do better. Last year’s coach, Hans van Arum, left in anger after supporters and eventually the players turned their back at him. AGOVV conceded a terrifying 94 goals last season and has signed three new goalkeepers and a few defenders to strengthen their defense. Brouwer, Oosterhof and Hengelman are all three young goalkeepers, who joined from the reserves of various Eredivisie teams. It remains to be seen who is getting the privilege to start in AGOVV’s first match of the season, away at Fortuna Sittard. Perhaps the most significant reinformcents of last year’s unbalanced squad include Joey Godee and Sander Fischer, who came from Sparta Rotterdam and FC Emmen respectively. Godee is a striker, who scored 10 goals for Sparta in the 2010/2011 campaign. Fischer was Emmen’s best player last season, playing 32 games in which he scored three goals. Cruz Vicente and Tissingh are other important additions to the squad of AGOVV, where mediocre players such as Wille, Krohne, Van Erwijk and Cairo all had to leave. AGOVV’s friendly campaign in the lead-up to this season was not free from problems. Results in friendly matches were not so encouraging and the team management struggled to find competitive opponents. Nevertheless, AGOVV is expected to do better than last year and perhaps play for a spot in the top-half of the table

Target:
Winning a period title, conceding fewer goals, finishing in the top-12 of the table

Almere City FC

In:
Guerain (def) (PSV), Gentenaar (gk) (VVV Venlo), Dissels (att) (Cambuur Leeuwarden), Lilipaly (mid) (FC Utrecht), Van Zaanen (att) (Willem II), Beekmans (mid) (Goldcoast United, AUS), Toivomaki (def) (Ajax), Keller (def) (Neuchatal Xamax)

Out:
Misidjan (def) (Go Ahead Eagles), Ozturk (att) (Spakenburg), Rosheuvel (att) (AZ), Burgzorg (mid) (Ludogoreta, BUL), Malone (def) (ADO Den Haag), Schulmeister (att) (AGOVV)

At the annual press day, the Almere team management set the bar quite high for the upcoming campaign. Almere hope to finish in the top-8 of the table, even though last year’s three best players all left the team. Without Rosheuvel, Burgzorg – who left for a Bulgarian team – and Malone, Almere coach De Boer needed to build his team from scratch. Sander keller is the most important defensive addition to the team. The 32 year-old defender played in Switzerland for the past few seasons, but has a solid track record in the Dutch Eredivisie, where he played for FC Utrecht for nine seasons. Offensively, Almere appear to be a bit stronger than last year, with Charles Dissels and Rowin van Zaanen being new names. The 36 year-old goalkeeper Dennis Gentenaar will compete with Erwin Friebel for a starting place under the bar. Gentenaar played more than 200 matches in the Dutch Eredivisie. Last season, Almere finished at a disappointing 16th position in the table after finishing the first half of the season in 8th place. This year, more constancy is demanded from the team management, which expressed its confidence in coach Dick de Boer, now entering his third season at the club. A top-8 ranking may prove overly ambitious, but Almere won’t have to fear for relegation. Friendly matches during the summer gave a mixed impression. Almere defeated Eredivisie team FC Zwolle (0-1), but lost to fourth-tier team Harkemase Boys in their last friendly match, just a week before the start of the season.

Target:
Finishing in the first half of the table, qualification for promotion play-offs

Cambuur Leeuwarden

In:
Dennis Telgenkamp (gk), Heracles – loan), Tim Bakens (def), St Gallen), Leonard Nienhuis (gk), Groningen – loan), Oebele Schokker (mid), Harkemase Boys), Michiel Hemmen (att), Westerlo), Yuri Rose (mid), De Gaafschap), Johnny de Vries (mid), Heerenven Jong), Leon Broekhof (def), Roda), Mark Diemers (mid), FC Utrecht – loan)

Out:
Sandor van der Heide (mid), Sneek), Robert van Boxel (def), Sparta Rotterdam), Leon Hese (def, Spakenburg), Oguzhan Turk (VVV Venlo), Robbert te Loeke (gk), Veendam), Mark de Vries (att), Sneek), Kevin van der Meulen (gk), Charlie Dissels (att), Almere City), Jasar Takak (mid), Dennis van der Wal (def), Bob Scheppers (att), Utrecht – end of loan), Marco Bizot (gk), Ajax Jong – end of loan)

Cambuur prepare for the new campaign hoping that their continuing attempts to clinch promotion to Eredivisie bear fruit this time around. The Blue and Yellow Army have not had much luck in the play-offs over the last couple of seasons and will hope that this changes in the upcoming season. They were cruelly beaten 4:3 by VVV Venlo with a goal in added time at the end of last season and thus were denied a place in the play-off final clash against Helmond Sport. Alfons Arts’ men performed really well in the two games against VVV and there is little reason for them not to challenge for top places in the upcoming campaign. They have been one of the most consistent teams in the division over the last three or four years and will feel that the upcoming campaign represents a good chance to have a tilt at promotion given that the quality of the teams coming from the upper echelon is lower than the ones that clinched promotion last season. Arts lost plenty of experience in his squad during the summer as Sandor van der Heide and Mark de Vries stopped their professional careers and dropped to amateur football. Moreover, Bob Scheppers, Leon Hese and Marco Bizot are no longer with the team. However, the biggest lost may be Robert van Boxel who was excellent last season whether in midfield or defence but opted to join prospective title rivals Sparta Rotterdam. The man expected to bring the goals in the new season is Michel Hemmen who had an awful last 12 months but fired 20 goals for AGOVV in 2010/11. Leon Broekhof comes with a decent pedigree from Roda Kerkdrade and will be expected to shore the defence while Yuri Rose has good experience and will be expected to add composure in midfield where Erik Bakker stood out last season and is still with the club with a week of the season left. The rest of the signings are youngsters from top-flight clubs and some local talent with Arts hoping some of them make the step up. Overall, the quality is there for a serious push for promotion but Cambuur will need to sort their away form and be more consistent than last season.

Target:
Play-off spots are well within grasp but automatic promotion is very unlikely

De Graafschap

In:
Lazic (att) (Turnhout), Van Erwijk (mid) (AGOVV), Vincken (att) (Excelsior), Tarfi (mid) (Anderlecht – loan), Van der Meulen (def) (Bayern München, reserves), Hulst (att) (Dordrecht), Van Kouwen (def) (Eindhoven),

Out:
Sreckovic (mid) (Frederikstad), Gyasi (mid) (FC Twente), Kaak (mid) (AGOVV), De Leeuw (att) (FC Groningen), Wormgoor (def) (ADO Den Haag), De Winter (gk) (AZ), Poepon (att) (ADO Den Haag), Rose (mid) (Cambuur), Saeijs (def) (HBS)

After a completely unexpected knock-down in the first round of the relegation play-offs last season, De Graafschap are now up for the tough task of rebuilding their squad, just two years after they finished first in the Jupiler League and thereby claimed promotion. During the summer break, the entire offensive line left the club, but productivity hadn’t been their greatest strength anyway last season, and with new players such as Lazic, Vincken and Hulst, it’s unlikely that De Graafschap have lost much in terms of quality. The team kept relatively quiet on the transfer market and will start the season with a young and largely unexperienced squad. Pieter Huistra is the new coach of De Graafschap, having left his previous club – FC Groningen – after a terrible season. For Huistra as well as for De Graafschap, the upcoming season is about taking revenge for the misfortune and mistakes of last season. Only three players in the small squad of De Graafschap are over 30 years old, and experience may well prove decisive in the race for the title. Still, De Graafschap are likely to finish in the top-5, even though their last friendly match – against the modest Bundesliga side of Fortuna Dusseldorf – resulted in a humbling 4-0 defeat.

Target:
Promotion

Excelsior

In:
Richard Stolte (mid), Heerenveen), Kevin van Diermen (def), Vitesse), Daan Smith (def), Feyenoord Jong), Rangelo Janga (att), Willem II), Daan Blij (att), Feyenoord Jong), Mats van Huijgevoort (def), Feyenoord Jong – loan), Rick Kruys (mid), Volendam)

Out:
Joost Broerse (mid), Zwolle), Jason Oost (mid), Norichio Nieveld (def), Zwolle), Tim Vincken (mid), De Graafschap), Luigi Bruins (mid), Nayib Lagouireh (att), FC Eindhoven), Samuel Scheimann (mid), Maccabi Haifa), Martijn de Vries (def), Sparta Rotterdam), Andrea Fileccia (att), Leen van Steensel (def), Capelle), Mitchell te Vrede (att), Feyenoord), Edwin de Graaf (def), Kevin Jansen (mid), Feyenoord – end of loan)

Excelsior Rotterdam are back in Jupiler League after two seasons fighting out against the big boys in Eredivisie and will be looking to launch an immediate return. The Kralingen outfit suffered agonising relegation last season when they suffered a few costly defeats courtesy of late goals towards the end of the season and were made to pay dearly for that. They are starting anew now though and have a new manager in Leon Vlemmings. He was a coach with AEK Larnaca last season and ha good pedigree in this division. He has had a difficult task assembling a squad capable of challenging for the top places on shoestring budget and currently it is a leap of imagination to see the team really getting a promotion. Summer signings have been a mix of Feyenoord youngsters and reserve players in other Eredivisie clubs. And with the likes of Edwin de Graaf, Jason Oost and Joest Broerse leaving in the summer, a lot of quality has gone from the squad. Excelsior will hope for a good start of the campaign and given the lack of clear favourite for the title, they will fancy their chances but in general it will be a difficult season for them and they should focus on consolidation and stability.

