AUSTRALIA: A-LEAGUE SEASON 2013/2014 PREVIEW

Australia

ADELAIDE UNITED

Predicted position: 9

X-factor: jugadores españoles

Adelaide’s start to the previous season rescued them from dropping out of finals contention, after a horrible dip in form and the parting of ways with coach John Kosmina. Newly appointed Spanish coach Josep Gombau has recruited a couple of his countrymen Cirio and Isaias, whilst Zullo returns to the A-League on loan from FC Utrecht.

Adelaide’s hopes of success in the up coming season will be determined by how their Spanish signings perform. They will need to score plenty of goals, as Adelaide’s defense looks very thin. Standout goalkeeper Galekovic will no doubt do his fair share in thwarting the efforts of the opposition, but he will need greater protection.

BRISBANE ROAR

Predicted position: 3

X-factor: Berisha

Brisbane Roar finished last season strongly with a finals berth and claiming fifth spot on the ladder. This season Brisbane will look to make a better start than the previous year, considering the squad and coach have had a full pre-season together. Berisha’s pre-season form has been promising, suggesting a performance like his fantastic 2011/2012 season.

The midfield will be key to Brisbane’s success in the upcoming season. Former captain Matt McKay returns to the club alongside Liam Miller. The new additions will allow Broich and Brattan to push forward and link with Berisha, who was isolated for much of last year.

CENTRAL COAST MARINERS

Predicted position: 1

X-factor: Flores

Last season’s champions have had to replace the losses of key players in the off-season. The Mariners have managed to recruit well and also retain the services of their manager Graham Arnold. Ex Victory playmaker Flores joins the team with new signings Liam Reddy and former player Matt Simon.

The Central Coast Mariners’ squad is well balanced, as they have outstanding players throughout all their key positions. Siansbury was a standout at the back last season, captain Hutchinson will anchor the midfield allowing Flores and McGlinchey to create opportunities for Simon and Duke.

The only potential weakness for the Mariners is filling the void left by goalkeeper Matt Ryan.

MELBOURNE HEART

Predicted position: 7

X-factor: Kewell

Melbourne Heart will be looking to improve from their dismal finish to last season, where they finished ninth. This season the Heart should be targeting finals football with the signings they have made.

The most high profile addition has been securing the services of Harry Kewell. This match has the potential to be a win-win for both parties. Heart needs a player with his experience and skills whilst Kewell is vying for a World Cup spot.

Patrick Kisnorbo has also been signed to boost the defensive stocks, this will help young goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne. He finished last season in fine form and is showing potential to be a key figure in the upcoming season.

MELBOURNE VICTORY

Predicted position: 4

X-factor: Ange Postecoglou

Melbourne Victory did extremely well last season to finish third in their first season under the stewardship of Ange Postecoglou. This season they will be looking to go further and win the competition.

Ange has stamped his personality on the team and club by assembling a squad full of youth and skill. The loss of creative players Rojas and Flores indicates that Mitch Nicols will play a major part in the final third for the Victory.

Youngsters Nabbout, Geria and Pain should all establish themselves as league regulars alongside the experienced Leijer, Thompson and Miligan. Ange’s team has the ability to dominate possession and play on the counter, making them dangerous and a serious title contender.

NEWCASTLE JETS

Predicted position: 8

X-factor: The Youth

The Jets finished eight last season missing the finals for the third straight year, a bitter pill to swallow for the football proud region. The Jets have one of the strongest membership bases in the league and will be expecting a major improvement from last season.

The squad is full of Australian youth internationals such as Taggart, Hoole, Brillante and Chapman. These youngsters will need time to develop and need to be surrounded by experienced players, which is why the Jets have added Nathan Burns on loan. Burns will be a key figure and should partner marquee striker Heskey up front.

A major concern for the team is the pressure coach Van Egmond is under. If the Jets start the season poorly he could be the first casualty of the season.

PERTH GLORY

Predicted position: 6

X-factor: Shane Smeltz

Coach Alistair Edwards will be expecting big things from his team this season. Perth underwent major changes in playing style when Edwards took over as coach. With a full pre-season to prepare his team, a finals position should be achievable.

Kiwi international Shane Smeltz was extremely quiet by his standards last season. He needs to recapture his prolific goal scoring form if the Glory are to make a finals appearance.

Smeltz will need quality service and support from Zahra and Nagai. Youngster Daniel De Silva who had a breakout tournament for Australia in the U20’s World Cup will join this trio in attack and should make some significant contributions throughout the season

SYDNEY FC

Predicted position: 5

X-factor: Alessandro Del Piero

Sydney FC narrowly missed the finals last year finishing in seventh place. Coach Frank Farina was another appointment made throughout the season. He was able to guide them from the bottom of the table to within a whisker of the finals.

Sydney FC and Farina have added several new faces in the off-season in an attempt to win the title. The major coup was retaining the services of football legend Del Piero. He will line up alongside new recruits Bojic, Jurman, Garcia and Gamerio.

If Sydney FC can deliver on the hype and gel as a team they have the potential to win the title. However Farina will have to deal with some pressing issues such as how Carle and Del Piero will play together, Brett Emerton’s decreasing form and who will lead the attack.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX

Predicted position: 10

X-factor: Paul Ifill

The Phoenix head into the up-coming season with new coach Ernie Merrick at the helm, Merrick rejoins the A-League and brings a wealth of experience to the club.

Merrick will have his work cut out for him in the up-coming season as his squad is largely similar to the one that finished bottom of the league last season. Merrick has to find ways within the team to control possession in the midfield and structure the defense to concede fewer goals. The Phoenix conceded the second highest amount of goals behind Sydney FC last season.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS

Predicted position: 2

X-factor: Wanderland/RBB

The Wanderers inaugural season was unexpected as they defied all the odds and finished as Premiers. Western Sydney local Tony Popovic displayed his outstanding coaching ability.

