Serie A is returning for the 2011/12 campaign with another season of struggle, polemics and no little shortage of skill.

The fun and games started early this year as the match day draw was held in July, with the presidents of every club present. Early in the draw, Napoli’s volcanic owner Aurelio De Laurentiis exploded and hurled insults at the board of the Lega Calcio, furious that Napoli had been handed games against AC Milan and Inter before and after Champions League matches in September. De Laurentiis went on to accuse the President of the Lega Calcio, Maurizio Beretta, of manipulating the fixture list in favour of the “three big northerners” (Juventus, Milan and Inter).

After this embarrassing spectacle, Napoli’s owner exited the room, leaving the assembled presidents half shocked and half surprised. The 62-year-old proceeded to accost a biker he ran into outside the hotel, asking for a lift away from the draw. De Laurentiis announced he wanted to quit football completely, but the following day he was in attendance to watch his beloved Napoli play another of their pre-season friendlies.

On the pitch defending champions Milan start the campaign as favourites, boosted by victory over rivals Inter in the season-opening Supercup played in Beijing. Outside the two Milan powerhouses, Napoli, Juventus and Roma should offer resistance. Elsewhere Novara have returned to Serie A after 55 years in Italy’s lower leagues. There is also a new reality for Italian clubs to adjust to, as Germany’s Bundesliga has moved ahead of Serie A in UEFA’s coefficients, meaning one less Champions League spot; France also loom menacingly.

With the 2011/12 Serie A season here, Inside Futbol preview the teams and their prospects:


The Orobici from Bergamo start the 2011/12 season with a points deduction of minus six following a bribery scandal involving the club and its captain Cristiano Doni last year.

While the Nerazzurri have a passionate manager in Stefano Colantuono, who likes to play with a classic 4-4-2, the target will be survival. If it is achieved, it will be quite a feat.

Key arrivals: Stefano Lucchini (Sampdoria), Maximiliano Moralez (Velez Sarsfield)
Key departures: Leonardo Talamonti (Rosario Central)
Prediction: 19th


New boss Pierpaolo Bisoli excelled at Cesena between 2008 and 2010, but failed last year with Cagliari, being sacked by President Massimo Cellini in November.

Bologna face a struggle to avoid relegation once again this season, but they can boast a potent weapon in Alessandro Diamanti. The 28-year-old forward can be a difference-maker, especially when Bisoli’s side square up against fellow relegation battlers.

Key arrivals: Jean Francois Gillet (Bari), Alessandro Diamanti (Brescia)
Key departures: Emiliano Viviano (Inter)
Prediction: 17th


Roberto Donadoni arrived at the Rossoblu in November last year and was well worth the appointment. However, the 47-year-old’s task looks a much stiffer one this season, with a weaker squad and the words of President Massimo Cellino, who has commented that he is expecting a great season from his team, adding to the pressure.

Key arrivals: Victor Ibarbo (Atletico Nacional de Medellin), Moestafa El Kabir (Mjallby)
Key departures: Robert Acquafresca (Bologna), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Andrea Lazzari (Fiorentina)
Prediction: 12th


A new coach for Catania and one without great experience in Serie A. Last season Vincenzo Montella stepped into Claudio Ranieri’s shoes at Roma, but despite the former striker’s best efforts the Giallorossi missed out on a Champions League spot.

Montella intends to play with an aggressive 4-3-3 at Catania and will have to bring the best out of the legion of Argentines now settled near Mount Etna.

Key arrivals: Davide Lanzafame (Brescia)
Key departures: Takayuki Morimoto (Novara)
Prediction: 16th


The Romagnoli surprisingly retained their Serie A status last season and this year, with Marco Giampaolo at the helm, they once again have a good chance of avoiding the drop.

Giampaolo has a number of talented players to call upon, especially up front. The coach should employ an attack-minded 4-3-3, with Adrian Mutu and Citadin Eder alongside Emanuele Giaccherini, one of last season’s surprise stars.

Key arrivals: Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Parma), Citadin Martins Eder (Brescia)
Key departures: Luis Antonio Jimenez (Al Ahli)
Prediction: 13th

Chievo Verona

After a summer of turbulence (Chievo were involved in the bribery scandal) the team from Verona prepare to start once again, and with a good chance of surviving in the top flight.

Domenico Di Carlo has slipped back into the dugout after a disappointing season with Genoa, and can count on a squad full of young and hungry players. This team lack attacking talent, but boast real strength in midfield, with new signing Colombian Ricardo Cruzado set for a big campaign.