Target:
Challenging for promotion but a title charge will be difficult and likely out of their reach

FC Den Bosch

In:
Justin Tapahary (def, FC Eindhoven), Emre Bilgin (mid, Telstar), Wouter de Wogel (mid), ADO Den Haag, loan), Jelle de Bock (def, FC Eindhoven), Enzio Boldewijn (att, FC Utrecht – loan), Rinke Pennings (mid), FC Eindhoven), Anthony ter Hurk (att), Jong PSV), Moreno Rutten (def), Jong Feyenoord), Randy Wolters (mid), FC Emmen)

Out:
Paco van Moorsel (mid), Groningen), Jeffrey Fortes (def), Gevaro Nepomuceno (att), Fortuna Sittard), Danny Verbeek (att), Standard), Nick Netten (mid), Genemulden), Kees van Buuren (def), Willem II), Jordens Peters (def), Willem II), Stijn de Looijer (mid), Den Bosch), Ronnie Reniers (att), Zwolle), Osama Rashid (mid), Werder Bremen U21)

FC Den Bosch will be launching another attempt to reach promotion in the coming season having come ever so close to their ultimate goal a few months ago. A tense and nerves-filled two games against local rivals Willem II ended with a 2:1 aggregate win for the team from Tilburg and the Blue and White Dragons were left to contemplate their narrow loss. They did really well over the season to get so far and will believe that they stand a good chance of making the big step this season. They played some of the most enterprising and sophisticated football in the league over the season and now the task of new manager Jan Poortvliet will be to further the work of Alfons Groenendijk. The former must be relishing the chance to work with a superior squad than the one he has at Telstar in the last two seasons and will believe that a challenge for promotion is feasible. Important players like Paco van Moorsel and Danny Verbeek have left for bigger clubs but top scorer Tom van Weert is still around and the likes of Wouter de Wogel, Randy Wolters and Jelle de Bock are very good additions to a versatile and deep squad. Thus, Den Bosch have the personnel to at least put themselves in contention for the top places. It is just a matter of whether they will gel quickly enough and get a decent start that will help their confidence.

Target:
Top six and a play-off final

FC Dordrecht

In:
Warner Hahn (gk), Ajax Jong), Garry Mendes Rodrigues (mid), ADO Den Haag – loan), Adnan Alisic (mid), Debrecen), Lars Veldwijk (att), FC Utrecht – loan), Niels Konijnenburg (gk), Heerjansdam), Ricardo Samoender (def), ADO Den Haag Jong), Rogiel Molhoek (mid), VVV Venlo), Davi Lizardo (mid), Ajax Jong)

Out:
Nick Coster (def), FC Volendam), Cecilio Lopes (att), Renaldo Jongebloet (att), Jermaine van Pijkeren (att), Salif Diao (mid), Nick van der Ploeg (gk), Stef Doedee (gk), Santy Hulst (mid), De Graafschap), Giorgio Achterberg (att), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Wouter de Wogel (mid), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Shabir Isoufi (mid), end of loan – Telstar), Tom Beugelsdijk (def), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Donny van der Dussen (mid), end of loan – ADO den Haag), Kevin Tano (att), end of loan – ADO den Haag)

FC Dordrecht are preparing for the new season amid the backdrop of the news that their manager Theo Bos has permanently stepped down from his position due to continuing battle with pancreatic cancer. The tactician has been on a medical leave since January and his assistant Virgil Breetveld has taken charge since. Bos initially returned for the start of pre-season but soon the news came that he is no longer able to continue. The news came as a shock to both fans and players but with time running out ahead of the new season, the club from the historic town close to Rotterdam need to really step up their preparation for the upcoming season. They appointed former club icon Hans van der Ham as a caretaker manager just two weeks before the start of the season and he will look to hit the ground running ahead of the new season. Dordrecht were denied a place in the play-off on the last day of the regular season last year but it looks hard to see them challenging for a play-off place again this year. Talismanic striker Cecilio Lopes parted ways with the club in the summer having scored 38 goals in 88 appearances over three different spells and his place will be hard to fill. Roger Molhoek is the most impressive of the summer additions and will bring solidity and poise in midfield. Overall, the squad will be mostly filled with youngsters and the manager will be looking to nurture the sort of spirit and togetherness that got the team some good results the latter stages of last season.

Target:
Avoiding being dragged into the relegation scrap and possibly reaching the play-offs

FC Eindhoven

In:
Meeus (mid) (Turnhout), Van Leer (gk) (PSV), Ospitalieri (mid) (PSV), Lagouireh (att) (Excelsior), Verkoelen (def) (PSV), Durwael (def) (Genk)

Out:
Rossen (mid) (Sint Truiden), Pennings (mid) (Den Bosch), Swinkels (gk) (PSV), Vansimpsen (att) (Dessel Sport), Van Son (def) (Sparta Rotterdam), Tahapary (def) (Den Bosch), Van Kouwen (def) (De Graafschap), De Bock (mid) (Den Bosch)

In spite of excellent results in friendly matches – including draws against PSV and Heereveen and a narrow 2-1 loss against RKC Waalwijk -, FC Eindhoven are not yet ready for the start of the season. After last year’s campaign, the best in more than two decades, a true exodus of key players took place during the summer break. Eindhoven’s entire defense, so successful last year, left in its entirety and it is still uncertain who are going to replace Tahapary, Van Kouwen, Rossen, van Son and De Bock, five of Eindhoven’s regularly starting players. In addition to the defensive weakening, Eindhoven also lost their most talented player, the 19-year-old rising star Rinke Pennings, who left for Den Bosch. So far, only a small number of relatively unknown youngsters from reserve squads in Dutch and Belgian first-tier teams have arrived, of whom defender Durwael is perhaps the most promising name. Durwael played three seasons for Racing Genk, in which he was fielded a meagre 9 times in total. As Eindhoven enters a new season in the Jupiler League, several test players will be participating in training sessions until the end of the transfer window. Apart from a much needed defensive reinformcent – goalkeeper Swinkels also left – some experienced players would be more than welcome. Currently, the 26 year-old midfielder Van Geele is the oldest player in the entire squad. After the departure of success coach Ernest Faber, John Lammers arrived in Eindhoven. Lammers does however not have a particularly impressive track record. Last season, he relegated with Excelsior.

Target:
A top-9 ranking would be satisfactory, qualification for the promotion play-offs

FC Emmen

In:
Al Mubakari (att) (Heracles), Mamedov (att) (Zwolle), De Wit (mid) (Go Ahead Eagles), Van der Vlag (gk) (Go Ahead Eagles), Bakkati (def) (Zwolle), Van der Linden (def) (Heracles), Marvin Wijks (att), Bannink (mid) (FC Twente), Mazzetti (def), Rustenberg (def) (AGOVV), Weghorst (att)

Out:
Huntink (att) (Scheveningen), Fischer (def) (AGOVV), Koenders (mid) (FC Zwolle), Bemba (mid) (Ethnikos), De Vries (att) (Cambuur), Jongebloet (att) (Lisse), Wolters (att) (Den Bosch)

“Never again”, was the motto with which the Emmen team management went into the summer break after a traumatizing season in which the team finished last in the Jupiler League. Especially the second half of the season made even the staunchest supporter turn away in despair, with Emmen scoring only 1 goal in 10 matches and recording their worst ever season in the Jupiler League. This season, it can only get better and a look at the revamped Emmen squad warrants at least a bit of optimism. Fischer is perhaps the most important player who left this summer, but most of Emmen’s other players left such a dismal impression last season that there were few other teams interested to sign someone. At the same time, the Emmen team management went onto the transfer market with empty pockets but with the promise of a new start. Experienced defenders such as Antoine van der Linden and Said Bakkati were lured to Emmen, in addition to several young players such as striker Weghorst and defender Rustenberg. Defensively, Emmen seems to be quite well prepared for this season. Offensively, doubts remain. Emmen’s complete offensive paralysis of last season – the team scored only 24 goals – has not yet been forgotten and it remains unsure which player is going to be responsible for goals this season. Weghorst is a new striker in the squad, but perhaps more importantly, Ruud ter Heide returned after a 6-month period in Zwolle. Ter Heide scored 106 goals in 250 matches in Dutch professional football and was Emmen’s topscorer in the previous two seasons. The friendly campaign prior to the new season was not without problems for Emmen. The new coach, Joop Gall, admitted that the large number of new players still have to get used to eachother. Devestating defeats against Ajax and Twente (0-5) were not offset by much better results against FC Groningen (1-0 defeat), third tier team WKE (1-1) and Cambuur Leeuwarden (2-1 deafeat).

Target:
winning back spectators and sponsors by finishing in the top-12 of the table

FC Oss

In:
Joep van den Ouweland (mid), Go Ahead Eagles), Wesley Deenen (att), NEC Nijmegen – loan), Ruud van der Dungen (mid), De Valk), Cayfano Latupeirissa (att), NEC – loan), Mitch Stockentree (def), Jong Twente – loan), Ferhat Görgülü (def), Veendam), Luuk Koopmans (gk), NEC)

Out:
Christopher Bieber (att), Würzburger Kickers), Milad Intezar (mid), Zdenko Kaprálik (def), Banik Ostrava), Kevin Huijsman (def), IJsselmeervogel), Sebastian Sumelka (def), SC Wiedenbrück), Charlie van den Ouweland (mid), Cees Keizer (mid), Vincent van Trier (gk), Tim Nelemans (att), Mark Redshaw (att), Ryan van Dijk (def), Marc Roebbers (def), Joost Ebergen (def), Jean Black (mid), Antonio Stankov (mid), Roda – end of loan), Aleksandar Stankov (att), Dammyano Grootfaam (def), NEC – end of loan)

FC Oss start the campaign with little reason for optimism or high hopes. The small club from Brabant did better than expected in the previous campaign and the then newcomers at one point even challenged for a play-off spot. They tailed off quite badly in the last couple of months though and there was an air of despondency over the club. Moreover, one of the most loyal servants the club have had in manager Dirk Heesen left his position. Anton Janssen was handed the reins having been in charge of amateur club VV Gemert and being assistant at neighbouring club NEC Nijmegen last season. The new challenge is a serious one for Janssen, a European Cup winner with PSV in 1988, and most of the squad from last season has been let go. Reinforcements have been scarce and will fill the fans with little belief ahead of the season. Important players like Zdenko Kapralik and Christopher Bieber have left while the only two players among the new signings with any sort of experience in professional football are Joep van den Ouweland and Ferhat Gorgulu who have hardly set the world alight with Go Ahead Eagles and Veendam. There could a few new faces coming before the start of the campaign but as of now Oss may well be battling against the drop given that the two clubs that were worst last season, AGOVV and Emmen, have improved over the summer and are expected to do better.