Popovic has retained the services of the majority of his squad, bringing in only a handful of new faces. Brendon Santalab joins the team from China and has had a fantastic pre-season, he has the ability to score goals, make intelligent runs off the ball and close down defenders. He is definitely one to look out for and will cause plenty of headaches for the opposition. Tomi Juric joins the Wanderers from Adelaide United, another player that has had a successful pre-season coinciding with his first Australian cap and goal. Popovic has also added experience to his backline with the signing of utility Dean Heffernan.

This season the Wanderers will look to go one better and add the Championship to their Premiership. The challenge is now playing with the expectations that are placed on the team. Approximately 15,000 memberships have been sold and this should see the “house full” sign go up at Wanderland at every home game. The RBB and Wanderers supporters have breathed life back into the competition, adding colour, noise and intimidating opponents. Wanderland will not be an easy place to travel to and pick up points.

Tactically the Wanderers have strengthened their forward line, as this was a weakness in the previous campaign. Haliti, Juric and Santalab will offer Popovic plenty of options to alter his game plan. The Mariners showed in last season’s grand final that when teams shut down the Wanderers, play with width and push their fullbacks up into the Wanderers defensive third, they will create problems for the Premiers’ ability to get out of trouble and retain possession.

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.

France Ligue I

Season Preview 2012/2013

AC Ajaccio

In:
Faty (mid) (Aris FC), Diarra (mid) (FC Lorient), Deville (def) (RSC Anderlecht), Belghazouani (mid) (SV Zulte Waregem), Sissoko (gk) (FC Metz)

Out:
Socrier (sp)(att) (Angers SCO), Ilan (sp)(att) (SC Bastia), N’Diaye (def) (Marseille), Oberhauser (gk), Cilia (def), Debes (sp)(gk), Gigliarelli (gk) (GFC Ajaccio)

Ajaccio exceeded expectations last season by successfully defending their place in the French top flight. They were very poor in the first half of the season, showing a lack of consistency and organisation, but after Christmas their fortunes changed drastically. Despite this, they have jettisoned head coach Olivier Pantaloni, allowing former Brest coach Alex Dupont to benefit from the momentum gained last term. Dupont’s Brest sides were based around a strong defensive foundation, and it is hard to imagine that he will transform Ajaccio into an exciting attacking side, particularly given the tools at his disposal. None of the key members of the squad from last season have left the squad, while the unit would appear to have been marginally strengthened over the course of the summer. Deville arrives from Anderlecht to strengthen the defence, while Ricardo Faty, a player never to reach his true potential, will add more weight to the midfield. In terms of attacking options, Eduardo will shoulder much of the goalscoring burden after a useful conclusion to last season, but the Brazilian has never been a reliable long-term solution in Ligue 1 and goals will have to arrive from elsewhere, too, particularly as Ilan has left to join island rivals Bastia, with whom the derbies will be particularly fierce. Key at the back will be Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, whose calibre is far above the level of the team around him. Last season he was not well protected, but this time around it must be expected that Dupont will have drilled the defence well and they will be very tight. Ajaccio will not be an attractive side to watch for attacking football, but they should be functional and will again compete hard against avoiding the drop.

Target:
Like last season, avoiding relegation is the simple target.

Evian TG

In:
Dhaouadi (att) (Club Africain), Mbarki (def) (CA Bizertin), Kone (mid) (Dinamo Bucarest), Salamone (gk) (Paris Saint-Germain)

Out:
Poulsen (k)(mid), Kahlenberg (r)(mid) (VfL Wolfsburg), Leroy (sp)(mid), Rippert (sp)(def), Westberg (gk) (Luzenac), Duran (gk), Farina (mid), Cilinsek (def)

Last season, Evian firmly established themselves as a force in Ligue 1 as they finished midway up the table, taking several notable scalps in the process. Scepticism that they could crumbled after sacking Bernard Casoni at Christmas quickly gave way to optimism as Pablo Correa impressed in his stead, not adopting the dour, defensive approach that was anticipated. They might not be quite as exciting as they once were going forward, but their results have ultimately improved. They will be aiming for a further step forward this season. The prospects for the Annecy club look good. Most of their key players have been retained, although they have so far failed to recapture Thomas Kahlenburg following a loan spell. Christian Poulsen is the only other notable member of their squad who will not be available this season, having elected to leave the club after one successful campaign. On the other hand, fellow Dane Daniel Wass remains, having been one of their stars down the right after joining from Sporting CP initially on loan. The dynamic of their starting XI is not expected to change greatly, although they have added some unknown quantities in the form of forward Zouheir Dhaouadi, a forward, Djakaridja Kone, who will play in midfield, and Iheb M’barki, who will feature at the back. These players will likely integrate over time. Striker Yannick Sagbo, who performed above expectations last season, will lead the offensive line for the club, assuming he is not sold. Several sides are after the front man, though Evian have reasonable strength in depth in this area, not boasting any outstanding players, but commanding enough artillery to ensure that goals will not be in too short supply. Veteran Cedric Barbosa was in terrific form last term, and the playmaker will again be relied upon to provide excellence this time around too as there is a dearth of innovation in the centre of the park for les Roses. Life will become tough if he fails to recapture his best.

Target:
Evian will be aiming to push for a top-half finish, and if they can replicate their form of last season, this should be well attainable.

Girondins de Bordeaux

In:
None

Out:
S. Sane (sp)(mid) (AS Nancy Lorraine), Modeste (sp)(att) (SC Bastia – loan), Krychowiak (mid) (Stade de Reims), Savic (sp)(def) (SG Dynamo Dresden – loan), Chevalier (mid) (GFC Ajaccio – loan), Sala (US Orléans – loan)

Bordeaux endured a season of transition last term but finished strongly and only just missed out on the European places. Having impressed late in the last campaign, they’ll be eager to improve their level again and push higher even this season under Francis Gillot, whose primary task last time around was simply to steady a ship that was threatening to sink. He did this using a 3-5-2 formation that he admitted was against his usual attacking instincts, and it’s likely that at some point in this campaign he will attempt to move away from this out-moded setup to something more to his taste. If the new system does not work, he will always have this tactic to fall back on. Remarkably, their squad has gone virtually untouched over the summer, with no major players leaving or arriving. Key midfielder Jaroslav Plasil has confessed that he may seek a move from the club at some point, and if he were to depart before the September 4 deadline that would represent a big blow to their efforts this season. He is an offensive catalyst and a solid defensive player and is probably the key element in the side. Further forward, Yoan Gouffran is an often-lamented talent, yet he has performed well on the whole for the club and boasted an impressive scoring record last term. He will again be seen as their key source of goals this time around. Much of his supply comes from the wide areas, where wing-backs Mariano and Benoit Tremoulinas are standout performers. Both are highly energetic and highly effective. In the heart of the defence, Bordeaux can be a little slow and over-reliant on their physical attributes, but behind the central defenders, they boast Cedric Carrasso, who is one of the strongest goalkeepers in the league. They finished last season well, and they will expect to go well this term too.

