The starting grid for the upcoming Serie A season will look familiar to the most aficionado fans of Italian football, as the elevator from the second division sent back three clubs with a remarkable history in the top level of calcio. Brescia, Lecce, and Verona won a ticket to the big show at the end of one of the most tormented and court-ruled editions of Serie B, giving the Italian top flight a much more traditional outlook.
Verona have spent 28 seasons in Serie A already, also winning an incredible Scudetto in 1985. Brescia have 22 presences in the elite division, and Lecce collected 15 appearances so far. That’s quite a big change versus the most recent years, where clubs like Frosinone, Carpi, Crotone, and Benevento had been showing themselves around Serie A for the first time – most of them not surviving the ordeal of the debut season.
Brescia comfortably held one of the top two positions in the Serie B table – those that give direct promotion – for half of the season, eventually finishing first.
Lecce took over the runner-up spot from Palermo in the latest stages of the league to catch the second consecutive promotion and achieve the doppio salto (“double leap”) from Serie C to Serie A in two years. That was before the Sicilian club would receive a 20-point demotion on grounds of financial malpractice that ruled them out of the promotion battle.
Verona clinched the third spot at the end of a dramatic playoff tournament, culminated in a 3-0 win in the second leg Final to smash Cittadella’s fairytale dream. Cross-Region Cittadella, based in a small town not far from Verona, had won the first game 2-0, but then collapsed to emotion, and ended with nine players the match that could have given them an historical first-time promotion.
The three promoted clubs, which replaced Empoli, Frosinone, and Chievo didn’t change much the geography of Serie A, which will still feature a large predominance of clubs coming from the Northern part of the Peninsula.
Verona replaced Chievo to represent the city of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the Region of Veneto. The cross-town rivals switched positions and will play in different leagues again, therefore there will be no Derby della Scala this season either.
Lecce, whose roots are in the most southern province of the Italian peninsula (the heel of Italy’s boot), will bring Apulia back to Serie A after seven years. Calabria and Sicily will have no representative for the second tournament edition in a row, whereas Cagliari maintained their spot to keep the Sardinian flag waiving in the elite calcio division. Napoli will be the only club from Campania.
Central Regions Abruzzo, Umbria, and Marche have been missing from Serie A for a while, but they all are well-represented in Serie B: Pescara, Perugia (both were defeated by Verona during the past year’s playoffs for promotion) and Ascoli may try to make the leap again this coming season.
Derby della Capitale contenders Roma and Lazio will make sure that the Lazio Region continues to be fully covered despite the relegation of Frosinone.
Moving towards north, Tuscany lost Empoli and a Regional Derby dell’Arno with Fiorentina. Emilia-Romagna maintained all its four clubs (Bologna, Parma, Sassuolo, and SPAL) and will be the most represented Region together with Lombardy – which added Brescia (and a fierce rivalry with neighboring Atalanta…) to Inter, Milan, and the Bergamaschi.
Udinese, from the far-East Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, resisted in Serie A for the X season in a row, whereas the Turin (Juventus and Torino) and Genova (Genoa and Sampdoria) powerhouses will make sure that both Piedmont and Liguria retain their two spots and their two derbies.
There are only four Regions which could never boast the presence of any of their homeland clubs in the top flight of calcio. Aosta Valley, Trentino Alto Adige / Sudtirol, Molise, and Basilicata are not likely to change the trend soon either, as none of them have any representative in Serie B at the moment.