Target:
Beating the drop but it will be a challenge with the current squad

FC Volendam

In:
Pistoor (gk) (Helmond Sport), Schouten (def) (AZ), Coster (mid) (Dordrecht), Fafiani (att) (Telstar), Schwiebbe (mid) (AGOVV),

Out:
De Loor (mid) (FC Lisse), Hoogvliets (def) (Telstar), Ruiter (gk) (Utrecht), Kees Tol (att) (Noordwijk)

After a very quiet summer break, Volendam kicks off for a new season with a home game against Cambuur Leeuwarden with a largely unaltered squad. The most significant loss of the summer period was the departure of goalkeeper Ruiter to FC Utrecht. Roy Pistoor, the reserve goalkeeper of Helmond Sport, will now battle with Sonny Stevens for a spot under the bar. Overall, one couldn’t say that Volendam have gained much quality during the summer break. The most significant signings include midfielders Coster and Schwiebbe, who both played for low-profile Jupiler League teams last year. Hans de Koning is the new coach of Volendam, who experienced a highly disappointing second half of last season, resulting in the sacking of coach Gert Kruys. De Koning performed excellently last season with Helmond Sport and hopes to bring Volendam back to the first half of the table. Volendam played a large number of friendly matches against reasonably strong opponents, but did not win any of those games. VVV Venlo (1-0), ADO Den Haag (2-1), Helmond Sport (3-1) and FC Groningen (4-0) were all too strong for a team that has modest financial means and probably has to adjust its expectations for this season accordingly.

Target:
Finishing in the first half of the table

Fortuna Sittard

In:
Nepomuceno (att) (Den Bosch), Briels (mid) (Genk), Cevik (att) (Luik), Hendrickx (att) (Luik), Khalouta (att) (VVV Venlo), Rajcomar (att) (MVV),

Out:
Stolte (mid) (Excelsior), Geenen (def) (Hansa Rostock), Danny Schreurs (att), Rowin van Zaanen (att)

Fortuna Sittard kept very quiet during the summer break and their new coach, Wil Boessen, is feeling the pressure of supporters who are getting nervous. Last season, Fortuna had an excellent second half of the campaign and only nearly missed the play-offs for promotion. However, the two driving forces behind the remarkable success of Fortuna after the winter break, Danny Schreurs and Rowin van Zaanen have ended their period on loan in Sittard and are no longer part of the club. As a result, Fortuna have lost much offensive power, as became painfully clear in a series of friendly matches that were played prior to the start of the season. Fortuna failed to score in all of four friendly games against professional football teams, including three Belgian sides. Fortuna are ever more orienting themselves on Belgium, with three new faces in the squad coming from Luik and Genk respectively. Fortuna now have six Belgian players in their squad, among whom Ferhat Kaya who hopes to become the team’s new first goalkeeper this season. In the first few weeks of the campaign, several test players will try to prove their value to coach Boesen, but a difficult first half of the season seems almost unavoidable.

Target:
Staying clear of the relegation zone

Go Ahead Eagles

In:
Jop van der Linden (def), Helmond), Rico Wolven (def), Veendam), Michel Mulkes (def), Excelsior ’31), Kevin Spanjaard (mid), Glanerbrug), Deniz Türüc (mid), De Graafschap Jong), Nick Marsman (gk), Twente – loan), Cas Peters (def), Twente Jong – loan), Teije ten Den (att), Rohda Raalte), Guyon Philips (att), Vitesse Jong), Joran Pot (att), Zwolle), Sjoerd Overgoor (mid), De Graafschap), Cendrino Misidjan (def), Almere City)

Out:
Karim Fachtali (att), RKC Waalwijk – end of loan), Michael Jansen (def), retired), Oscar Lopez (def), Glenn Kobussen (mid), Joep van den Ouweland (mid), FC Oss), Patrick Gerritsen (att), Frank van der Zwan (att), Scheveningen), Niklas Tarvajärvi (att), Dave Bus (def), Yannick de Wit (mid), FC Emmen), Peter van der Vlag (gk), Emmen), Michal Janota (mid), Korona Kielce)

Go Ahead Eagles start the new season with expectations and another new coach having failed in their bid for promotion last season. A late charge after the emergency appointment of Scott Jimmy Calderwood resulted in a play-off clash against Den Bosch which was lost 3:1 on aggregate. Calderwood probably had a right to feel aggrieved for being let go at the end of the season having revived the team after the rubble that was left after Joop Gall was fired. Yet, the board decided to go for young coach Erik ten Hag who was the assistant to Fred Rutten at both Twente and PSV. This is his first appointment as a first-team manager and the 42-year-old will be keen to make a good start. The squad underwent a pretty major surgery with a big number of players leaving. Ten Hag focused on young signings like youngsters Cas Peters and Nick Marsman who come from neighbours Twente on loan deals. Jop van der Linden seems like a coup in defence after a great season at Helmond Sport and indeed shoring up the defence will be one of the key objectives ahead of the campaign. It is difficult to predict how well the team will do with basically a new set of players and untried but ambitious coach but still the Eagles are one of the better clubs in the division overall and should be in the top six come the end of the campaign.

Target:
Pushing for a play-off spot but likely to miss out on promotion

Helmond Sport

In:
Ter Horst (def) (Heracles), Brouwers (att) (Lommel United), De Regt (def) (VVV Venlo), Siers (def) (AGOVV), Francke (def), Hattu (def)

Out:
Pistoor (gk) (Volendam), Van der Linden (def) (Go Ahead Eagles), Haastrup (def) (Willem II), Joppen (def) (VVV), Altheer (mid) (VVV)

Helmond Sport left a solid impression in friendly matches during the summer break, yet it remains uncertain how the team of the unexperienced coach Erik Meijers will cope with the departure of last year’s entire defense, including star player Jop van der Linden. Meijers joined Helmond Sport from Achilles 29, the third-tier Topklasse team, with which he won the title last year. The Helmond team management refused to spend a penny on reinforcing the squad, being afraid of running into financial troubles. The result is that Helmond will start the new season with a very young defense, comprised of largely unknown players. Francke and Hattu joined from regional youth teams, while Ter Horst came from the reserve team of Heracles Almelo. Charles Kazlauskas and Aart Verberne stayed and hope to get more playing time than last year, when they weren’t assured of a starting spot. Considering the departure of important players, a top-9 position would be satisfactory for Helmond, yet most fans will remember that the team started last season too without the best players of the previous season and still finished at an impressive fourth position.

Target:
Qualification for the promotion play-offs

MVV

In:
Bram Castro (gk), St Truiden), Cor Gillis (def), Dender), Leroy Labylle (mid), Standard), Nathan Rutjes (mid), Sparta), Mark Veldmate (att), Sparta), Yannick Derix (gk), PSV ’35)

Out:
Fabio Caracciolo (att), Vise – end of loan), Prince Rajcomar (att), Zalaegerszeg – end of loan), Laurent Castellana (def), Jerome Beckers (def), Michael Tambak (att), Bjorn Eppinga (mid), Job Bulters (gk), Marc Eberle (def, Echt), Tom Daemen (mid), AEK Larnaca), Collin van Eijk (gk)

MVV Maastricht have had a pretty satisfactory season last year and will be hoping to gravitate in mid-table in the upcoming campaign and secure a play-off spot. They have failed to progress in their previous two attempts but promotion is not really an objective for a team with little resources to compete. Rene Trost’s side played some good football on a number of occasions last season but they have lost some key personnel over the summer. Tom Daeman is off to Cypru while strikers Fabio Caracciolo and Prince Rajcomar are back at their parent clubs after the end of their loan deals. The regular keeper Job Bulters and Laurent Castellana left as well which meant a number of gaps to fill. Few of them have been actually filled though. Bram Castro will be the new number one keeper but he has not played a first-team game for Saint Truiden since early October last year. Former Sparta Rotterdam’s squad players Mark Veldmate and Nathan Rutjes could be useful players but are unlikely to make much of a difference. Still, Trost creates useful teams and will hope that some of the academy players make the step up over the coming months. Realistically, MVV are likely to be water-carriers for another season and a place in the bottom half of the table beckons.