Target:
Bordeaux will aim to build on last season’s positive effort, and European football is the ultimate goal. They could surprise some people.

Lille OSC

In:
Kalou (att) (Chelsea) Martin (mid) (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Elana (gk) (Stade Brestois 29), Sidibe (def) (ESTAC Troyes), Klonaridis (AEK Athens)

Out:
Hazard (k)(att) (Chelsea), Cole (sp)(mid) (Liverpool – loan ends), Cetto (r)(def) (Palermo – loan ends)

Lille finished third in Ligue 1 last term, and they’ll be aiming to secure a hat-trick of podium finishes this time around. Head coach Rudi Garcia has proven himself an extremely shrewd operator in the transfer window, with les Dogues posting a huge profit from the sale of Eden Hazard to Chelsea. Of course the Belgian was the key man in the Lille side, but they were more than just him, and there is still immense quality in this squad. So far they’ve managed to retain all of their other key men, although right-back Mathieu Debuchy is pushing for a move to England against the wishes of the club. In the place of Hazard, Lille have added three players of quality, also making up for the loss of Joe Cole, who was not retained after his loan. Salomon Kalou arrives on a free transfer from Chelsea, while Marvin Martin will aim to get his career back on track after it stalled somewhat last season. Klondaris is a hot young prospect from Greece that Lille hope is the next Hazard, but he will certainly not have the same immediate impact. Further back, improvements have also been made, but as Mauro Cetto’s loan has ended, Lille are in the market for another central defender. Sidibe will be a valuable addition in the right-back slot, bringing depth and potential after his time from Troyes, while there will be a real scrap over the goalkeeping jersey as Steeve Elana has joined from Brest, where he proved himself as one of the best in the league. It is hard to imagine that either he or Mickael Landreau will be on the bench next season, while Nigeria international Vincent Enyeama will be third choice unless he leaves the club, which is expected. Lille’s slow but gradual evolution of their side continues, and each season they appear to come through equally as strong. They should remain an exciting attacking team as they have a host of offensive options, while their defensive line is often under-rated.

Target:
Now established as one of France’s elite, Lille are equipped to finish as high as second in the league, and this should be imminently achievable, despite the loss of Hazard.

Lorient

In:
Traore (mid) (Auxerre), Giuly (mid) (Monaco)

Out:
Douniama (sp)(att) (AC Arles Avignon – loan), Diarra (r)(mid) (AC Ajaccio), Campbell (sp)(att) (Arsenal – loan return), Doukoure (att) (SA Epinal)

Lorient have typically been a model of stability in their most recent appearance in Ligue 1, which has last half a decade, but last season Yoann Gourcuff’s side were forced to battle against relegation for the first time seriously. Injuries ravaged the Breton side, with many of their top performers cut down, and as a result, they were unable to accelerate in the manner that they would have wanted. This summer, they’ve retained their canny stance in the transfer window and have not panicked because of last term’s poor performance. Sigamary Diarra, who never showed his strongest form last season after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, has departed for Ajaccio, but on the other hand, Lorient’s starting midfield has been strengthened. FCL have taken advantage of the freedom Ludovic Giuly has to sign the veteran winger, who will probably act as something of a wildcard, but they’ve also broken the bank to swoop for Auxerre’s Alain Traore, who will become the heartbeat of their midfield and upon whom much will rely. Offensively, Lorient must improve. They did not show enough offensively last season to shoot themselves away from danger, although there are good finishers in their squad. They must show this more often, and the return to fitness of Julien Quercia should be a big boost after he missed most of last term. Kevin Monnet-Pacquet is a player who must show more out wide, particularly as he is well capable. At the back, Lorient were surprisingly strong last term, and they now have significant depth across their defensive line, meaning that they will be robust against injuries and suspensions. Typically, they’ve been a team to build their success on their home form, using their synthetic home surface to out pass teams. Like last term, they are not as technically sound as they’ve been in the past, but they will certainly hope for a stronger season than last term.

Target:
After nearly being sucked into Ligue 2, a comfortable finish is all Lorient will seek this season.

Montpellier HSC

In:
Herrera (att) (CD Unión Espanola), Mounier (att) (OGC Nice), Congre (def) (Toulouse FC), Charbonnier (att) (Angers SCO)

Out:
Giroud (k)(att) (Arsenal), Dernis (sp)(mid) (Stade Brestois 29), Lacombe (att) (Clermont Foot)

Montpellier surprised everyone in the French game last season as they picked up the Ligue 1 crown, showing remarkable consistency in the second half of the campaign to fend off the challenge of big-spending PSG, who were expected to sweep their way to the title. Rene Girard performed a miracle last term, and he’ll be looking to repeat that effort over the course of the next 10 months, albeit to an even greater degree as the power of the Parisian club has grown. Contrary to expectations, Montpellier have so far managed to preserve their title-winning team, with the exception of Olivier Giroud, who has moved to Arsenal. All the other key elements, such as Younes Belhanda, Marco Estrada, Henri Bedimo and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, remains, although the latter of these players has threatened to move to AC Milan. But Montpellier have not only succeeded in retaining their panel, it’s actually been strengthened, too. Last term they relied upon players not picking up injuries, but this time around they actually have some depth to their panel. Both Gaetan Charbonnier and Herrara have looked good additions to the offensive line, while Anthony Mounier was one of the outstanding wingers in the whole league last term and should make a big impression on joining from Nice, where he shouldered the burden for the entire attack. In the back four, the only big change is the addition of Daniel Congre, who will compete with Hilton to start alongside Yanga-Mbiwa, assuming the youngster remains in France next season. With a great squad spirit and an excellent chemistry between the players, there is little to suggest that la Paillade should not be a strong force in Ligue 1 again in the coming campaign, as they have shown themselves to be strong all over the field.

