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Sampdoria well placed in search for immediate return to the top flight

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By Will Cook

Friday 15 July 2011

Two months have passed and the dust has settled in Genoa following Sampdoria’s relegation. It was a somewhat surprising demise too for Doria fans given that their side started the season in the Uefa Champions League qualifiers and possessing arguably the best strike partnership in the peninsula in Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano.

Yet by May, the two mentioned stars had departed to illustrious Milanese clubs in January and subsequent results slumped alarmingly, largely down to a lack of goals. Pazzini finished joint top scorer with Nicola Pozzi with a miserly six goals and Guido Marilungo, who also fled the sinking ship in January for Atalanta, ended up topping the club’s assist chart with just three. On top of the nasty shock, Samp fans have since had to put up with merciless humiliation from rival Genoa supporters which culminated in a mock-funeral through the centre of the port city.

However, after the tears and grief on the field after defeat to Palermo, the Blucerchiati have moved swiftly on to prepare for life in Serie B, firstly by poaching sporting director Pasquale Sensibile from newly-promoted Novara who had overseen back to back promotions with the Piedmont outfit.

In the close season, it was inevitable that Samp would lose key players and that is exactly what has happened. Gianluca Curci and Stefano Guberti both returned south to Roma, Federico Macheda has returned to Manchester Untied after disappointing on loan, Marius Stankevicius has joined Lazio immediately after a loan stint in Spain and Stefano Lucchini has moved to Atalanta.

It may get worse for the Blucerchiati too if much-coveted and sublimely gifted midfielder Andrea Poli leaves for Serie A, but if club captain, fan favourite and midfield lynchpin Angelo Palombo had decided Serie B football was not for him either, the situation could have been catastrophic. The fact that he pledged his future to the club though, despite risking a place in the Azzurri squad for Euro 2012, speaks volumes and no doubt made other senior players in the squad like Daniele Dessena, Daniele Gastaldello and Massimo Maccarone sit up and take note.

On the acquisition front, Sensibile has already bagged three fine additions to the team, raiding former club Novara for top-scoring striker Cristian Bertani and Cittadella for another forward in Serie B’s capocannoniere Federico Piovaccari. Combined, Bertani and Piovaccari hit 40 goals between them in Italy’s second tier last season, something which Samp fans will be looking for a repeat of in the coming campaign after witnessing a goal drought for most of the season. Paolo Castellini has also arrived on loan from Parma, providing plenty of experience and versatility on the left side to replace the out-of-contract Reto Ziegler.

A new Coach in Gianluca Atzori also gives fringe players the chance to prove themselves once again. Forgotten men such as Franco Semioli, underused players like Fernando Tissone and emerging youngsters’ Vladimir Koman and Nenad Krsticic will surely relish the chance of playing under new tactics and having an opportunity to grab a starting shirt for Samp’s promotion hunt.

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