Target:
Finishing in mid-table and possibly challenging for a play-off spot

SC Veendam

In:
Mc Kinnon (def) (Alloa Athletic, SCO), Martens (mid) (Willem II), Deul (mid) (Bayern München reserves), Pedro (def) (FC Groningen), Timmermans (gkl) (SWZ), Hutten (att) (Willem II), Schmelz (att) (Sparta Rotterdam), Te Loeke (gk) (Cambuur Leeuwarden), Katschner (att), Overtoom (mid)

Out:
Gorgulu (def) (FC Oss), Cruz Vicente (def) (AGOVV), Wolven (att) (Go Ahead Eagles), Kluin (att) (Rijnsburgse Boys),

With a reinforced squad, Veendam are ready for the kick-off of a new season in the Jupiler League. Last season was an outright disaster, even though few fans had dared to hope at the outset that the miraculous fourth position of the 2010/2011 season could be repeated. Nevertheless, the 16th position at which Veendam concluded the 2011/2012 campaign was much worse than even the greatest cynic had predicted. Scoring was Veendam’s main problem last season and it remains to be seen whether a remedy has been found. Sidney Schmelz is Veendam’s new offensive leader, but the former Sparta Rotterdam player scored only six goals in his entire professional career so far, comprising 60 games in 4 seasons. Opoku, last year’s topscorer in Veendam, stayed, but may lose his starting place to new men such as Deul and Overtoom, whose arrival is expected to be confirmed before the start of the season. In spite of last year’s abysmal results and fierce criticism from the fans, coach Heerkens stayed in Veendam. This season, he will no longer be allowed to hide behind excuses of a poor and small squad. Veendam is definitely not the best team in the Jupiler League – as a series of defeats in friendly matches proved -, but supporters and sponsors demand a place back in the limelights of the Jupiler League, for example by claiming a period title and staying clear of the relegation zone.

Target:
Staying clear of the relegation zone, aiming at a period title

Sparta Rotterdam

In:
Jens van Son (mid), FC Eindhoven), Pieter Nys (def), Leuven), Quenten Martinus (att), Heerenveen – loan), Donovan Deekman (att), Lokeren), Martijn de Vries (att), Excelsior), Roald van Hout (att), RKC Waalwijk), Danny Buijs (mid), Kilmarnock), Marco van Duin (gk), NEC Nijmegen), Robert van Boxel (def), Cambuur)

Out:
Ruud Kras (def), (Rijnsburgse Bоys), Anthony Bentem (def), Joey Godee (att), AGOVV), Marten de Roon (mid), Heerenveen), Sidney Schmeltz (att), Veendam), Tom Overtoom (mid), Nathan Rutjes (mid), MVV), Jeroen Veldmate (def), Heracles), Mark Veldmate (att), MVV), Rubin Dantschotter (gk), Cercle – end of loan), Jeremy Bokila (att), Zulte Waregem – end of loan)

Sparta Rotterdam finished last season at second place and will feel that they missed a good chance to earn promotion back into the top-flight. A dramatic 2:1 aggregate defeat against Willem II meant that they will have to spend a third consecutive season in a division where they feel they do not belong. However, the positive definite outweighed the negative for the Red and White Gladiators during the last season as they played some enthralling football and were the best team in the second half of the season. They just ran out of steam in the last month in the chase of eventual champions Zwolle but Michel Vonk has built a solid base and will look to push on over the coming season. However, the three key players from last season, Jeroen Veldmate, Maarten de Roon and Jeremy Bokila are not around any more and the biggest task will be replacing them. Vonk has not attracted major names but Jens van Son and Robert van Boxel are useful players at this level while Donovan Deekman and Roald van Hout could well make a very good impression if given the chance to impress. Sandro Calabro will be the man expected to replace Bokila having joined in March last season while the likes of Mario Bilate and Jaime Bruinier will look to continue their good development. It is debatable whether Sparta can reach the heights of last season but if they gel well, the Rotterdam club will take some stopping and should be considered one of the big contenders for promotion.

Target:
Challenging for promotion and the title is definitely feasible

Telstar

In:
Rhys Murphy (att), Arsenal), Leandro Resida (att), Chabab), Kevin van Essen (mid), Argon), Shabir Isoufi (mid), Feyenoord – loan), Gal Sapir (def), Ironi Rashon), Geraldo Hoogvliets (def), Volendam), Gaston Salasiwa (def), Bintang), Oliver Rifai (def), AZ Jong), Daniël Zuiverloon (def), AZ Jong)

Out:
Nick Kuipers (def), IJsselmeervogel), Andrew Ornoch (att), Yacob Sason (att), Ryan Marveggio (def), Emre Bilgin (def), Den Bosch), Kevin Brands (att), Willem II), Armand Neeskens (def), De Meern), Danny Schenkel (def), Johan Plat (att), Hansa), Raymond Fafiani (mid), Voldendam), Melvin Holwijn (mid), Lisse), Sead Mazreku (mid), AZ Jong – end of loan), Gerson Sheotahul (att), Willem II – end of loan)

Telstar start the season hoping for better things to come after an underwhelming campaign last season. The modest club has always relied on top clubs sending their promising youngsters to get some first-team experience in Velsen. And experienced manager Jan Poortvliet has managed to get the best of them and get the team playing some decent football. Last season that happened too rarely for comfort and the team ended in the lower half of table, on a poor run of form. The announcement that Poortvliet was leaving well before the end of the season may have contributed to that. Nevertheless, the task facing new manager Marcel Keizer, is an unenvious one. He has done well in amateur football over the last couple of seasons but will be facing much sterner and better resourced opponents over the coming months. The eye-catching signing of the summer of them has been former Arsenal youngster Rhys Murphy who is looking to revive his career having fallen considerably over the last couple of season. Shabir Isoufi is a decent signing as well, on loan from Feyenoord, while Israeli Gal Sapir was a regular in the top division of Israel last season but otherwise the signings comes from lower division clubs and with no experience in professional football. Top strikers Kevin Brands and Johan Plat have left the club but keeping midfield duo Sjaak Lettinga and Frank Korpeshoek will be important and Kaizer is likely to build the team around them. Overall, the White Lions will do well to finish above 15th again and a push for the play-offs is hard to envisage.

Target:
Avoiding relegation and finishing in mid-table

Bundesliga II

Season preview 2012/2013

1860 Munchen

In:
Ismael Blanco (att)(Legia Warsaw), Grigoris Makos (mid)(AEK Athens), Marin Tomasov (att)(Hajduk Split), Moritz Stoppelkamp (def)(Hannover 96), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (def)(Lech Poznan), Moritz Volz (def)(FC St. Pauli), Liridon Vocaj (mid)(1860 München U19), Korbinian Vollmann (mid)(SpVgg Unterhaching, back from loan)

Out:
Kevin Volland (att)(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Antonio Rukavina (def)(Real Valladolid), Eke Uzoma (mid)(Pécsi MFC), Stefan Buck (def)(FC Bayern München II), Djordje Rakic (att)(free), Jonatan Kotzke (def)(Jahn Regensburg), Stefan Aigner (mid)(Eintracht Frankfurt), Benjamin Schwarz (def)(free), Sandro Kaiser (mid)(1.FC Heidenheim 1846), Daniel Hofstetter (def)(SpVgg Unterhaching), Collin Benjamin (mid)(retired), Daniel-Toni Jais (att)(1860 München II), Bobby Shou Wood (att)(1860 München II), Markus Ziereis (att)(1860 München II)

1860 München spent the majority of last season not knowing whether they really want to promote or just earn a higher spot on the table to get more TV revenue. In the end, this unpredictable team missed all chances to promote because of this undetermined approach and finished sixth. The club was known to be one of the few in Bundesliga II which have a standard eleven, they played with exactly the same players in almost every round, and now most of that starting eleven is gone. München let six standard players go on free transfer, and the club’s biggest star, Kevin Volland, departed for Hoffenheim for just a fraction of his realistic transfer value, not really justifying the departure nor the club board’s desire to improve on the finances of the club. Last season, München had the ability to beat just about anyone with their unpredictable play, both as a host and as a visitor, and this season they will need their new arrivals to quickly blend in and do better than the standard team from last season if they want the same kind of performances. Blanco and Tomasov will be expected to do the scoring together with Benny Lauth, and Makos, Stoppelkamp, Volz and Wojtkowiak were brought to strengthen the defence. However, Gabor Kiraly (36) isn’t getting any younger and 1860 München might be quite vulnerable this season, particularly in the opening stages while the players are still learning to play with each other. This isn’t a team which is targeting promotion, but is  instead trying to find the golden middle and be just good enough to finish among the top five or six.

Target:
1860 München will likely again target a high league finish, but the squad is lacking the consistency and spirit to actually be a promotion contender.

Bochum

In:
Yusuke Tasaka (mid)(Kawasaki Frontale), Florian Brügmann (def)(Hamburger SV II), Mounir Chaftar (def)(SV Wacker Burghausen), Sören Bertram (mid)(Hamburger SV), Carsten Rothenbach (def)(FC St. Pauli), Alexander Iashvili (mid)(Karlsruher SC), Kevin Scheidhauer (att)(VfL Wolfsburg, loan), Leon Goretzka (mid)(VfL Bochum U19), Onur Bulut (mid)(VfL Bochum U19), Selim Gündüz (mid)(VfL Bochum U19), Marc Rzatkowski (mid)(Arminia Bielefeld, back from loan), Philipp Heerwagen (gk)(FC St. Pauli, back from loan), Zlatko Dedic (att)(Dynamo Dresden, back from loan)

Out:
Takashi Inui (mid)(Eintracht Frankfurt), Kevin Vogt (mid)(FC Augsburg), Philipp Bönig (def)(free), Mimoun Azaouagh (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern), Denis Berger (mid)(Hansa Rostock), Oguzhan Kefkir (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Björn Kopplin (def)(1.FC Union Berlin), Matías Concha (def)(free), Giovanni Federico (mid)(retired), Daniel Ginczek (att)(Borussia Dortmund, back from loan)

Bochum had problems last season and was facing relegation at one point, but coach Andreas Bergmann managed to pull the best out of this squad and achieve almost a mid-table finish. Bochum lost their biggest star Takashi Inui and got quite a bit of much needed cash for the transfer, but replaced Inui with a quality player such as Alexander Iashvili from the relegated Karslruher side. The new arrivals seem well targeted and Bochum should be a more stable side this season, as they’ve played with as many as three offensive midfielders last year, and this time Iashvili will be doing most of the creative play – same as he did in Karslruher. This will be both an advantage and a disadvantage for the team, as the squad will be able to focus on defensive tasks more, but Iashvili isn’t getting any younger and it might be too much for him to do everything on his own. Still, Bochum seems to be a club with a good plan and a good coach/manager, and this season there should not be any unpleasant surprises in form of relegation battle. There is a good blend of young and experienced players in the club, and although Bochum doesn’t have any real stars, the team is balanced in every line. The late addition of central midfielder Yusuke Tasaka might be just what this club needed to be even more stable.