Target:
Winning the title again would be staggering, but Montpellier are well capable of challenging for a top three finish once more.

Nancy

In:
Grange (mid) (Châteauroux), Ayasse (mid) (AC Arles Avignon), Louis (mid) (Le Mans FC), Muratori (def), Dampha (def) (Neuchâtel Xamax FC), Zenke (att) (Samsunspor)

Out:
Traore (r)(mid) (AC Milan), Jeannot (att) (Châteauroux – loan), Calve (def) (SM Caen), Niculae (att) (AS Monaco FC – loan return), Cuvillier (mid) (SM Caen – loan), Lemaitre (sp)(def), Zola (mid) (Havre AC), Pillot (gk)

Of all the clubs in Ligue 1, no team has overseen a greater transition of players than Nancy. This widespread change is a risky tactic for a team who actually performed rather well under Jean Fernandez last season after a tricky start to the campaign. Perhaps only one important player has been lost, though, with Bakaye Traore, a particular influence in the second half of the season, going to AC Milan on a free transfer. Many of the other players to go were only at the club on loan or were on the fringes of the squad. Equally, Nancy’s squad depth may have increased, but the quality of their panel has not taken a significant jump. Thomas Ayasse will play the role of Traore this season as the dynamic attacking midfielder, but he’s thus far not been successful in the top flight previously, and Fernandez is set to gamble on several such players to fill his panel for the season ahead. The highly-regarded Romain Grange is another midfielder in this position, along with Jeff Louis, who is likely to be the least used of this trio. In terms of the starting XI, there will be few changes made by the coach. Once again solidarity at the back will be paramount, but Nancy were more attacking last season than many had anticipated, with the capture of attacker Yohan Mollo, who has now joined permanently, playing a key role in this. Ultimately, though, it will be the performance of the defence that determines their success this season. They are strong at the back and well organised, with goalkeeper Guy Ndy Assembe having proved himself a strong shot-stopper, if a little erratic from crossed balls. With a powerful defence in front of him, which is marshalled primarily by Andre Luiz, this weakness is often not easily exposed. At home, Nancy play on a synthetic surface, but they are typically a very direct team who thrive on hitting sides on the counterattack; taking the scalp of PSG in such a manner last term.

Target:
Nancy are a team firmly established in Ligue 1, and they’ll expect another mid-table finish this season.

Nice

In:
Bautheac (att) (Dijon FCO), Traore (mid) (FC Metz – loan return), Genevois (mid) (Tours FC), Delle (gk) (FC Metz), Kolodzieczak (def) (Olympique Lyonnais)

Out:
Goncalves (sp)(att) (Rio Ave), Mounier (k)(mid) (Montpellier Hérault SC), Mouloungui (r)(att) (Al Wahda), Hellebuyck (mid), Sable (sp)(mid), Clerc (r)(def) (AS Saint-Etienne), Diakite (sp)(mid), Veronese (gk) (FC Istres)

Nice have spent recent seasons battling against the threat of demotion from France’s top flight, but former Olympique Lyonnais head coach Claude Puel arrived at the Stade du Ray in the summer with a very different mindset. Over the course of his contract, the ex-Lille boss has suggested that he could see les Aiglons reach the Champions League, and if that’s to be achieved, the first steps must be taken this season. Nice may have seen a cut in their budget, but their squad appears to have been reinforced cleverly in the crucial areas. Going forward, Anthony Mounier was Nice’s only significant threat last season. He has been offloaded to Lille in the summer, giving Puel a clean slate to work from. Ajax striker Darío Cvitanich has been added to the club’s roster and should finally provide them with a centre-forward presence that has been missing since Loic Remy was sold to Marseille. In the midfield, too, Nice appear to have bolstered their team cleverly. Eric Bautheac will be a vital attacking presence from this sector after a fine and somewhat under-rated season with Dijon. At the back, there were never any issues about the quality of les Aiglons’ defence. Renato Civelli and Nemanja Pejcinovic are a well-established centre-back pairing, while Lucas Monzon in the left-back slot is not only a threat from set pieces, he is also one of the outstanding players in his role in France. They have done well to keep hold of Monzon over the course of the summer, and also goalkeeper David Ospina, who was courted by larger clubs. These players will form the basis of the long-term success of the club this season, but much relies on their success to replace Mounier. If Nice can find some cutting edge, they will be dangerous indeed, particularly under Puel, who is a coach known for being able to marshal defences.

Target:
Comfortable survival would be seen as a good season for Le Gym.

Olympique Lyonnais

In:
None

Out:
Ederson (sp)(mid) (Lazio), Kallstrom (r)(mid) (FC Spartak Moscow), Yattara (ESTAC Troyes – loan), Mensah (def), Touncara (gk) (Clermont Foot), Kolodzieczak (def), Seguin (def) (Tours FC), Fontaine (def) (Tours FC)

With only a week remaining before the start of the Ligue 1 season, Olympique Lyonnais are in the remarkable position of being one of the only clubs not to have made a signing. Like fellow heavyweights Marseille, Lyon have been forced to tighten their belts financially, and if they are going to add to their squad, it is likely that they are going to have to first make some sales. High earners will be the players pushed through the door as the change to a focus on youth at Stade Gerland continues. In terms of high profile players to depart the club, Ederson has gone to Lazio on a free transfer, but by far a greater loss to the first team will be Kim Kallstrom, who was always a quietly effective presence in the heart of the team. There is no experienced replacement for the Swede, and therefore head coach Remi Garde will be forced to rely upon a youth academy which was rated the third best in France last year. This will be the case all over the field, particularly as Michel Bastos is set to leave, with Hugo Lloris’ future distinctly uncertain. It would be a huge blow for Lyon to lose players of such calibre all at once, with the goalkeeper showing his worth with a sparkling performance as OL defeated Montpellier to lift the Trophee des Champions. President Jean-Michel Aulas still talks confidently of the future of the club, and it would be easy to play down the quality Lyon still posses. There is perhaps no deadlier striker in Ligue 1 than Lisandro Lopez, while Bafetimbi Gomis remains. Yoann Gourcuff will be given more responsibility after two poor seasons, and he is liable to dictate whether OL’s season is to be a roaring success or not. The biggest problem remains in the centre of the defence, which has been weak for a whole year now. Cris is old and failing, while Dejan Lovren comes into this season struggling. On the flanks, OL are far from secure, and Aly Cissokho is another player who could leave. If their youths cannot come good and injuries strike, Lyon will suffer problems.

