Thursday, 22 August 2013

Serie A season preview 2013/14

Image courtesy of www.asroma.it


The start of the new Serie A season is upon us once more.   Batteries are recharged, new signings are ready to go and fans are moments away from getting a glimpse of the players who they put all their hopes on.  Will it be a familiar tale at the top or will we have a surprise package challenging for the title?


Early indications show that Juventus will once again be the team to beat.  The nucleus of last season's title winning side have stayed and along with summer signings Carlos Tevez from Man City, for a bargain £8m (€11m) and Bilbao's Fernando Llorente, who joined on a Bosman (free transfer), La Vecchia Signora will be confident of adding another Scudetto to an already full trophy cabinet.



Carlos Tevez.  Image courtesy of www.mirror.co.uk


So where will the challenge come from?  One of the challengers will be AC MilanMilan have made only modest additions so far this summer but have a wealth of talent in a squad which only sparked into life at the end of the season, when they secured Champions League football on the very last day.  Any side which boasts Mario Balotelli, Stephen El Shaarawy and Kevin Prince-Boateng will be a threat and they will be hoping to hit the ground running this time around.


Napoli finished second last season but will look very different this time around following the departure of star striker Edinson Cavani and manager Walter Mazzari.  Rafael Benítez is the man in the hotseat and he has been very busy in the transfer market this summer.  With Cavani leaving for PSG for £55m (
€63m) , Benitez has splashed the cash.  In came Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid, for £34.5m (€40m) along with Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, Jose Calleron and Dries Mertens among others.  They may not last the pace in the league, but I think they will be worthy contenders in the Champions League.  Benitez is a master at seeing his sides progress in Europe, don't be surprised to see the Azzuri reach the final this time around.


New start for Benitez.  Image courtesy of www.ansa.it



Expect a strong challenge, also, from Fiorentina this season after another busy summer in the transfer market.  Il Viola just missed out on Champions League football last year, and despite the sale of Stevan Jovetic to Manchester City, the expectation is that they will be well equipped to aim for the top three again.  The marquee signings include Mario Gómez, Josip Ilicic, Joaquin, Massimo Ambrosini alongside a fit again Giuseppe Rossi.
It is a big season for underachievers Roma this yearThey have appointed a new manager in Rudi Garcia and continue to boast a richly talented squad, despite the departure of Daniel Osvaldo to Southampton and the rumoured departure of Erik LamelaKevin Strootman has arrived for £14m (17m) from PSV and , if he can settle in quickly, could well be the signing of the summer.  A European finish is on the cards this time around for I Giallorossi, who were jeered at a pre season squad presentation earlier in the week by the fans.
Inter, Lazio and Udinese will be hoping to secure Europa League football again this season at best, although Inter could have the best chance of springing a surprise with a host of new signings to accompany new manager Walter Mazzari into the San Siro cauldron.

The battle to stay in Serie A will, once again, be fiercely contested.  It is no surprise to see the three newly promoted clubs heavy favourites to make a swift return to Serie B.  Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Livorno will have a tough task in front of them.
Hellas Verona look like they will be the best equipped to make a good fight of it after making some very astute signings.  Veteran forward Luca Toni has arrived to add much needed experience along with quality players like Bosko Jankovic and Massimo Donati.


Hellas Verona.  Image courtesy of www.zimbio.com
Sassuolo are playing in the top-flight for the very first time To add to the difficulties of their maiden season in the big league they will be using someone else’s stadium to play their home games.  Last season they called Modena’s Stadio Alberto Braga home but have now relocated to the Stadio Città del Tricolore in Reggio Emilia.
Livorno have been in and out of Serie A over recent seasons and they will be hoping that another club will get dragged into the fight to stay in the league.  Recent form suggests that Genoa could be the side to drop out this time.  Rossoblu have a first-time manager at the helm in Fabio Liverani, and have not really added to last seasons squad yet.  Last seasons top scorer, Marco Borriello, was on loan from Roma and it doesn't look like he will be returning to help them try to climb the table.
As I mentioned earlier, I can't see past Juve winning a record 30th title.  The race for the two other remaining Champions League places will, in my opinion, go to Napoli and Fiorentina.  This could be the year Genoa drop down to Serie B, and I think they will be joined by Livorno and Sassuolo.

And so, the wait is almost over, this weekend sees the first matches of the 2013/14 season. 

SATURDAY


Sampdoria v Juventus

Hellas Verona v AC Milan

SUNDAY


Cagliari v Atalanta

Inter v Genoa
Lazio v Udinese
Livorno v Roma
Napoli v Bologna
Parma v  Chievo
Torino v Sassuolo

MONDAY


Fiorentina v Catania




I will be posting regular updates throughout the season.  I hope you will follow this exciting season of Calcio right here with me.



Ciao for now!


