Serie B: 2023-24 Preview
The 2023-24 Serie B season is here, starting with a tasty Friday night clash between Bari and Palermo. We still technically only have 18 times, with Lecco and Brescia/Reggina's places yet to be confirmed, so I look forward to the fixture congestion and moaning this causes later in the year. Anyway, let's take a look at the (presumed) twenty teams who will play in this year's championship:
The Relegated Teams
Unlucky to be relegated after losing the playoff but they have retained some key players and found some new ones, who will all play under new coach, Max Alvini. They will have their work cut out in a competitive field, but should fancy themselves among the favourites. Salvatore Esposito looks ready to dominate midfield and the Verde-Moro-Antonucci front three looks exciting.
Player to watch: Mirko Antonucci. A proper breakout season in 2022-23, interesting to see how he fares in a side expected to win most weeks.
Never got going last season. Inoffensively poor, they didn’t win a game until late February. Marco Carnesecchi left after his loan expired, along with a few others. Davide Ballardini will need to find the right balance of aggression and solidity as they become protagonists again. Promotion would be an impressive feat and I’m not convinced they won’t be switching managers before Christmas just to get things back on track for a playoff push. Maybe that’s harsh because there’s certainly a team capable of challenging there, but it’s hard to tell if it’ll all come together.
Player to watch: Michele Collocolo. Great for Ascoli and has stepped up the food chain, a midfielder who should play in Serie A next year.
A flaming car-wreck last season before Andrea Radrizzani’s takeover and a two point deduction due to unpaid wages. Andrea Pirlo is a sexy hire, but he comes in unproven. Some decent incomings but the total reset could make life difficult for them. Unconvinced that squad has the makings of a playoff winner, but may find themselves coming alive in the second half of the season to reach the post-season.
Player to watch: Filip Stankovic. Goalkeeper on loan from Inter who should start before long. Could have a big season.
Last Year’s Contenders/Pretenders
Denied consecutive promotions in the 94th minute of a playoff final. Brutal stuff. Having lost a handful of regulars, they might find life tougher this season but should still be among the chasing pack somewhere. Teenage loanee striker Marco Nasti, new ‘keeper Brenno and Malcom Edjouma all look like decent business, while Jeremy Menez seems like a punt that may not pay off.
Player to watch: Brenno. I’m always keen to see how South Americans adopt in Italy, especially one playing in goal. Elia Caprile was great last season, Brenno will have to be just as good if Bari are to stand a chance.
Were two up against Cagliari after half an hour in the playoff semi-final, but contrived to lose 3-2. Impressive signing of Antonio Colak from Rangers should bring goals once he settles in. A promotion would be a welcome dose of nostalgia for Football Italia, and it’s not hard to see it happening, as many have tipped them alongside Palermo to go up automatically.
Player to watch: Alessandro Circati. ‘Coming of age’ defender in Serie B, it’s a familiar story.
They couldn’t, could they? Well, they nearly did. Sort of. An admirable run to the playoffs last season but it feels like a diagnosis of second season syndrome is ahead. Teams will be better prepared for Südtirol’s unique style and they should be prepared for a longer slog this time round. Still, they should be a tough customer for thirty-eight weeks in a row, and could finish anywhere between 7th and 14th, I think.
Player to watch: Matteo Rover. A player, like Fabian Tait, whose time in Bolzano could springboard them into a lower-end Serie A squad.
From worrying about relegation to reaching the playoffs in the space of ten games, they can be quietly happy with how last season unfolded. Continuity in the squad and manager has given them a renewed sense of confidence and I can see them launching a serious challenge for the top two, provided they can achieve consistency and defensive solidity. Keep an eye on the Lagunari.
Player to watch: Tanner Tessmann. Maturing into a midfielder you can rely on each week, and should be the beating heart in the middle along with another young gun, Mikael Ellertsson.
The Other Guys
Slipped out of the playoffs on the final day of last season and have significantly bolstered the squad, partly thanks to their backers, the City Football Group. Vasic and Desplanches come in from Serie C sides with ambition to match the Rosanera. They are a club trending upwards in several ways and will be among the favourites to go up, with good reason.
Player to watch: Aljosa Vasic. I love a hot prospect from Serie C, especially a midfielder. Thrown straight in by Corini, fancy him to make his mark in a successful Palermo campaign.
Flirted with the playoffs but never a serious contender, even had they made it. Will miss Davide Diaw’s goals and new head coach Paolo Bianco will need something special to take this team where Attilio Tesser couldn’t. Feels very much like a quiet mid-table finish once again.
Player to watch: Giovanni Zaro. A good year in defence with Südtirol, but is he a system player? We shall find out before long.
Faded hugely in the final stretch with no wins from their last eight games, a run that cost Luca D’Angelo his job. It’s on Alberto Aquilani to take this team into the playoffs in his first year as a senior coach. He’ll have new recruits like Alessandro Arena (Gubbio) and Tommaso Barbieri (Juve NexGen) to add to a squad that should be pushing for the top eight.
Player to watch: Alessandro Arena. Yet another stepping up from Serie C, a tricky winger with plenty of end product. Make the jump to B and he should be a big part of any potential Pisano success.
