Introduction about Hellas Verona:
Hellas Verona or more commonly referred to as Verona were founded in 1903. The team's yellow and blue strip gives them the nickname Gialloblu. Their other nicknames are Mastini and Scaglier. Verona have won a solitary Scudetto in the 1984/85 season and that remains the club’s zenith moment. They have spent much of their history yo-yoing between Serie A and Serie B. The most recent trip down being at the end of the 2015/16 season.
The Gialloblu play their home games at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi (Stadio Bentegodi for short) and share their stadium with city rivals Chievo Verona. Stadio Bentegodi has a capacity just shy of 40,000. The stadium also plays host to the Derby della Scala (Verona Derby) which has gained in following as both clubs have started enjoying relative success and overlapping campaigns in Serie A.
Preparing for an assault on promotion:
The 2015/16 Serie A season was a complete disaster for Hellas, spending all but five rounds in the relegation zone. The spark that allowed them to finish a respectable 13th in 2014/15 had completely vanished from the team's performances. However, a good summer mercato bringing in youngsters such as Daniel Bessa (Inter Milan), Simone Ganz (Juventus), and Davide Luppi (Modena) proved to be a very successful strategy. A good balance of experience and youth allowed the squad's experienced players such as Giampaolo Pazzini to excel in the 2016/17 Serie B campaign. The club parted company with then coach Luigi Delneri and signed Fabio Pecchia, a long-term assistant to Rafael Benitez, in his place.
Highlights from their 2016/17 Serie B season:
The 2016/17 Serie B season was a memorable one for Verona, as they finished second and gained promotion to Serie A. However, automatic qualification was far from a done deal as they were involved in a real dogfight with Frosinone as they traded second and third places as their individual fortunes fluctuated. Verona eventually retained second only on goal difference, but that was all important as second in Serie B results in automatic promotion while third place only leads to a place in the promotion playoffs (Frosinone did not qualify from the playoffs).
There is a strong Inter connection all through Verona's team starting with the skipper Giampaolo Pazzini. The veteran striker top-scored for the club with 23 goals and his experience in Serie A should help the club be competitive next season in the top flight as well. Ex-Inter Primavera midfielder Daniel Bessa was also a star performer with both goals (8) and assists (2). Another former Inter product, Luca Siligardi partnered Bessa in attacking midfield, scoring five goals and providing three assists. The Inter connection continues with Marco Fossati in midfield. The acquisition of Davide Luppi from Modena proved to be a shrewd acquisition as he contributed six goals through the season, primarily from an attacking left-midfield position. The Italian-Brazilian Romulo provided creativity from midfield with four assists and also stepped in to cover for right back for some games in the season.
The Inter connection did not stop with attack and midfield as Matteo Bianchetti was a fixture in the defense, getting sent off just once over the course of the season. Partnering Bianchetti in defense was Antonio Caracciolo who was also part of the Inter youth setup in his early days as well. Eros Pisano in right-back and Samuel Souprayen in left-back round up the defense that allowed Verona to boast the second best defensive record in Serie B last season.
Given the deep Inter connection throughout this team, many Interesti would be keeping an eye out for Verona's progress this coming season.
About the coach and his formations:
Verona's coach is former Italy midfielder Fabio Pecchia. His preferred formation is a 4-3-3, with Pazzini at the top of his attacking triangle, accompanied by Siligardi and Luppi. A midfield trio typically comprising of Bessa, Fossati, and Romulo are his preferred combination. However he has also played Bessa in a more advanced role and has used Simone Ganz in attack, more often from the substitutes' bench.
Some other formations used by Pecchia during the 2016/17 campaign were a 3-5-2 and a 4-2-3-1. The 3-5-2 setup sees him use two out of Pisano, Romulo and Souprayen as wingbacks with Bianchetti anchoring the defense along with Carraciolo and the spare man from the above trio. In the 4-2-3-1, Bessa typically plays behind the lead striker which allows him to show his full repertoire of passing and dribbling moves. Expect Pecchia to experiment with a number of different formations as his team comes up against more dominant and skillful teams in Serie A.
Changes from the 2015/16 Relegation Season:
The average age of their squad used in 2016/17 season was 24.51 years compared to the 2015/16 (Serie A) season squad which was 23.84. While the squad has gotten a little smaller, one can expect reinforcements before the start of the new season, and the core members of the team have a good mix of experience and youth. Players such as Pazzini, Romulo, and Pisano among others, were part of the Verona squad from a couple of years ago and will have a point to prove this time around. However, having fresh faces such as Daniel Bessa, and Marco Fossati will ensure that there is no hangover from the relegation experience. Verona will also have to invest in the squad to increase bench strength in order to cope with the demands of Serie A. If they can replicate the mercato of summer 2016, they will have done well.
Players to keep an eye out for:
Games to look out for:
The Derby della Scala (the Verona Derby) is always an important game as Chievo and Verona battle it out for bragging rights in the city. Both teams have six wins each so the matches are always an even, exciting affair. The last meeting in 2016 saw Verona get the better of Chievo by a 3-1 scoreline.
Our readers will also be interested to know how Inter plays against Verona given our recent struggles against lower to mid-table teams. Inter's record against Verona is dominant, having lost just four times in 54 outings. However, Inter's last game against Verona was a the crazy 3-3 draw away at the Stadio Bentegodi, which is perhaps a sign of our own defensive frailties.
The upcoming season's fixtures will be announced on Friday, July 21.
Verona's heavy Inter contingent will be of interest to me this coming season and I'll definitely keep an eye out for their performances. I would love to see former Inter players and youth products succeed. I am hoping that we get to see Pazzini's trademark celebration often this season, just as long as it is not against Inter!