Key arrivals: Ricardo Cruzado (Juan Aurich)
Key departures: Kevin Constant (Genoa)
Prediction: 14th


La Viola’s fans are displeased with Fiorentina’s transfer activity this summer and have demonstrated loudly against President Andrea Della Valle and coach Sinisa Mihajlovic.

The Florence-based side have lost a number of important players, with the most notable arrival Andrea Lazzari, brought from Cagliari. A lack of activity and team-building points to a campaign just short of Europe.

Key arrivals: Andrea Lazzari (Cagliari), Romulo (Cruzeiro)
Key departures: Mario Alberto Santana (Napoli), Adrian Mutu (Cesena), Gaetano D’Agostino (Siena), Sebastian Frey (Genoa)
Prediction: 9th


A new coach and many news faces have popped up at Genoa this summer as the side are determined to atone for a season of mediocrity last year.

Genoa’s disappointment was mitigated by their joy at rivals Sampdoria’s relegation to Serie B, but now attention has turned to qualifying for Europe once again. With Alberto Malesani in charge, the Rossoblu have a chance of fulfilling this dream.

Key arrivals: Sebastian Frey (Fiorentina), Felipe Seymour, Lucas Pratto (both Universidad de Chile), Valter Birsa (Auxerre)
Key departures: Domenico Criscito (Zenit St. Petersburg), Rafinha (Bayern Munich), Eduardo (Benfica)
Prediction: 8th


Inter are another side who will enter the 2011/12 campaign under a new coach. Gian Piero Gasperini is keen to employ a three-man backline with the Nerazzurri, but could struggle with the players for his preferred system.

Two years ago many of the same players were hungry and passionate under Jose Mourinho and while this has gone, Inter remain strong candidates for the title. The loss of Samuel Eto’o however, is a blow.

Key arrivals: Ricardo Alvarez (Velez Sarsfield)
Key departures: Samuel Eto’o (Anzhi Makhachkala)
Prediction: 2nd


After two seasons of failure, Juventus opted to change coach once again. Now it is the turn of Antonio Conte, a Bianconeri legend, who was impressive in stints with Bari and Siena.

Conte will make Juventus an intriguing side to watch from a tactical perspective as he sets his team up in a 4-2-4 formation, with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal in midfield.

The Bianconeri have quality in the attacking third, but are weak at the back. In a league where a strong defence is the basis for success, Juventus could fall just short of their Champions League dream.

Key arrivals: Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Arturo Vidal (Bayer Leverkusen), Mirko Vucinic (Roma)
Key departures: Felipe Melo (Galatasaray), Mohamed Sissoko (Paris Saint-Germain)
Prediction: 4th


Last season Lazio surprised all Serie A, hitting the top of the table and threatening to become seriously involved in the title race. Veteran coach Edy Reja could not keep the capital club in the running until the end though and Lazio dropped out of the Champions League spots on the very final day of the season.

This year the Biancazzurri have added two quality forwards in Djibril Cisse and Miroslav Klose to ensure last season’s strong performances were not a blip.

Key arrivals: Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich)
Key departures: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray)
Prediction: 6th


Another season of struggles and troubles await Lecce, despite the club having appointed a new coach in Eusebio Di Francesco. An ex-Roma favourite, who did well at the helm of Pescara in Lega Pro and Serie B, Di Francesco faces a battle to keep the southern Italian club up.

The 41-year-old can count on a number of promising players however, such as Rodney Strasser, from AC Milan, and Juan Cuadrado, who could not find room at Udinese. All in all though, Lecce are favourites for the drop.

Key arrivals: Julio Sergio (Roma), Rodney Strasser (AC Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Udinese)
Key departures: Javier Chevanton (Colon)
Prediction: 20th


The Rossoneri start the season as clear favourites to retain the Serie A title won last year. Coach Massimiliano Allegri has a number of stars who have the taste of success fresh in their mouths. Talents like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Mark van Bommel and Kevin Prince-Boateng have slotted into life at the San Siro with ease.

Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato could well explode definitively in Serie A this season, but Antonio Cassano will have trouble commanding a spot in the team. The former Roma man was anonymous last season after joining the Rossoneri in the January transfer window.

Milan are expected to snap up a midfielder before the transfer window closes, with the infamous “Mister X”, as the new arrival has been dubbed, still speculated about at length.