Target:
Bochum will be quite happy with achieving a mid-table finish again, and it looks like an acheivable plan for this side.

Dynamo Dresden

In:
Hasan Pepic (mid)(Karlsruher SC II), Florian Fromlowitz (gk)(MSV Duisburg), Cüneyt Köz (def)(FC Bayern München II), Anthony Losilla (mid)(Stade Laval), Markus Scholz (gk)(VfL Bochum II), Bjarne Thoelke (def)(VfL Wolfsburg, loan), Tobias Müller (mid)(Dynamo Dresden U19)

Out:
Maik Kegel (mid)(Chemnitzer FC), Dennis Eilhoff (gk)(free), Alexander Schnetzler (def)(free), Marcel Heller (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Wolfgang Hesl (gk)(SpVgg Greuther Fürth), Gerrit Müller (mid)(free), Sascha Pfeffer (mid)(Chemnitzer FC), Martin Stoll (def)(Karlsruher SC), Marvin Knoll (mid)(Hertha BSC, back from loan), Clemens Walch (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern, back from loan), Zlatko Dedic (att)(VfL Bochum, back from loan)

Dynamo Dresden was a pleasant surprise last season and managed to finish ninth despite having only just promoted from the 3rd league. Dynamo had a good blend of players and managed to overperform in almost every match with their offensive style and players such as Zlatko Dedic, Christian Fiel and Mickael Pote. However, the majority of the standard players from last season left the club, including Dedic, who had to go back to Bochum after his loan period expired. The new arrivals are mostly young or unproven players, and the biggest star is Bjarne Thoelke, a young central defender from Wolfsburg who came on loan. Generally, Dynamo Dresden lost the entire skeleton of the squad and only brought a couple of young players as reinforcements. This time it might be very difficult to do what they did last season and reach a high finish on the table. As good as Dynamo played last season, this season they might go back to the relegation battle which was predicted for them last time round. Most notably, Dynamo no longer has an offensive midfielder and will be able to play only through the flanks, with Filip Trojan and Robert Koch on the wings. A once offensive team is now full of defenders, and it remains to be seen how will the squad adapt to the new role. As good as Vujadin Savic and Romain Bregerie are in central defence, this club only has two strikers, Mickael Pote and Robert Koch, and they’ll need to endure the entire season without getting injured if Dynamo Dresden wants to be able to field a good eleven.

Target:
Dynamo Dresden is targeting mid-table safety, but a struggle against relegation is much more realistic for this redesigned and slightly unbalanced side.

Eintracht Braunschweig

In:
Kevin Kratz (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Jonas Erwig-Drüppel (mid)(FC Schalke 04 II), Björn Kluft (mid)(Preußen Münster), Orhan Ademi (att)(SC Rheindorf Altach)

Out:
Benjamin Fuchs (def)(Manisaspor), Julius Reinhardt (mid)(Kickers Offenbach), Mathias Fetsch (att)(Kickers Offenbach), Nico Zimmermann (mid)(VfR Aalen), Markus Unger (mid)(Eintracht Braunschweig II)

The tough-tackling Braunschweig side was a hard nut to crack throughout the last season, and they even had a chance to become a promotion material at one point but the long streak of draws pulled them far away from the top spots. Braunschweig was very hard to beat because of their team spirit and hard midfield tackles, and they didn’t do anything to lose that part of their play as their transfers in the off season were minimal. They did lose a couple of players, most notably the influential right midfielder Nico Zimmermann, but they brought a great defensive midfielder Kevin Kratz, who was the main force in Alemmania Aachen last season, and also brought a young talented left winger Björn Kluft, who could bring an offensive spark to Braunschweig’s game. Eintracht will be equally strong as last season, if not even stronger because of their clever signings and the fact that the squad didn’t change much. This stable team will again be playing not to lose, but this time they’ll hope they can win just a couple more times than last season and catch the promotion train despite their overall average quality. For that, they’ll need their strikers Domi Kumbela and Dennis Kruppke to make use of the few chances Braunschweig is creating to bring the points. Last season they scored 10 goals each, which is a good result, but even that wasn’t enough for Braunschwieg to get a higher league finish.

Target:
Eintracht Braunschweig is targeting one of the top three spots, they’ll definitely be in the upper portion of the table, and the exact placement will depend on their number of draws during the season.

Energie Cottbus

In:
Guillaume Rippert (def)(FC Évian Thonon Gaillard), Boubacar Sanogo (att)(free), Marco Stiepermann (att)(Borussia Dortmund), Daniel Brinkmann (mid)(FC Augsburg), Sebastian Glasner (att)(SV Wacker Burghausen), Nicolas Farina (mid)(FC Évian Thonon Gaillard), Velimir Jovanovic (att)(1.FC Magdeburg, back from loan)

Out:
Leonardo Bittencourt (mid)(Borussia Dortmund), Christian Müller (mid)(free), Jules Reimerink (mid)(VVV-Venlo), Maxim Banaskiewicz (att)(FC Carl Zeiss Jena), Rok Kronaveter (mid)(Győri ETO FC), Adam Straith (def)(1.FC Saarbrücken), Velimir Jovanovic (att)(FC Energie Cottbus II), Dimitar Rangelov (att)(Borussia Dortmund, back from loan), Christopher Schorch (def)(1.FC Köln, back from loan)

The struggling Cottbus side just barely survived the season, finishing two spots above the relegation zone. The very unstable side was unable to control the match against any opponent, and this season the matches will be even more difficult for Energie, as their most talented player Leonardo Bittencourt left for Borussia Dortmund to play at the highest level which he deserves. Bittencourt was the only player able to make the difference, and most of the points won by Energie can be credited to their 18-year-old star. Dimitar Rangelov also left the club, and striker Boubacar Sanogo (ex-Werder) was brought to fill the gap in offense. The club is also welcoming back Martin Fenin, who was fighting depression for the most part of the season, but fact is – both of Energie’s main strikers are in questionable shape. The two signings from Evian might strengthen the squad, but it’s far from enough to replace Bittencourt’s influence. The squad is weakened, and unless Rudi Bommer finally finds a way to balance this unstable squad, they’ll again be a relegation contender. With a good chance to demote this time. The only real advantage Energie has is a big number of strikers in the club, as with Sanogo, Fenin, Glasner and Sörensen they’re covered in case of poor form or injuries, and young guns Kobylanski and Stiepermann are here to put some pressure on the starting offensive duo. Still, as good as Energie may look on paper, this is an underperformer because the squad is pretty much unbalanced and won’t be able to cover up for Bittencourt’s departure that easily.

Target:
Energie will want to avoid relegation, and could acheive that feat only if their wide array of strikers enter good form and Sanogo proves to be a leader of the entire offense.

Erzgebirge Aue

In:
Nils Miatke (mid)(FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Vlad Munteanu (mid)(Concordia Chiajna), Ronald Gercaliu (def)(LKS Lodz), Tom Neukam (gk)(SV Werder Bremen U19), Jakub Sylvestr (att)(Dinamo Zagreb, loan), Tobias Nickenig (def)(free)

Out:
Patrick Sonntag (att)(Sportfreunde Siegen), Tobias Kempe (mid)(SC Paderborn 07), Michael Arnold (gk)(free), Adli Lacheeb (def)(MSV Duisburg), Skerdilaid Curri (att)(FC Erzgebirge Aue II), Kevin Stephan (att)(Hertha BSC II, back from loan)

Erzgebirge Aue just barely managed to avoid relegation in the last season because they had an awful run near the end of the competiton, though earlier they had enjoyed a long period in which they were undefeated. The side generally lacked the punch to take the points, though Aue was constantly looking very stable on the pitch and was difficult to beat. Erzgebirge Aue didn’t touch the base of the squad and only let the unneeded players go in the off season. What Aue needed though is a bench, and so they brought a couple of players to give coach Baumann more options during the tough season which is bound to have some players injured. Aue learned the lesson last season, when near the end of the competition they could barely form a decent eleven because of the low number of players in the squad. Vlad Munteanu, Ronald Gercaliu and Tobias Nickening will bring much needed depth to the squad, though they can’t be expected to play starring roles. Jakub Sylvestr is not the type of player Aue needs, as he’s a light winger who can’t endure tackles or play defence, so it is expected that Erzgebirge Aue will generally look weaker than in the last season. Erzgebirge Aue will again be a tough nut to crack for all teams, but also a side which is finding it very difficult to play visiting matches or to actually beat someone instead of drawing. All in all, they are unlikely to get embarassed in any match, but will be struggling for points and for a higher league position to avoid relegation.

Target:
This time Erzgebirge Aue might be wishing for a more comfortable position in the lower half of the table, though again they’ll be in danger of relegation.