I was at Luigi Ferraris when they faced Genoa in May. Inoffensively average, which sounds like an insult but I mean well. It’s easy to forget Ascoli come from a small-ish city, but they are an overachieving club that is more than the sum of its parts. A goalscorer would be lovely and perhaps new loanee Pablo Rodriguez can help there, but a proper number nine would take them from mid-table to playoff hopefuls.
Player to watch: Kevin Haveri. Loaned from Torino, who see a big future ahead after nicking him from Rimini in Serie D. Should be a regular starter before long.
The honeymoon period of Serie B stability is over for Como’s ownership, who must show signs of improvement on back-to-back bottom half finishes. Moreno Longo steered them clear from relegation after a very poor start to last season but I wonder how patient the club will be if they’re not pushing a little higher up the table by Christmas. I don’t see the makings of a playoff side here just yet, but it’s still very early. A double figure goal tally from Patrick Cutrone would help.
Player to watch: Liam Kerrigan. A young Irish midfielder who showed promise before a serious knee injury last season. May not be a certain starter, but will be keen to prove he can do it at this level.
When Andreazzoli resigned and told the club they should re-hire his predecessor on the same day Ternana’s president spat at the fans, I couldn’t have been the only one to see the writing on the wall. Poor Cristiano Lucarelli has been messed about, rehired in February, ‘relieved’ in June for Andreazzoli (again) and then rehired in July. If it were a romantic relationship, you’d be pulling Lucarelli aside for a word. Don’t be surprised if/when they end up losing a relegation battle this year.
Player to watch: Antonio Raimondo. Maybe, a young striker on loan from Bologna, but still not someone you should be expecting to produce miracles.
Unsurprisingly, it seemed that Cittadella had reached their ceiling. A small club from a small city, maybe they missed their chance for promotion by losing the 2021 playoffs, but there’s a quiet confidence about this team and Edoardo Gorini’s coaching ability; one which manifested in an unlikely win away at Empoli in the cup. They might sneak back into the playoffs against all odds, once again.
Player to watch: Francesco Amatucci. A good pre-season and a goal in an impressive performance against Serie A opposition in Empoli, the midfielder may be primed for a breakthrough.
After playing chicken with relegation for the past four years, this Cosenza might have got their act together a little. They’ve done well to keep their head above water until now and have brought in some decent talent to improve the squad beyond just potential relegation fodder, but how Fabio Caserta uses the resources available will dictate if it’s another year circling the plughole or not. I’m glad they stuck around just so we get to see the derby with Catanzaro.
Player to watch: Gennaro Tutino. Back in Cosenza, he could be relied upon to score the goals to keep Cosenza up, and maybe do even more.
Newly Promoted (and Brescia)
Should prepare for a real battle to stay up but might have just enough. Newly promoted sides tend to do well in this division and they have a good unit to work with, plus a very good coach in Stefano Vecchi, who has elevated them from perennial Serie C bridesmaids to champions. Expect him to move on to a bigger job if he keeps them up this year.
Player to watch: Semuel Pizzignacco. Showed great maturity in goal last season, aged just 21. Another Elia Caprile situation; a player who could be in Serie A before long.
Lost their coach, Aimo Diana, to Vicenza despite winning Serie C/B. Step up Alessandro Nesta, a move which could go either way. Survival is achievable, if not the bare minimum, but what lies beyond that depends on how well they adjust upon returning to Serie B after relegation in 2021. Very impressive in beating Monza away in Coppa Italia, though Manolo Portanova’s signing leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Player to watch: Alessandro Bianco. Joined on loan from Fiorentina and should get a lot of Serie B game time.
The strongest of the promoted sides and we should expect them to make a fist of it this season. Not quite promotion material, but certainly good enough to stay out of danger and compete in a very crowded peloton of clubs below the top contenders. Smashed Serie C/C to pieces last season, scoring 101 goals and losing only twice. Worth keeping an eye on.
Player to watch: Jari Vandeputte. A proper wide player with a final ball and an eye for goal, one who could light up the division.
They were in, then out, then back in again. A drawn out legal battle to secure their hard earned place in the league, it has set the tone for a long, tough campaign ahead. I back them to stay up, just for a laugh, but they need to get some more players on board. Oh, and actually confirm their place in the division. They’re still waiting on the official outcome of the numerous ongoing appeals across the league. Thanks to FIGC president Gabriele Gravina for this disaster. Anyone who has read The Miracle of Castel di Sangro shouldn’t be surprised that Gravina is a premium grade airhead.
Player to watch: Nicolò Buso. Son of Renato and a real talent in behind the striker, though a lot of pressure to step up to the next level in a team who may not score very many.
Nothing embodies the Corinthian spirit of football quite like punishing a team for being relegated by readmitting them to the league on the most spurious of grounds. How awkward it must be for those Brescia ultras after the scene they caused at Mario Rigamonti when Cosenza ‘relegated’ them in June, shuffling back into their Serie B seats just to (probably) watch it all happen again. They were bad before, they’re bad now and they’ll be bad again.
Player to watch: Andrea Cistana. A good player in a bad team. A defender with injury issues and would probably be comfortably playing in Serie A were it not for such problems.