Key arrivals: Philippe Mexes (Roma), Taye Taiwo (Marseille)
Key departures: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Prediction: 1st


Napoli, along with Udinese, were the big surprise of the 2010/11 campaign. Coach Walter Mazzarri did a superb job at the San Paolo and Il Ciuccio finished third, flirting with the title for the majority of the season.

This year Mazzarri has a stronger midfield to call upon, with the acquisition of Blerim Dzemaili and Gokhan Inler, but the prospect of mounting a challenge on two fronts, in Serie A and the Champions League, will be difficult for Napoli to square.

Key arrivals: Mario Alberto Santana (Fiorentina), Gokhan Inler (Udinese), Blerim Dzemaili (Parma)
Key departures: None
Prediction: 3rd


The Piemontesi have arrived back in Italy’s top flight after a break of 55 years and, whatever happens, this can rightfully be celebrated as a great success.

Attilio Tesser bosses the team that reached Serie A with two successive promotions, going from Lega Pro to Serie B, before hopping up to the top tier. Survival will not be easy for Novara, but the club play entertaining and attacking football and should do enough to solidify their spot.

Key arrivals: Takayuki Morimoto (Catania), Riccardo Meggiorini (Bologna)
Key departures: Pablo Andres Gonzalez (Palermo), Cristian Bertani (Sampdoria)
Prediction: 15th


This season has already started with a form of failure for Palermo after the Rosanero were dumped out of the Europa League by Swiss Super League side FC Thun.

Now new coach Stefano Pioli has to hold off an impatient president in the form of Maurizio Zamparini. The Palermo supremo is famous for firing managers before, during and after the season.

Pioli wants to play with a 3-4-2-1 sytem, but the departure of Javier Pastore could mean Palermo have a middling season.

Key arrivals: Matias Silvestre (Catania), Eran Zahavi (Hapoel Tel Aviv)
Key departures: Salvatore Sirigu, Javier Pastore (both Paris Saint-Germain)
Prediction: 10th


In the Parma dugout Franco Colomba wants a repeat of last season, securing the club’s Serie A status with time to spare.

The coach likes to play with a 4-4-2 formation, but Parma can only call upon Hernan Crespo and Sebastian Giovinco up front, not enough for an entire season. Colomba needs another forward who can guarantee more quality and consistency than the ageing Crespo.

Key arrivals: Jonathan Biabiany (Sampdoria)
Key departures: Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli), Valeri Bojinov (Sporting Lisbon)
Prediction: 11th


Tactically speaking, Roma could represent one of the most interesting sides in the 2011/12 Serie A season. New coach, Luis Enrique, arrives fresh from managing Barcelona B and grew up in the Spanish club’s La Masia, a talent factory now without equal.

Several fine recruits have arrived at the Stadio Olimpico this summer, such as goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, forward Bojan Krkic and Argentine wonderkid Erik Lamela. Enrique is planning for the long term, but Roma will improve on last season.

Key arrivals: Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Gabriel Heinze (Marseille), Bojan Krkic (Barcelona), Erik Lamela (River Plate)
Key departures: Philippe Mexes (AC Milan), John Arne Riise (Fulham), Mirko Vucinic (Juventus)
Prediction: 5th


Giuseppe Sannino is a coach who enjoyed fine seasons with Varese in the past, but now he is tasting Serie A for the first time in his career.

Gaetano D’Agostino has arrived to provide an air of quality in the midfield and Mattia Destro may well surprise some Serie A defences. Siena will have to fight hard to avoid relegation to Serie B however.

Key arrivals: Gaetano D’Agostino (Fiorentina), Daniele Mannini(Sampdoria)
Key departures: None
Prediction: 18th


Last season Francesco Guidolin’s Udinese started the new campaign with four defeats in a row, but in the end recovered to secure fourth place and qualification for the Champions League playoff round.

The club have lost several talents during the summer, with Alexis Sanchez departing for Barcelona and Gokhan Inler heading to Napoli, the most vital departures. Udinese can continue to count on Antonio Di Natale up front however and on a style of play cemented by Guidolin in previous seasons.

A player to watch could well be Paulo Vitor Barreto, who wants to claim the mantle of the “new Sanchez” in Udine.

Key arrivals: Danilo Larangeira (Palmeiras), Paulo Vitor Barreto (Bari)
Key departures: Cristian Zapata (Villarreal), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona)
Prediction: 7th