FC Ingolstadt

In:
Danny da Costa (def)(Bayer 04 Leverkusen, loan), Ümit Korkmaz (mid)(Eintracht Frankfurt), Alper Uludag (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Pascal Groß (mid)(Karlsruher SC), Caiuby (mid)(VfL Wolfsburg), Christian Eigler (mid)(1.FC Nürnberg), Reagy Ofosu (mid)(Hamburger SV II), Andre Mijatovic (def)(Hertha BSC), Aaron Siegl (gk)(FC Ingolstadt 04 II)

Out:
Moise Bambara (mid)(FSV Frankfurt), Manuel Hartmann (mid)(Holstein Kiel), Mathias Wittek (mid)(1.FC Heidenheim 1846), Kristoffer Andersen (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Adam Nemec (att)(1.FC Union Berlin), David Pisot (def)(VfL Osnabrück), Marc Hornschuh (def)(Borussia Dortmund, back from loan)

This is a side which went through a complete transformation during the course of the last season. At first, Ingolstadt was known to be playing extremely well as they practiced a fluent offensive style, but they looked very naive and couldn’t get any points. After that period, their new coach Oral first stabilized the defensive line, only to end up with a team which is completely incapable of scoring. Oral gradually improved the team to create the one which can stay undefeated for months, and Ingolstadt was probably one of the finest-performing teams during that period. At least, they were the biggest overperformer in the league. This season, Oral is taking it to the next level and he targeted players with Bundesliga experience to further strengthen the squad. Christian Eigler is the best one of those, and Andre Mijatovic is a welcome defensive chief who will stabilize the defence even further. At the same time, only the unneeded players were let go. In general, Ingolstadt managed to seriously improve the overall quality of the team by bringing players on free transfer only. However, a real striker is missing, but Ingolstadt will be playing defensive football this season and will be attempting to win by a single goal. Christian Eigler will be expected to score such goals, and the former U21 national player scored only once in 23 matches in Bundesliga last season, so he went down a level. Unless Eigler rediscovers his goalscoring form in Bundesliga II, Ingolstadt will again be down to sporadic goalscorers such as Hartmann, Schäffler and Akaichi. And it could be a problem.

Target:
The goal is to improve on the 12th position won last season and join the upper half of the table. With experienced players to lead the way, Ingolstadt might just make it.

FSV Frankfurt

In:
Moise Bambara (mid)(FC Ingolstadt 04), John Verhoek (att)(FC Stade Rennes, loan), Anthony Jung (def)(Eintracht Frankfurt II), Edmond Kapllani (att)(FC Augsburg), Robert Schick (def)(Karlsruher SC U19), Tim Heubach (def)(Borussia Mönchengladbach II), Sören Pirson (gk)(GS Ergotelis), Mathew Leckie (att)(Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ahmed Azaouagh (mid)(FSV Frankfurt U19), Emre Nefiz (mid)(FSV Frankfurt U19), Marcel Kaffenberger (mid)(FSV Frankfurt U19), Jannis Pellowski (gk)(FSV Frankfurt II), Mike Wunderlich (mid)(FC Viktoria Köln, back from loan)

Out:
Mike Wunderlich (mid)(FC Viktoria Köln), Samil Cinaz (mid)(Orduspor), Momar N’Diaye (att)(Beijing Baxy FC), Dennis Cagara (def)(Karlsruher SC), Karim Benyamina (att)(Karslruher SC), Marc Gallego (mid)(free), Alexis Theodosiadis (def)(free), Mario Fillinger (mid)(FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Sven Müller (mid)(free), Tobias Henneböle (def)(free), Michael Langer (gk)(SV Sandhausen), Alexander Ujma (def)(free), Daniel Gordon (mid)(Karlsruher SC), Pierre Kleinheider (gk)(FSV Frankfurt II), Macauley Chrisantus (att)(Hamburger SV, back from loan), Ilian Micanski (att)(1.FC Kaiserslautern, back from loan), Chadli Amri (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern, back from loan)

FSV Frankfurt was a very offensive side in the last season, and they usually played all out offense in every match, wanting to win three points whenever they can instead of trying to remain undefeated and win a point. This approach actually helped them stay in the league, and there’s no way they could have achieved safety if they played more carefully – there just wouldn’t be enough points won. While their relegation rivals gathered a point here and there, FSV took three points often enough to top their competitors. Despite having a good offensive team, FSV let the majority of those offensive players from last season go on free transfer. Benyamina, Cinaz, N’Diaye, Fillinger and Galego were all integral parts of the squad, and so were Chrisantus, Micanski and Amri – who had to go back to their clubs as the loans expired. The new signings can’t cover up for the departures, and FSV obviously had to save money by reducing the wage bill and signing mostly young players. Frankfurt’s offensive line will be filled by unproven loanees, Verhoek and Leckie, and this time there will also be much less creativity in midfield. This is no longer the FSV we knew last season, this is a new team which is probably weaker than the old one, and arguably the weakest one in the league. The offensive power is gone as Zafer Yelen is the only remaining creative player, and defence was never a strong point of FSV. This unbalanced team will need a miracle or two to manage to stay in the league.

Target:
FSV will be trying to avoid relegation, and could achieve that only if the new arrivals from the 3rd league will be worse than the Frankfurt side.

Hertha BSC

In:
Sandro Wagner (att)(SV Werder Bremen), Sami Allagui (att)(1.FSV Mainz 05), Ben Sahar (mid)(Espanyol Barcelona), Peer Kluge (mid)(FC Schalke 04), Elias Kachunga (att)(Borussia Mönchengladbach, loan), Marcel Ndjeng (mid)(FC Augsburg), Philip Sprint (gk)(Hertha BSC II), Shervin Radjabali-Fardi (def)(Alemannia Aachen, back from loan), Daniel Beichler (mid)(SV Ried, back from loan), Marvin Knoll (mid)(Dynamo Dresden, back from loan)

Out:
Raffael(mid)(Dynamo Kiev), Christian Lell (def)(free), Tunay Torun (att)(VfB Stuttgart), Andreas Ottl (mid)(FC Augsburg), Abu Bakarr Kargbo (att)(free), Patrick Ebert (mid)(free), Andre Mijatovic (def)(FC Ingolstadt 04), Maikel Aerts (gk)(free)

Hertha didn’t seem to lose much in terms of quality after dropping out of Bundesliga, and the squad seems to be stronger than they were last season. The Berlin side will be looking for an express return to top flight as they have the best players in the league and the widest bench, and the really strong sides such as Fortuna, Eintracht Frankfurt and Greuther Furth are not in this league anymore. There were many on- and off-the-pitch problems at Hertha last season, and Bundesliga II might be just what they need to find themselves again and go back to Bundesliga stronger than they were befire. Coach Jos Lukuhay got the a task of rebuilding the troubled squad and a troubled club, and winning the Bundesliga II title. This offensive side should be dominant in this league, and they even brought more offensive players such as Wagner, Allagui and Sahar. This ensures that there’s enough quality in the squad even in the event of poor form or injuries of key players. Pierre-Michael Lasogga, Sami Allagui and Adrian Ramos are expected to score many goals in this competition, and the strong defence will provide security to the offensive part of the squad. Hertha may be a bit weak in midfield, as Anis Ben-Hatira will be the only creative player in central midfield following the departure of Raffael, but it should be enough to consistently win against the Bundesliga II opponents.

Target:
Anything under a top spot wouldn’t be satisfying for Hertha.

Jahn Regensburg

In:
Oscar Corrochano (coach)(Eintracht Frankfurt youth), Francky Sembolo (att)(SV Wilhemshaven), Ramon Machado De Macedo (att)(Jahn Regensburg II), Abdenour Amachaibou (att)(SpVgg Unterhaching), Jonatan Kotzke (def)(1860 München), Marius Müller (mid)(FSV Frankfurt II), Patrick Haag (mid)(Karlsruher SC II), Denis-Danso Weidlich (mid)(FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Koray Altinay (mid)(FC Bayern München II)

Out:
Markus Weinzierl (coach)(FC Augsburg), Tobias Schweinsteiger (att)(FC Bayern München II), Ronny Philp(def)(FC Augsburg), Selcuk Alibaz (mid)(Karslruher SC), Tobias Schlauderer (mid)(ATSV Pirkensee-Ponholz), Mersad Selimbegovic (def)(free), Stefan Binder (def)(FC Tittling), Michael Klauß (mid)(VfR Aalen), Björn Bussmann (gk)(VfL Osnabrück), Mahmut Temür (mid)(free), Yusuf Emre Kasal (mid)(free), Jürgen Schmid (att)(retired), Christian Bickel (mid)(SC Freiburg, returned from loan)

Jahn Regensburg just barely managed to survive their two seasons in the 3rd league, but last season they improved and managed to catch the third spot and a playoff duel with Karslruher. They advanced with two draws, 1-1 at home and 2-2 in Karlsruhe. However, they’ve lost their coach, as Markus Weinzierl was hired by FC Augsburg to help the club secure the stay in the Bundesliga instead of helping Jahn Regensburg to do the same on a lower level. Oscar Corrochano was hired as his replacement, and he’s a young lower-level coach with most of his experience gathered from coaching youth teams in Frankfurt, and this is his first real job as the head coach. During the transfer window, Jahn Regensburg let some players go on a free transfer, and brought others also for free. In general, it seems like they’ve lost more than they’ve gained, especially because Tobias Schweinsteiger, their top goalscorer, left. Now a young coach will have to blend the new players into the team and will hope Francky Sembolo, Ramon and Abdenour Amachaibou will be a good replacement for Schweinsteiger – or that at least on of them will. All in all, Jahn Regensburg will need to severely overperform if they want to stay in the league. The team mostly consists of very young players, which means Jahn Regensburg might be very unpredictable and will also be struggling to maintain the same level of performances through a prolonged period of time. With such young players, it is not excluded that at least some of them will grow to be stars of this league during the season. That’s why a youth coach is here.

Target:
The club will be fighting against relegation, and will more likely than not lose the battle. With a plan to develop young players, results may suffer.

