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Club Focus - Lecce - First half of the season key for the Salentini’s survival

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By Steve Mitchell

Thursday 05 August 2010

As one of Serie A’s new boys, Lecce will have one thing on their minds, survival. Strapped for cash, Coach Luigi De Canio is furiously scouring the transfer market for loan deals to bolster his squad for the challenge ahead. The summer has been a time of change for the Southerners with new President Pierandrea Semerano being installed in June with a view to taking the club forward into the new decade.

With Serie A now an independent organisation, the gulf between Italy’s top two divisions has never been wider and Semerano will be all too aware of the need to keep the club in the country’s premier division if his goals are to be met. The first thing on Semerano’s agenda after taking charge was to discuss on-field matters with club captain and talisman Guillermo Giacomazzi who, immediately after the meeting declared his intention to see out the rest of his career at the Via Del Mare. Giacomazzi was outstanding last season as the club fought its way back into the top-flight - the midfield dynamo will have a key part to play in the club’s bid to cement their place at Italy’s top table.

De Canio has already added to his squad for the forthcoming campaign bringing in young full-back Giulio Donati on loan from Inter. The 20-year-old was delighted to be joining, announcing that it was “an honour” to play for the Giallorossi and “fantastic for his career development”. Two more youngsters that have been given the opportunity to play regular Serie A football are the outstanding young Roma prospects Simone Sini and Andrea Bertolacci, both on loan from the capital. Indeed such was the form of Bertolacci for Lecce last season in Serie B, that De Canio has kept faith, giving him a shot at the big time. The other two major signings by De Canio so far this summer have been Malian international defender Souleymane Diamoutene, snatched form the clutches of Southern rivals Bari and Uruguayan midfielder Carlos Grossmüller from Schalke, both quality acquisitions.

Pre-season has been going well with the squad preparing for the new campaign in Tarvisio, a town located in the north east of the country in the province of Udine. A 9-0 demolition of a local Friulian side gave the squad a good early workout whilst the most recent friendly saw the Salentini run out 5-0 winners against Serie D side Tamai. Captain Giacomazzi was full of praise for the new boys in the team explaining that they gave an “optimum impression”. He continued by explaining that “Mr De Canio has been experimenting with new tactics and the squad looks very strong with the arrival of the new signings”. The team will need to be at their optimum right from the start with an opening day trip to the San Siro to face Milan followed by a home debut against Fiorentina. Lecce’s home form last term was outstanding and this looks to be an essential ingredient as to whether De Canio’s men can survive in the top-flight.

The Giallorossi will also look to target valuable away points at teams who are likely to be struggling at the bottom of the table alongside them. Match day three sees them travel to fellow new boys Cesena whilst the first match of 2011 brings local rivals Bari to the Via Del Mare for a local derby blockbuster, not one for the faint hearted. The penultimate game of the campaign brings the two southern heavyweights back together in a match that could potentially be the most important in Lecce’s history, President Semerano and Coach De Canio will be praying that survival has been achieved before this.

So realistically, where can the Giallorossi expect to find themselves come next May? No one at the club is under any illusion that a 17th place finish would feel like winning the Scudetto and by Christmas the overall picture will be a lot clearer. The first half of the campaign will be vital as established Serie A campaigners come to terms with Lecce’s style of play. Historically, most teams that have been promoted and stayed in the top-flight have picked up valuable points before the festive break and De Canio will be only too aware of this. A club renowned for its youth development is a welcome addition to Italy’s premier division, should they achieve their goal of avoiding a swift return to Serie B, it will be a victory for football.

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