Target:
President Jean-Michel Aulas has targeted a top-three finish, but on paper this Lyon side is not one of the best in France. Matching last season’s fourth would be a solid effort.

Olympique Marseille

In:
Raspentino (att) (Nantes)

Out:
Brandao (sp)(att), Traore (sp)(def), Sabo (sp)(def), Andrade (gk)

Marseille have endured perhaps the most traumatic summer of any club in France’s top flight. OM lost head coach Didier Deschamps and announced that there would be no significant money available to add to their squad before struggling badly in their pre-season friendlies. When it finally came time for play, they started reasonably in the Europa League by scoring a 1-1 draw away against Eskisehirspor. Although no definitive conclusions about Marseille’s season can yet be drawn, the evidence would suggest it will be a struggle. The appointment of Elie Baup to replace the popular Deschamps was largely met with derision from the club’s fans. Although he lifted the French title previously with Bordeaux, he is remembered for his time with Toulouse, where his side were incredibly dour, and also Nantes, whom he allowed to be relegated, never to return. What’s more, there is tension within the squad. Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew have both been involved in spats with their team-mates over the course of pre-season, and the tension has not been relieved any by fresh additions. Indeed, the only player to be signed by OM this summer has been Florian Raspentino, who is an attacking prospect to arrive from Nantes. Although he has enjoyed a good pre-season, he cannot be expected to play any more than a bit-part role this term. In an attempt to cut the wage bill of their side, Marseille have allowed some fringe players to go, the most prominent of whom are Brandao and Djimi Traore. It seems that they will rely on a healthy youth system to replace these men, although this in itself is something of a gamble. After drawing in Turkey in the Europa League, the squad spoke buoyantly and confidently about what the future may hold, but after such a disastrous conclusion to last term, no further investment and a downgrading of coaching, it is easy to see Marseille slipping back into a mid-table position next term. With the squad they have, they are capable of better, but they will have to tread carefully in the transfer market.

Target:
Marseille’s aim is always Champions League football, but the way the club is at the moment, top five would be considered a decent effort. This would not be accepted by the fans, though.

Paris St Germain

In:
Ibrahimovic (att) (AC Milan), Thiago Silva (def) (AC Milan), Lavezzi (mid) (SS. Napoli), Verratti (mid) (Pescara)

Out:
Ceara (def), Bahebeck (mid) (ESTAC Troyes – loan), Ngoyi (mid) (ESTAC Troyes), Salamone (gk) (Evian TG FC)

Paris Saint-Germain have been catching the headlines in the French media for the last year since the takeover of QSI, but this was stepped up a level further over the course of the summer as their spending and profile reached new heights. Runners-up under Carlo Ancelotti last season, the Qatari-owned club have set themselves up not only to go one better in the league, but also to perform strongly in Europe. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the big news this summer, yet the Swedish striker, who is widely renowned as one of the best in the game, was only the club’s third biggest signing. Ezequiel Lavezzi will come into an offensive line riddled with talent, while Thiago Silva, the best defender in the world according to many, was added for €42 million to strengthen a defence that was an Achilles heel of the team previously. Both Ibrahimovic and Silva have worked previously with Ancelotti and will know what to expect. PSG’s advantages over their rivals are huge, with a budget estimated as being more than twice as large as their nearest competitors, and their squad is now the match of any in Europe, both in terms of quality and depth. Vying with Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic for attacking berths are Nene, Jeremy Menez, Javier Pastore and France internationals Guillaume Hoarau and Kevin Gameiro, both of whom could depart the club before the end of the transfer window due to a potential lack of opportunities. Their talent pool all over the field is as deep, and many commentators have suggested that if they had two sides, both could finish in France’s top five. Perhaps their only problems could come from within. Infighting and lack of satisfaction over game time could upset the rhythm of the team, while the new arrivals could take Ligue 1 too lightly after playing in Italy over the last few years. Without complacency, and assuming the new players can gel in even remotely quickly, it’s difficult to see anyone unseating PSG this time around.

Target:
Anything less than the title and a good run in the Champions League will be seen as a below-par effort.

Reims

In:
Fauvergue (att) (CS Sedan), Toudic (att) (RC Lens – loan), Fofana (def) (Toulouse FC), Krychowiak (mid) (Girondins de Bordeaux), Signorino (def) (Stade Lavallois), Devaux (mid) (Toulouse FC)

Out:
Faure (r)(att) (EA Guingamp), Amalfitano (r)(mid) (Newcastle United FC), Tainmont (sp)(def) (Châteauroux), Deaux (sp)(mid) (FC Nantes), Fontaine (sp)(mid) (FC Rouen 1899), Collet (mid), Aubey (def), Kodjia (gk) (Amiens – loan)