Kaiserslautern

In:
Mimoun Azaouagh (mid)(VfL Bochum), Enis Alushi (mid)(SC Paderborn 07), Kwame Nsor (att)(FC Metz B), Albert Bunjaku (att)(1.FC Nürnberg), David Hohs (gk)(Alemannia Aachen), Enis Hajri (def)(Henan Construction), Denis Linsmayer (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern II), Marius Müller (gk)(1.FC Kaiserslautern U19), Andrew Wooten (att)(1.FC Kaiserslautern II), Hendrick Zuck (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern II), Chadli Amri (mid)(FSV Frankfurt, back from loan), Ilian Micanski (att)(FSV Frankfurt), Gil Vermouth (mid)(De Graafschap Doetinchem)

Out:
Kevin Trapp (gk)(Eintracht Frankfurt), Olcay Sahan (mid)(Besiktas Istanbul), Oliver Kirch (def)(Borussia Dortmund), Marco Knaller (gk)(Wolfsberger AC), Jakub Swierczok (att)(Piast Gliwice, loan), Richard Sukuta-Pasu (att)(SK Sturm Graz, loan), Clemens Walch (mid)(SV Ried), Thanos Petsos (mid)(Bayer 04 Leverkusen, back from loan), Dorge Kouemaha (att)(FC Brügge, back from loan), Sandro Wagner (att)(SV Werder Bremen, back from loan), Lucas (def)(Bayer 04 Leverkusen, back from loan), Nicolai Jörgensen (mid)(Bayer 04 Leverkusen, back from loan)

Kaiserslautern had a disappointing season in top flight and couldn’t find ways to cope with the competition in Bundesliga, not even to avoid defeats or to at least look like a decent side on the pitch. There were numerous attempts to turn things around but none worked as the quality of the squad wasn’t high enough, and Kaiserslautern was relegated to Bundesliga II after spending two seasons in the top league. Although a constant member of Bundesliga until 2006, the club is now in danger of becoming the a constant member of Bundesliga II, as five of the last seven seasons saw the club play in second tier. To avoid that, new coach Franco Foda should immediately win the promotion this season, and except for the profitable sale of Kevin Trapp and the return of loanees to Werder and Bayer, the club didn’t sell or lose any important players. Actually, they seem stronger now as they brought experienced Bundesliga II players such as Enis Alushi and Mimoun Azouagh to help the club get accustomed to the demands of this league, and Ilian Micanski seems to be his old self again after spending half a season at FSV Frankfurt. The squad might again be lacking creativity in midfield, but with players such as Itay Schechter, Albert Bunjaku and Ilian Micanski in offense, goalscoring shouldn’t be an issue in this reduced level of competition. This is a strong squad, but not strong enough to be the favorite to win the league. They might be occasionally suffering from the same problem, lack of creativity, in this league as well.

Target:
Kaiserslautern is targeting express promotion back to Bundesliga, and will have to work for it. Second, third or fourth spot is a realistic finish for this side.

Koln

In:
Daniel Royer (mid)(Hannover 96), Matthias Lehmann (mid)(Eintracht Frankfurt), Thomas Bröker (att)(Fortuna Düsseldorf), Dominic Maroh (def)(1.FC Nürnberg), Kevin Wimmer (def)(LASK Linz), Tobias Strobl (mid)(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II, loan), Kacper Przybylko (att)(1.FC Köln II), Jonas Hector (mid)(1.FC Köln II), Dino Bisanovic (mid)(1.FC Köln II), Marcel Schuhen (gk)(1.FC Köln U19), Lukas Kübler (def)(1.FC Köln II), Fabian Schnellhardt (mid)(1.FC Köln U19), Simon Terodde (att)(1.FC Union Berlin, back from loan), Thomas Kessler (gk)(Eintracht Frankfurt, back from loan), Konstantinos Giannoulis (def)(Atromitos Athens, back from loan), Bienvenue Basala-Mazana (mid)(SV Ried, back from loan), Alexandru Ionita (att)(Rapid Bucharest, back from loan), Christopher Schorch (def)(FC Energie Cott

Out:
Lukas Podolski (att)(FC Arsenal), Taner Yalcin (mid)(Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyespor), Simon Terodde (att)(1.FC Union Berlin), Sascha Riether (mid)(FC Fulham, loan), Daniel Schwabke (gk)(free), Andrézinho (def)(free), Mark Uth (att)(SC Heerenveen), Miro Varvodic (gk)(FK Qarabag Agdam), Petit (mid)(free), Martin Lanig (mid)(Eintracht Frankfurt), José Pierre Vunguidica (mid)(SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Stephan Salger (def)(Arminia Bielefeld), Henrique Sereno (def)(FC Porto, back from loan), Ammar Jemal (def)(BSC Young Boys, back from loan)

Not even Lukas Podolski was enough to save Köln from relegation from Bundeliga I, and now when Podolski left for Arsenal, Köln will have to go through a major redesign and will have to do it in Bundesliga II. All the other players in the club only served as Podolski’s backup, to maintain at least some balance on the pitch until Podolski takes the ball, and although a prolific striker such as Thomas Bröker was brought from Fortuna, Podolski’s absence will be more than noticeable. Now a team used to serving as a backup to one player will have to step up and start playing on their own, and it might be a difficult task without creativity in midfield, as Köln is not playing offensively and has no offensive midfielders whatsoever in the squad. Young right winger Christian Clemens will be expected to rule this league, delivering passes to strikers such as Chong Tese, Thomas Bröker and Milivoje Novakovic, but Köln might just learn that Bundesliga II isn’t such a weak competition and that creativity is necessary to break the opponents’ defences. Köln does look like a more balanced squad than Kaiserslautern, and although less offensive than Hertha, if they play their cards right, Köln might just prove to be more stable under these circumstances. However, to actually do well and reach a high spot on the table, they’ll need their strikers to keep scoring week after week.

Target:
Köln wants quick promotion and will also use this season to prepare themselves for another season of top flight. Köln should be among the top two or three teams.

MSV Duisburg

In:
Julian Koch (def)(Borussia Dortmund, loan), Sören Brandy (att)(SC Paderborn 07), Adli Lachheb (def)(FC Erzgebirge Aue), Timo Perthel (mid)(FC Hansa Rostock), Stephan Hennen (def)(MSV Duisburg II), Tanju Öztürk (mid)(MSV Duisburg II)

Out:
Emil Jula (att)(Anorthosis Famagusta, loan), Florian Fromlowitz (gk)(Dynamo Dresden), Bruno Soares (def)(Fortuna Düsseldorf), Tomasz Zahorski (att)(Jagiellonia Bialystok), János Lázok (att)(MTK Budapest), Daniel Reiche (def)(SV Babelsberg 03), Sergej Karimov (def)(MSV Duisburg II), Burakcan Kunt (mid)(MSV Duisburg II), Vasilios Pliatsikas (mid)(FC Schalke 04, back from loan)

Duisburg, a relegation candidate, did amazingly well last season and managed to grab the 10th spot, being completely safe from relegation in the final weeks of the competition. Coach Oliver Reck transformed the team from a relegation candidate to a confident mid-table team, and this season he’s expected to repeat the feat to stabilize the entire club. Looking at how Duisburg was performing in the last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they repeat the performances. Duisburg will be missing Bruno Soares in central defence and Vasilios Pliatsikas in defensive midfield, and despite getting young talented right back Julian Koch on loan from Borussia Dortmund, signing Sören Brandy from Paderborn and Adli Lacheeb from Erzgebirge Aue, the team will generally be a bit weaker than last season. However, so far veteran striker Srdjan Baljak was mostly on his own, and this season Duisburg might just have enough solid players to send an attacking duo on the pitch. The balance of this team shifted slightly towards offense, and Sören Brandy will have some proving to do now when he’ll get more playing time, as he was overshadowed by Nick Proschwitz in Paderborn. Brandy averaged just 15 minutes per match in Paderborn, and scored 4 goals in 30 appearances. Duisburg will need Brandy to do well, because the backup strikers aren’t good enough to lead the squad to victories. Duisburg might be struggling to score despite being slightly more offensive this season, which in turn will make the defensive tasks much more important.

Target:
Mid-table finish. Duisburg can do it but will again have to work hard to avoid unpleasant surprises and long losing streaks.

Paderborn

In:
Tobias Kempe (mid)(FC Erzgebirge Aue), Mario Vrancic (mid)(Borussia Dortmund II), Manuel Gulde (def)(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Patrick Ziegler (def)(SpVgg Unterhaching), Tobias Feisthammel (def)(Alemannia Aachen), David Poljanec (att)(FC Blau-Weiß Linz), Massimo Ornatelli (mid)(Preußen Münster), Manuel Zeitz (mid)(1.FC Nürnberg, loan), Christian Rasche (mid)(SC Paderborn 07 II), Sebastian Lange (gk)(SC Wiedenbrück 2000, back from loan)

Out:
Nick Proschwitz (att)(Hull City), Sergej Schmik (def)(SV Wilhelmshaven), Mehmet Kara (att)(Genclerbirligi Ankara), Matthew Taylor (att)(Preußen Münster), Florian Mohr (def)(FC St. Pauli), Sören Gonther (def)(FC St. Pauli), Enis Alushi (mid)(1.FC Kaiserslautern), Rolf-Christel Guié-Mien (mid)(free), Sören Brandy (att)(MSV Duisburg), Yasin Kocatepe (def)(free), Jens Grahl (gk)(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, back from loan), Lukas Rupp (mid)(Borussia Mönchengladbach, back from loan)

Paderborn was the story of the last season, as the average team almost managed to promote. Throughout the season, the fans and the press were in awe of how Paderborn was performing and found it unbelievable that they are managing to win week after week. Still, despite being a very determined team, in the end Paderborn couldn’t cope with the pressure and whenever they had a chance to reach the promotion spot by, for example, beating a relegation candidate at home, they’d undeperform. In the end, such events cost them the playoff spot. This season the fairy tale seems to be gone, as the club decided to capitalize on their golden striker Nick Proschwitz and sell him to Hully City for 3.3m. Enis Alushi was also sold, and now captain Markus Krösche is the only remaining player from the mighty trio which ruled Bundesliga II. This is no longer the same team, and coach Stephan Schmidt will have to rebuild from scratch. Players to replace the ones who left the club were signed, but they only match the position, not the quality or the leadership abilities. In order to match the performances of last season’s Paderborn side, a miracle would have to happen. David Poljanec can not do what Proschwitz was doing – scoring and bringing points as the sole striker in an utterly defensive team. All the signings are solid, but the team will be struggling for identity as the key players are not here anymore.