Follow me on Twitter @insearchofluca






Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Romanzo Criminale

British TV was once the envy of the world.  Now it is a mix of reality shows, ageing celebrity comebacks and repeats from yesteryear.  That doesn’t leave you, the viewer, with a lot to get excited about does it?   In recent years, however, people have turned to subtitled European faire for their fix of fresh, gritty shows.  The Scandanavians have given us The Killing and The Bridge, the French have delivered The Returned and Braquo. Italy gave us Inspector Montalbano, but they also exported this little gem, undoubtably the best of the lot.  The European version of The Wire…step forward Romanzo Criminale.


Image courtesy of skyarts.sky.com
Romanzo Criminale ("Crime Novel") is an Italian television series based on a novel by judge Giancarlo De Cataldo, and adapted from the 2005 film of the same name.  The first series quickly achieved cult status in Italy, with the second series also proving popular.  It quickly achieved the same status in the United Kingdom with the programme being aired on Sky Arts.
The series is set from 1977-89 and follows the rise of a criminal gang in Rome to a near monopoly of the city's heroin trade.  The gang is led by three old friends, Lebanese (Francesco Montanari), Freddo (Vinicio Marchioni) and Dandi (Alessandro Roja).
The plotline is based on the real crime group of the era, Banda della Magliana.  The story focuses on Lebanese (also known as Libano), who we first meet during a bungled lorry robbery.  Running his gang from a clapped-out caravan and frustrated by his high-risk, low-reward criminality, he dreams of becoming a big player like Terrible, the city's major crime warlord.
Libano and Dandi link their gang with another local small time crook Freddo, and they hatch a plan to abduct Baron Rosellini, a wealthy aristocrat whom Libano's parents worked for.  The kidnapping offers huge rewards for the gang.  The plot ends tragically, but they get their ransom money.

Lebanese.  Image courtesy of  www.nonsolocinema.com

Despite tensions between the rival outfits, Libano convinces the gang not to blow the money on hookers and fast cars, but to reinvest in further criminal enterprises - namely drugs.  Commissioner Scialoja (Marco Bocci) goes after the gang, becoming obsessed along the way by a beautiful call girl, Patrizia (Daniela Virgilio) (the girlfriend of Dandi).
The gang has to deal with the Camorra and Sicilian Mafia (who supply heroin to the gang), the police, led by Commissioner Scialoja and the Italian secret services.


Commissioner Scialoja.  Image courtesy of www.episode39.it

Their progress and changes in leadership (Libano is followed by his cohorts Freddo and Dandi) are inseparably intertwined with the dark history of modern Italy: terrorism, kidnappings and corruption at the highest levels of government.
Through political murders, spectacular bombings and high-profile kidnappings Libano proves himself through a series of brutal crimes.  He makes valuable connections among corrupt cops and politicians, and in the Secret Service, which seeks to enlist the gang to destabilize the government and provoke a right-wing coup.

Scialoja is seemingly the one man not in the pay or pocket of the Mafia or the corrupt State, and is determined to bring the ferocious gang to justice, whatever the cost to himself or to the rules of the law.
The first season reaches it’s climax with Libano seeing himself as the undisputed ‘King of Rome’.  But while he increasingly distrusts everyone and becomes more paranoid, his thirst for power is never truly satisfied and his demonic look intensifies.  Flashbacks and dream sequences superbly portray a character that is spurred on by vengeance and fear, while the ongoing story shows how he came to dominate in a time of disorganisation, terror and corruption.
A dramatic end to the first season, which stayed faithful to the film, paved the way for Season 2.  This takes up the action directly after the game-changing events of that first season finale.  As the major players regroup and rethink their strategies the scene shifts to the early 80s.  The cars and fashions may have changed, but the drug game stays the same....making more money means more bloodshed.

The show serves as both entertainment and a history lesson.  As a viewer you go through their journey with them, the emotional heart of the show remains with Libano, Freddo and Dandi with their crazy plan to take over the capital and it is hard not to side with the guys with the impossible dream.

The real Banda della Magliana were a vicious gang that set out to rule the criminal underworld of 1970s Rome.  While Naples and Sicily were the stomping grounds of the Camorra and the Mafia, Rome's criminal network was a patchwork of small gangs, and the Banda set out to be top gang in the capital.
While De Cataldo's novel is inspired by the real Banda della Magliana, names and details have been changed.  One of the factors that makes the TV series so compelling is that this classic story of the gang's rise is little known outside of Italy.
During the 1970s the country was a frightening place, one of police brutality, political murders, bombings, kidnappings and secret service plots against the government.  The story of how the gang became involved in these disturbing affairs, filmed on the Roman streets with a soundtrack of classic 70s pop, prompted the leading daily newspaper La Stampa to call the show "the best series ever produced in Italy".
The recent influx of subtitled programmes on British TV has shown that a lot of fantastic shows are out there, and people’s perceptions of watching a subtitled programme have changed, for the better, along the way.