Reims were once one of the heavyweights of European football, almost attaining the pinnacle of European football in the 1950s, and after a spell out of the spotlight, they have returned to the top level of the French game. Hubert Fournier led his team to an unexpected top three finish last term in spite of a relatively small budget. Although the coach has had his hands freed to spend a little more this summer, these sums are dwarfed by many of the teams around his, and a battle against relegation would appear to be on the cards. Fournier has gambled by signing Nicolas Fauvergue from Sedan, a player around which he will build his offence. Although he was a highly-reliable goal scorer in Ligue 2, Fauvergue flopped previously while Lille, but the coach will hope the young striker has matured enough to make a success of his second go at Ligue 1. It will be vital he is able to establish himself successfully. Reims do have other talented players, of course. Kamel Ghilas will float just behind the central striker and would be expected to be their top scorer, even from the No.10 position. Out wide, Odair Fortes is exceptionally quick but sometimes wasteful, and will have to raise his level for this challenge. Midfield will be a crucial area for the newly promoted club, and they’ve strengthened accordingly, shedding Lucas Deaux and adding Gregorz Krychowiak and Antoine Deveaux – two very canny signings. Perhaps where they are most vulnerable, though, is in defence, which was an area that looked uncertain at times even a level down. Franck Signorino is added to add experience, while Mohamed Fofana arrives from Toulouse to supply muscle. A lack of depth all over the team will be a big handicap if injuries and suspensions strike the squad, although last season they showed themselves to be a physically reliable team who were mentally sound too. After basing their success on their home form last season, they will again have to excel at the Stade August Delaune.

Target:
Avoiding relegation will be tricky for Reims, and this is what their attention is focussed on.

Saint Etienne

In:
Hamouma (mid) (SM Caen), Cohade (mid) (Valenciennes FC), Clerc (def) (OGC Nice)

Out:
Sinama-Pongolle (sp)(att) (Sporting CP – loan return), Marchal (r)(def) (SC Bastia), Batlles (sp)(mid), Janot (sp)(gk) (Le Mans FC), Ebondo (sp)(def), Ravet (att) (Angers SCO – loan), Nery (sp)(def) (Valenciennes FC), Paulao (sp)(def) (Betis)

Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier may have seen his budget cut marginally in the lead up to the new campaign, but ASSE go into the season with quiet confidence that they are building a team capable of threatening the European places. Galtier has done a strong job so far at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, leading the club to consecutive top 10 finishes. Although going a step further may be a little beyond the club’s capabilities, it is a fair aim for a capable squad. Losing Florent Sinama-Pongolle, one of their top earners on loan from Sporting CP, has allowed the club to invest wisely in Ligue 1-proven talent such as Renaud Cohade, who will become the fulcrum of the midfield having previously excelled at Valenciennes. Even the loss of Sylvain Marchal in the heart of the defence has been adequately covered by the present depth of the squad, and most starkly the emergence of teenage defender Kurt Zouma, who has been tipped as one of the outstanding teenagers to watch in the French game. Going forward, Saint-Etienne’s play is marked by quick attacking breaks, personified best by the talents of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose ability to refine his finishing last season was one of the factors that lifted in to the realms of a feared top-flight forward. Max Gradel’s performances on the wing in pre-season suggest that he could be a real presence in Ligue 1 this term, while in the midfield, Sainte are also well armed. Jeremy Clement and Fabien Lemoine are two players excellent at providing the legwork while Cohade plays, and that’s not even taking into account Josuha Guilavogui, a quickly-developing dynamic central player. Les Verts are not expected to have any one particular weakness in their play, although their team as a whole is not quite up to the level of the best in France. A lack of guile can be evident at times, while their defence has not been hard-nosed enough in the past, despite the presence of excellent goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, who enjoyed a magnificent debut campaign.

Target:
Strides are being made under Christophe Galtier, and Sainte will be aiming for Europe. Realistically, this will be a little beyond them.

SC Bastia

In:
Ilan (att) (AC Ajaccio), Marchal (def) (AS Saint-Etienne), Palmieri (FC Istres), Modeste (att) (Girondins de Bordeaux), Yatabare (mid) (AS Monaco FC), Bonnefoi (gk) (Angers), Varenne (Cournon)

Out:
Diallo (k)(mid) (Stade Rennais FC) Genest (sp)(mid) (FC Istres), Suarez (sp)(att) (AC Arles Avignon), Periatambee (mid), Robail (sp)(mid) (Nîmes Olympique), Sanaia (sp)(def)

Bastia handily won Ligue 2 last season, and this time around they’ll hold high hopes of establishing themselves in France’s top flight. The Corsican outfit were by some distance the classiest offensive outfit last term, boasting talented players such as Jerome Rothen, whose experience and talent proved to be too much for their rivals. This time around, life will not be so simple. At home, they will aim to replicate the unbeaten performances that were the bedrock of their success last time. Losing exciting offensive midfielder Sadio Diallo, who provided firepower from long range, will be something of a blow for the Bastia, but otherwise David Suarez is the only other really meaningful player to depart. Coming into the team, though, they have a nice blend of youth and experience. Ilan will bolster their offensive line, bringing considerable knowhow to the attack, while Sylvain Marchal’s arrival will add experience to the heart of the defence. There are also some fresh faces who arrive, including Anthony Modeste, who remains a desired striker despite a poor record in the top flight. Additionally, former Monaco midfielder Sambou Yatabare arrives with a point to prove after two disappointing seasons, though he is a player of immense potential still. The rearguard may not be an area of particular concern, but there were weaknesses exposed in this aspect of their play away from home last season, meaning that Bastia lost half the time they played on the road. Head coach Frederic Hantz must find a formula that allows them to be more competitive on the road if they are to thrive, and that may mean adopting a more defensive system that is against his natural instincts. Hantz does have experience in the top flight previously, and this is likely to be vital for his side as the season develops.

Target:
Bastia will seek to avoid the drop, and they are the best placed of the promoted sides to achieve this.