Target:
The team will be struggling to avoid relegation. All ambitions were put aside when the board decided to cash in on Proschwitz.

St. Pauli

In:
Robin Himmelmann (gk)(FC Schalke 04 II), Akaki Gogia (mid)(VfL Wolfsburg, loan), Daniel Ginczek (att)(Borussia Dortmund, loan), Sören Gonther (def)(SC Paderborn 07), Florian Mohr (def)(SC Paderborn 07), Lennart Thy (att)(SV Werder Bremen), Marcel Andrijanic (mid)(FC St. Pauli II), Florian Kirschke (gk)(FC St. Pauli II), Florian Kringe (mid)(Borussia Dortmund)

Out:
Max Kruse (mid)(SC Freiburg), Rouwen Hennings (att)(Karlsruher SC), Charles Takyi (mid)(free), Fabio Morena (def)(SV Sandhausen), Deniz Naki (mid)(free), Petar Filipovic (mid)(free), Carsten Rothenbach (def)(VfL Bochum), Moritz Volz (def)(TSV 1860 München), Petar Sliskovic (att)(1.FSV Mainz 05), Lasse Sobiech (def)(Borussia Dortmund, back from loan), Philipp Heerwagen (gk)(VfL Bochum, back from loan)

Despite being a promotion candidate throughout the season, and holding the promotion spot throughout the season, eventually St.Pauli dropped out of the promotion zone because of the awful away form in the final part of the campaign. St.Pauli couldn’t find the net when they had to, the offensive play wasn’t good enough, especially when St.Pauli was visiting, and as a consequence they have to spend at least another season in Bundesliga II. In the off season, despite the offensive problems, they weren’t on the market for strikers, and instead chose to strengthen the defence and midfield to be able to control their opponents better. They got rid of players who weren’t good enough to carry the team and bought off Carlos Zambrano’s contract from Schalke and brought Paderborn’s central defensive duo, Gonther and Mohr. In offense, they only brought young Lennart Thy and Daniel Ginczek – not the players who can be relied on – so veteran Marius Ebbers (34) will again have to lead St.Pauli’s offense. With less goals conceded this time, they hope. St.Pauli missed a golden chance to promote last season, and this time it will be very difficult to be a promotion candidate again as the league is much stronger, three teams demoted from Bundesliga instead of expected two, and St.Pauli doesn’t have a natural goalscorer. St.Pauli is gambling on injury-prone veteran Ebbers to lead the entire fate of the club, and if the gamble goes wrong, St.Pauli might have to settle for being a mid-table Bundesliga II team in the coming years.

Target:
St.Pauli is targeting the promotion spot, but this time it will be very hard to reach. A position near the promotion zone is expected, though.

SV Sandhausen

In:
Timo Achenbach (def)(Alemannia Aachen), Simon Tüting (mid)(Chemnitzer FC), Michael Langer (gk)(FSV Frankfurt), Nicky Adler (att)(SV Wacker Burghausen), Fabio Morena (def)(FC St. Pauli), Kim Falkenberg (def)(Alemannia Aachen), Alexander Riemann (att)(VfB Stuttgart II, loan), Michael Hiegl (gk)(SV Sandhausen U19)

Out:
Jan-André Sievers (def)(Fortuna Köln), Roberto Pinto (mid)(free), Aykut Öztürk (att)(FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Julian Böttger (gk)(VfR Mannheim), Michael Schick (def)(SV Wacker Burghausen), Dominik Rohracker (mid)(SpVgg Unterhaching), Danny Blum (mid)(Karlsruher SC, loan), Peter Prokop (def)(SV Sandhausen II), Adriano Grimaldi (att)(Fortuna Düsseldorf, back from loan)

SV Sandhausen won the 3rd league, mostly because of their great form in the first part of the season, and later they just sat back and waited for the league to finish. This is the first time Sandhausen is playing at this level, and they are taking it seriously, they immediately started looking for good reinforcements. They picked up a couple of players from relegated Alemannia, and a great centre-back Fabio Morena from St.Pauli, and generally strengthened their defence a good deal, obviously aware of the increasingly difficult challenges lying ahead in this league. Most of the team will be playing defensively, and the offensive tasks in this team are taken by two French players, David Ulm as the offensive midfielder and Régis Dorn, the striker who plays alonside captain Frank Löning. This offensive trio is experienced and knows how to create chances and goals, and that’s more than a lot of teams in this league have in the squad, which might mean Sandhausen has a chance to achieve safety and stay in their new league. Despite having only just promoted from 3rd league, all the most important Sandhausen players, including the offensive trio, have Bundesliga II experience so it’s nothing new for them. Since the squad is experienced enough, they might be having a solid season in the stronger league, without many ups or downs. They’ll need some time to adapt to stronger competition, but once they do, they won’t be an easy team to beat.

Target:
Safety. Sandhausen is looking good and might just reach it easier than expected.

Union Berlin

In:
Roberto Puncec (def)(Maccabi Tel Aviv, loan), Adam Nemec (att)(FC Ingolstadt 04), Björn Kopplin (def)(VfL Bochum), Daniel Haas (gk)(TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Fabian Schönheim (def)(1.FSV Mainz 05, loan)

Out:
Chinedu Ede (mid)(1.FSV Mainz 05), Ahmed Madouni (def)(FC Nantes), Philip Malinowski (mid)(Berliner AK 07), Santi Kolk (mid)(free), Boné Uaferro (def)(FC Schalke 04 II), Jérôme Polenz (mid)(free), Fabian Fritsche (def)(1.FC Union Berlin II)

Union Berlin did much better than expected in the last season and proved to be a very confident team difficult to beat and capable of beating just about anyone, though not in series and usually on their own stadium only. It was enough to grab the seventh spot, just behind the serious promotion contenders such as 1860 or Paderborn. Union is therefore topping the “rest of the league”, and it was their goal to catch the record and earn the highest league finish in their history. They failed to top their result from 2001/02 when they finished sixth, but this was still a very rewarding season for Union. They seem to have fared well during the transfer period, letting only the unneeded players leave, and they signed prominent Bundesliga II players, including some who have Bundesliga I experience such as Daniel Haas. Björn Kopplin and Roberto Puncec are a welcome addition to any defensive line in this league, and Adam Nemec is adding depth to the offensive line, though he won’t be carrying the offense. Union also signed Simon Terodde, who was on loan from Köln. Although he scored only eight goals, he was a valuable presence in the offensive line and since he’s young (24) there’s more room for development. Union Berlin’s activities on the transfer market are saying that this club intends to grow and intends to do even better than they did last season. There is just enough quality in this squad to do just that.

Target:
Sixth position or better. Union is trying to become a team for the upper third of the table, and they seem to be on the right track.

VfR Aalen

In:
Kevin Kampl (mid)(VfL Osnabrück), Oliver Barth (def)(SC Freiburg), Marcel Reichwein (att)(FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Daniel Buballa (def)(1.FSV Mainz 05 II), Michael Klauß (mid)(Jahn Regensburg), Benjamin Hübner (def)(SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Manuel Junglas (mid)(Alemannia Aachen), Nico Zimmermann (mid)(Eintracht Braunschweig), Jasmin Fejzic (gk)(SpVgg Greuther Fürth)

Out:
Jonas Marz (mid)(free), Sascha Herröder (def)(Alemannia Aachen), Mergim Neziri (mid)(1.FC Nürnberg II), Benjamin Barg (def)(VfR Aalen II), Marcel Klefenz (def)(VfR Aalen II), Timo Reus (gk)(retired), Christoph Sauter (mid)(1.FC Nürnberg, back from loan)

Aalen managed to promote directly to Bundesliga II with their great run from the second part of the season, a period during which they were the most successful club in the league. This is the first time the club is in Bundesliga II, after spending most of their history in Regionalliga Süd, but also only spending only a total of three seasons in 3rd league. The introduction of 3. Fußball-Liga in 2008 allowed this club to have a step in between Regionalliga and Bundesliga II, and they are the prime example of how useful it was for German football to introduce the 3rd league below the 2nd. The club has a wide array of experienced strikers, and the best ones are Robert Lechleiter and Marcel Reichwein, who combined 31 goals and 15 assists last season. Naturally, the board decided to reinforce the defence as offense is working fine, and brought veteran Oliver Barth from Freiburg. Midfield is the area which was reinforced the most, and Nico Zimmermann will be expected to lead this team from his left midfielder position. The squad is balanced and might be in for a good season in Bundesliga II if their experienced strikers manage to find the net repeatedly in this tougher competition. Since the club doesn’t have that much creativity in midfield, they might be struggling to deliver the ball to their exceptional striking duo, and a period of adaptation to stronger competition is expected for Aalen.

Target:
Safety. Aalen has just enough quality to make it happen, though they seem to be needing some more reinforcements in the winter transfer window.