The race for Serie A begins again this weekend and the new Cadetti promises to be less predictable than ever.
The pre-season bookies favourites Bologna kick off their campaign with an Emilia-Romagna derby against last term’s suprise package Rimini. The Felsinei are undoubtedly sleeping giants with lofty aspirations, but they have had a far from inspiring summer.
Not only have the Rossoblu lost prolific striker Claudio Bellucci to Sampdoria and prodigious midfielder Mourad Meghni to Lazio without adequate replacements, they have also stuttered in friendlies. New boss Daniele Arrigoni has a lot to prove and must already be looking over his shoulder after a Coppa Italia exit on penalties to Triestina. The tension will be oppressive unless the hosts find an early lead.
Newly-relegated Cinderella side Chievo return to more humble surroundings as they visit Cesena’s Stadio Dino Manuzzi. The Gialloblu should be challengers this term having kept hold of strike partners Victor Obinna and Sergio Pellissier – a front line that will run Serie B defences ragged - and in Giuseppe Iachini have a top-class coach.
By contrast, Cesena’s squad makes sombre viewing. The Seahorses were bland last term and remain a side of honest endeavour, with the exception of inspirational captain Emiliano Salvetti, but they could frustrate their ambitious visitors.
Ex-Azzurri star Stefano Fiore is short of fitness and won't make his debut as Mantova entertain newly-promoted Ravenna. Nonetheless, the visiting Giallorossi will have their work cut out against one of the second tier’s most consistent sides and may quickly feel out of their depth.
Fellow newcomers Pisa and Avellino face tough trips to Bari and Treviso respectively. Avellino’s pre-season preparations have been undermined by Coach Maurizio Sarri’s decision to quit the club just days before the campaign starts. The ex-Arezzo man wins the sack race, albeit with a false start, after a summer of rows with perfectionist President Marco Pugliese. New man Guido Carboni will do well to learn the players' names before the game let alone implement any tactical system.
Things are altogether more tranquil in the Pisa camp, but there’s nothing like a long trip to Bari’s Stadio San Nicola to put an end to early season euphoria...
Serie B Week 1 Fixtures
Saturday, Kick-off 1500 (UK Time)
Albinoleffe v Spezia
Ascoli v Piacenza
Bari v Pisa
Bologna v Rimini
Brescia v Vicenza
Cesena v Chievo
Frosinone v Lecce
Mantova v Ravenna
Modena v Grosseto
Treviso v Avellino
Triestina v Messina
Source: C4 Football Italia