Sochaux

In:
Yartey (att) (SL Benfica), Contout (att) (AJ Auxerre), Kante (def) (Panathinaikos), Pouplin (gk) (SC Fribourg), Doubai (mid) (Udinese Calcio), Daf (def) (Stade Brestois 29)

Out:
Martin (k)(mid) (LOSC Lille), Maiga (r)(att) (West Ham), Richert (k)(gk), Brechet (k)(def), Davies (att)

Sochaux had to battle against relegation until the very last day of the season, but one of Ligue 1’s most historic clubs managed to scramble themselves to safety just when it mattered. Mecha Bazdarevic’s appointment as coach last summer proved to be a disastrous move, and it was not until Eric Hely took the reins near the end of the campaign that they finally started to look a team of standard. However, an opportunity to develop the club was crucially lost, with the talents of Ryad Boudebouz and Marvin Martin forced to stagnate for much of the campaign. Martin has departed the club for Lille, and although Boudebouz remains, it is expected that he will fly to one of Ligue 1’s big guns over the remainder of the transfer window. Other experienced players have gone, too. Modibo Maiga, an enigmatic but effective striker, has gone to England, while veteran defender Jeremie Brechet has left the club. The baton will be passed to new members of the youth academy to take over, with the likes of Joseph Lopy excelling under Hely’s guidance towards the end of last season. But les Lionceaux are not a team who will rely on youth alone. Sebastien Roudet has the potential to be a Ligue 1 playmaker of some note, yet this was not evident in his performances under Bazdarevic last season. During the summer the club have acted to attract several fresh faces, but many of these are relative unknowns in the world of Ligue 1, and it remains to be seen how effectively they can settle into their new surrounds – something that will almost certainly act to define Sochaux’s campaign. Yartey is the most intriguing of their new additions, but players such as Simon Pouplin and Cedric Kante, who are returning to Ligue 1 after stints away, should certainly serve to bolster the side very much. Auxerre’s Roy Contout also arrives, though he is notoriously frustrating.

Target:
After going close to the drop last season, avoiding relegation is key. With this squad, they should achieve that, but making inroads into the top 10 will be difficult.

Stade Brestois

In:
Traore (def) (CS Sedan), Benschop (att) (AZ Alkmaar), Thebaux (gk) (SM Caen), Chafni (mid) (Auxerre), Mendy (OB Odense), Dernis (Montpellier Hérault SC), Sissoko (Udinese Calcio – loan)

Out:
Poyet (sp)(att) (SM Caen), Zebina (k)(def) (Toulouse FC), Gentiletti (sp)(def) (Argentinos juniors, ARG), Jemaa (sp)(att) (Auxerre), Elana (k)(gk) (LOSC), Ewolo (sp)(mid) (Stade Lavallois), Daf (r)(def) (FC Sochaux-Montbéliard), Bigne (mid)

Brest just avoided relegation last season as Courentins Martin took the reins at the last minute from the sacked Alex Dupont and steered the Breton club to safety. Martin, however, will not remain in charge of first-team affairs, with Landry Chauvin taking charge. Chauvin has pushed for promotion into the top flight with Nantes and Sedan unsuccessfully in recent times, so it is something of a gamble appointing him, particularly as he represents something of a departure from the dull, defensive football that has been so synonymous with the Stade Francis Le Ble club over the course of the last two seasons. They have been incredibly difficult to beat, particularly at home, and this is something that Chauvin must maintain in this side if they are to thrive this term. There has been a big turnover of players in the summer months, but so far it seems that they have failed to solve their goalscoring problems. Alexandre Alphonse was expected to provide some firepower after arriving in January but has largely failed to contribute, though with Kamel Chafni signed to provide some creativity in the No.10 role or out wide, more opportunities should be forthcoming. Brest were incredibly reliant on set pieces to produce them goals last season, though in Bruno Grougi they have arguably Ligue 1’s deadliest player over direct free kicks. He is no slouch when it comes to delivering corners or free kicks, either. Geoffrey Dernis, meanwhile, has been added to provide stability, depth and experience alongside him in the midfield. Keystone defender Jonathan Zebina may have opted to make a Bosman move to Toulouse and excellent goalkeeper Steeve Elana may have fled to Lille, but Brest have reinforced an already strong rearguard. Ismael Traore arrives from Sedan, where Chauvin knew him well, while goalkeeper Alevxis Thebault was perhaps the league’s most under-rated in his position last season, when he could not help Caen avoid the drop.

Target:
Brest will be amongst the sides fighting for survival, but a lack of goals could really cost them.

Stade Rennais

In:
Alessandrini (mid) (CS Sedan), Diallo (mid) (SC Bastia)

Out:
Mangane (r)(def) (Al-Hilal), Doumbia (sp)(mid) (Wolverhampton – loan), Dalmat (mid) (Nîmes Olympique), Hadji (sp)(att) (Al-Arabi), Carrasso (sp)(gk) (FC Metz),Rouger (mid) (EA Guingamp – loan), Boyer (mid) (Angers SCO), N’Diaye (gk)

Rennes were one of the great underachievers of last season, failing to grab a European spot despite boasting a panel of players that was perhaps capable of challenging the top three or four in the league. The Breton club started the campaign explosively but quickly faded, leading to rumours that head coach Frederic Antonetti could be sacked, yet he remains in charge heading into the fresh campaign. Les Rouge et Noir will expect a significant improvement and a Europa League spot will be a requirement for a team known for failing against lower league opposition in the cups – as they did crucially twice last season. Yann M’Vila has made most of the headlines this summer as he has not yet left the club, and it’s still unclear what the future holds for the holding midfielder, who has rather gone out of frashion after a difficult conclusion to last term. He may not be the all-action midfielder held up in the media, but he is a very steady performer and could still be a giant influence for Rennes on his day. It’s going forward where Rennes’ greatest inconsistencies show. Jonathan Pitroipa is potentially outstanding, but can just as easily flop, and he is the embodiment of an offensive line that lacks any continuity. Antonetti is partly to blame for this as the squad is too big and often means he rotates his panel unnecessarily, although this should not be such a big problem this term given that Rennes will not be in Europe. Some trimming has already been done, although it has not been as extensive as envisaged earlier this summer. Kader Mangane is one of the leaders gone from the defence, but the likes of Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, who has been attracting interest from AC Milan, and Romain Danze, who was linked with a move away from the club, remain. Goalkeeper Benoit Costil proved himself one of the league’s most reliable last term and will be a good base from which the rest of the squad can be constructed from.

Target:
Anything less than a European finish will see the end of Antonetti. They have been too inconsistent in recent times to expect a top six spot, though.

