Serie A 2013-14 season previews: Livorno start season as relegation favourites

Gabriele Maltinti

After an unconvincing transfer campaign, Livorno have been left with a team lacking in much Serie A experience. The newly-promoted amaranto may find surviving relegation too difficult a task.

Livorno impressed with their excellent attack in Serie B last season, despite eventually only earning promotion via the playoffs. They've spent much of this summer looking to compensate for their comparatively unconvincing defence, though have so far continued to gamble on players without much Serie A experience. Having arguably had the least convincing transfer campaign of any of the three newly-promoted sides, it could be a long season for the amaranto.

Last Season

In Serie B last season there was a pretty big gulf between the top three and everyone else. Unfortunately, that gulf wasn't quite big enough for Livorno -- who agonisingly finished just outside the top two automatic promotion spots -- to avoid having to face the sheer terror of the playoffs. However, Davide Nicola's side still scraped through, brushing aside Brescia in the semi-finals before holding off a barrage from Empoli to ensure their first taste of Serie A football since 2010. Few could argue it was undeserved.

Who's Gone?

Simone Salviato: Full-back Salviato appeared in most of Livorno's league games last season, but was deemed surplus to requirements. He'll be helping another team try and win promotion to Serie A this season, having been sold to playoff semi-finalists Novara.

Vincenzo Fiorillo: Having been the first-team goalkeeper for much of last season, young Fiorillo has now returned to Sampdoria. Fortunately Livorno have secured a replacement, but we'll get to that later.

Savvas Gentsoglou: A tidy if unspectacular defensive midfielder, Gentsoglou has followed his friend Fiorillo back to Sampdoria after spending a season in Livorno. He was a regular face at the Armando Picchi, but not so regular as to warrant blind panic over his departure.

Alfred Duncan: Boy wonder Alfred Duncan has returned to Inter Milan after excelling over the latter half of last season. The Ghanaian midfielder notably scored a rocket in the first leg of the playoff final, with his great all-round game ensuring he established himself in the first-team. He'll be missed.

Who's In?

Leandro Greco: Fans of nominative determinism everywhere have been left crushed by Greco's return from Greece. The ex-AS Roma central midfielder was a regular at Olympiakos last season, though has been offered a ticket home by Livorno. He provides lots of experience, but having never been a regular starter in Serie A before, there are still question marks about how much quality he'll bring to the team.

Saulo Decarli: The centre-back integrated solidly into Livorno's back three after arriving from Swiss club Chiasso last season, with his loan deal having now been made permanent.

Nahuel Valentini: The young right-back won promotion to the Argentine Primera División with Rosario Central last season, and could well be a direct replacement for the departing Salviato.

Francesco Bardi: If you watched the Euro U21s this summer, you should be familiar with Bardi, as he was almost definitely the best goalkeeper there. Having starred in Serie B at Novara last season, Inter have sent him temporarily back to his boyhood club Livorno -- where he's guaranteed first-team football. A huge talent and already an excellent goalkeeper, this deal should really pay off.

Marco Benassi: Having long been one of the most exciting prospects in Inter's youth academy, teenage midfielder Benassi should find regular football much easier to come by at Livorno. Capable of shielding the defence as well as breaking forward in attack, it'll be interesting to watch him develop on loan this season.

Cristiano Piccini: A Fiorentina loanee right-back, Piccini spent last season at Spezia in Serie B.

Keep An Eye On

Paulinho Betanin. Livorno have fended off strong interest from Sampdoria to hold onto their best player, who netted 22 league goals en route to promotion last season. A powerful, mobile forward, he'll be crucial in the amaranto's fight against relegation. Alongside fellow striker Federico Dionisi and playmakers Luca Siligardi and Luca Belingheri, Livorno will be hoping to maintain the strike rate which saw them amass the second-highest goal tally in Serie B last season.

Predicted Finish

Livorno were excellent in Serie B, though head into Serie A without much top-flight experience in their team. Of their summer signings, only Leandro Greco can be said to be a Serie A veteran -- and he's only made 17 starts in the division in his entire career. If the players who starred last season handle the step up, Livorno have got a chance of survival. If not, then it's probably pointless hoping the summer signings will dig the amaranto out of such a mess. It could well be a long, hard season for Davide Nicola's men.

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