Toulouse

In:
Zebina (def) (Brest), Blondel (gk) (ESTAC)

Out:
Congre (r)(def) (Montpellier Hérault SC), Bulut (sp)(att) (Galatasaray – loan), Fofana (sp)(def) (Stade de Reims), Riou (sp)(gk) (FC Nantes), Deveaux (sp)(mid) (Stade de Reims), Loustallout (gk) (Rodez), Soukouna (att) (US Luzenac – loan)

Toulouse achieved an impressive campaign in Ligue 1 last time out, despite failing to achieve European football. Alain Casanova’s side might have been a rather dour outfit to watch – a claim that the coach vehemently denied in spite of damning evidence to the contrary – but they were certainly effective, and at their best they were rather devastating. Matching that performance will be their aim this season. In terms of players they have lost, Daniel Congre will be the key man from the defensive line. A versatile performer, he was important in one of the league’s strongest back fours. On the other hand, le Tefece have done well to instead recruit veteran Jonathan Zebina, who provided Brest with sterling service last term and who can be equally influential with the Garonne outfit this time around. Troublingly, no strides have been made to improve an offensive line that was too reliant on set pieces to produce goals last season. Emmanuel Riviere remains, and he will be expected to do more to justify the €4 million fee that was given to Saint-Etienne 12 months ago. In the midfield, Toulouse remain exceptionally solid. Etienne Capoue was arguably the best holding midfielder in the whole league last season and was courted by Arsenal and Barcelona over the summer, and again forms the fulcrum of the whole side – assuming there is no last-minute transfer activity. On the left side, Franck Tabanou is a player that Toulouse have done exceptionally well to hold on to for the last two years and who will provide much of the expected creativity from the midfield. Toulouse are dangerous down both flanks but are let down by their lack of consistent centre-forward threat and the fact that they do not have a high level playmaker who is trusted by the coach. Casanova’s side should be expected to be well disciplined, but they will produce few fireworks, with low scoring games regular.

Target:
Matching last term’s success will be the aim, but realistically they will be in the mid-table mix and could well finish closer to the bottom of the standings than the top.

Troyes

In:
Yattara (mid) (Olympique Lyonnais – loan), Nivet (mid) (SM Caen), Darbion (mid) (Skoda Xanthi FC), Dreyer (gk) (Fréjus), Gope-Fenepej (def) (AS Magenta), Bahebeck (mid) (Paris Saint-Germain – loan), Ngoyi (mid) (Paris Saint-Germain)

Out:
Caceres (r)(att) (Dijon FCO – loan), Beauvue (sp)(mid) (Châteauroux), Sidibe (r)(def) (LOSC Lille), Blondel (r)(gk) (Toulouse FC)

Troyes sneaked into Ligue 1 in the closing weeks last term, finishing third in Ligue 2 after an epic battle that involved nearly half the league. No team in the whole of the league was more difficult to beat that Jean-Marc Furlan’s outfit, and they’ll be aiming to be just as stubborn when they feature in the top flight. After scoring a paltry 45 goals last season, they’ll need to make a big improvement in front of goal. Given their summer signings, a dramatic change would be surprising as they have failed as yet to add to their striking panel. Offensive midfielder Stephane Darbion will join Troyes’ ranks along with Benjamin Nivet, whose contributions were brief but often profound for Caen last season as he enters the twilight of his career with a club that he knows well. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck has joined from PSG, yet his arrival is very recent and it will take him time to bed in. In any case, he has not looked ready for the rigours of regular top-flight football during his few appearances. Otherwise, their changes have largely been of the defensive variety. Grandi Ngoyi will add steel to the midfield after joining from PSG, having starred for Nantes in Ligue 2 last term, but otherwise the squad has been depleted at the back, where it was strongest. Djibril Sidibe, their exciting right-back, has left for Lille, while reliable goalkeeper Olivier Blondel has left for Toulouse. Yohann Thuram-Ulien remains, and though he’s shown some potential, starting the season with him as a first choice is a risky business indeed. There is still some real strength at the back still, but this is sure to be pushed to the limit over the course of the season as their reliance on this area of the team would appear likely to be total. Unless they can strengthen significantly, a long season would appear to be in store.

Target:
Troyes will be favourites for relegation, with their offensive weaknesses a particular worry. Safety is their aim.

Valenciennes

In:
Nery (def) (Saint-Etienne)

Out:
Carlos Sanchez (k)(mid) (Bolton Wanderers FC), Cohade (r)(mid) (AS Saint-Etienne), Pallois (def) (Chamois Niortais), Traore (sp)(def) (Stade Lavallois)

Valenciennes have been permanent strugglers against relegation since their promotion to France’s top level half a decade ago, and for the northern club there is likely to be no dramatic change in their fortunes heading into this campaign. For a period under Philippe Montanier and Antoine Kombouare they had anchored themselves in the heart of the table, but last term under Daniel Sanchez was something of a step backwards, and it was only in the closing weeks of the campaign that their survival was assured. Sanchez achieved a par score last season for his performance, but failure to do so again this term will result in relegation. VA’s task does not look easy either. Their midfield has been picked apart, with the departures of Renaud Cohade and Carlos Sanchez potentially very damaging. Gael Danic remains but has a high level of expectation to match. Further forward, VA will need striker Gregory Pujol to remain fit if they’re to launch a serious challenge for early safety. The striker has been a fulcrum of their attack for several seasons, and his presence on the sidelines due to injury last season was one of the major reasons they often struggled. At times, they can be a very exciting attacking force, with young attacker Vincent Aboubakar certainly a player to watch because of his speed and dynamism. At the back, improvements must be made. Nicolas Isimat was a strong performer last term and will be expected to perform to such a standard again this season, while Gil should be more secure after a difficult start to life in France. On the left side of the defence, Gaetan Bong is a potentially outstanding performer, yet he could be shifted on to another club before the close of the transfer window. Over the summer, VA have weakened significantly in their midfield, and it is how the newly-constructed central area copes that will have the key determining factor on their season.

Target:
Losing some key members of their squad leaves Valenciennes vulnerable to the drop, and any position in safety has to be their target.

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.

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.