Juventus
    Juventus
      17.01.2015 18:46 - in: Serie A S

      Hellas Verona in the spotlight

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      Founded in 1903, the Gialloblu play their home matches at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi alongside Derby Della Scala rivals Chievo and are currently managed by Andrea Mandorlini

      Club

      Hellas Verona, known by fans as the ‘Gialloblu’ or ‘Mastini’, are enjoying their second year back in the big time after experiencing a glorious rise through the Italian leagues under manager Andrea Mandorlini and returning to the top flight they were champions of in 1984/85.

      The club has humble origins: it was founded in 1903 by some secondary school students who followed their Ancient Greek teacher’s suggestion of naming it in honour of the country whose language he taught.

      But they attracted a lot of attention when they managed to secure the most grandiose of venues as their home ground: the city’s Roman amphitheatre.

      From there Hellas Verona continued to grow, strengthening through merging with city rivals Bentegodi and Scaligera, before reaching a peak in the 1980s.

      They made history when they lifted the Scudetto in 1985 as the first and still the only club from a city which is not a regional capital to have won a Serie A championship.

      Their victorious campaign even included a 2-0 win over Juventus in which Preben Elkjaer Larsen netted despite losing a boot outside the area (although the Bianconeri did get their own back the next season by knocking them out of the European Cup).

      A notable subsequent triumph was former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli leading the Gialloblu to the Serie B title in 1998/99, but they then went on to struggle for a long period, even being relegated to Serie C1 in 2007.

      Despite the difficult times, though, their hugely dedicated fans always stuck with them, attracting higher attendance figures than many Serie A teams when playing in the second tier in 2008/09.

      Their loyalty has been rewarded, with former Inter Milan defender Mandorlini leading the club on a remarkable rise to Serie A, winning promotion from Serie C in 2011 before finishing second in Serie B at the culmination of the 2012/13 campaign.

      Last season’s 10th-place finish in Italy’s premier division capped off a fantastic season for the Gialloblu in which they also registered memorable home scalps against league stalwarts Milan and Lazio.

      Stadium

      Hellas Verona share the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi with Derby della Scala rivals Chievo Verona. The first-ever encounter between the duo came back in December 1994 when the two then-Serie B teams played out a 1-1 draw.

      With Hellas enjoying life in Serie A, Chievo’s maiden promotion to the top flight back in 2001/02 meant the rivalry was rekindled after three years and saw Verona become the fifth city in Italy - after Milan, Rome, Turin and Genoa - to host a derby .

      The 42,160-seater arena was inaugurated in 1963, and a roof was constructed for Italia ’90, the World Cup in which it hosted the last-16 game between Spain and Yugoslavia.

      Current Team

      Club captain Luca Toni is the team’s main marksman. A World Cup winner in 2006, the former Juventus striker – who spent 12 months in Turin – proved that he has still got the eye for goal after finishing second in the scoring charts behind Ciro Immobile with 20 strikes last time out. The 37-year-old will be the dangerman come Sunday evening.

      Brazilian shotstopper Rafael is now in his eighth season at the club since signing from Sao Bento back in 2007. The 32-year-old was virtually an ever-present during Hellas’ first campaign back in the big time and has made over 250 appearances for the Bentegodi outfit.

      Thirty-three-year-old Vangelis Moras has been a mainstay among the Gialloblu backline during his three-year spell at the club. The centre-back – who was part of the Greece squad at last year’s World Cup in Brazil – is known for his ability to close opposition strikers down quickly and his adeptness in the air.

      Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Emil Hallfredsson provides dynamism on the Gialloblu's left flank. Capped 46 times by his native Iceland, the 30-year-old scored a spectacular goal against Juventus for former side Reggina during a 2-2 draw back in April 2009.

      Bosko Jankovic is a tricky customer who possesses expert dribbling ability and a powerful shot in his repertoire. Known as somewhat of a set-piece specialist, he has also played for fellow Serie A outfits Palermo and Genoa during his time in Italy. Jankovic retired from the Serbian national team in 2012, having scored five goals in 31 outings. 

      With 39 goals in 161 appearances, Juanito Gomez has chipped in with some important strikes for Hellas in their shoot up the divisions since joining back in 2011. His stoppage-time finish against Juventus last season ensured a 2-2 draw, a game in which the Gialloblu were 2-0 down at half-time.

      Transfer Activity

      A flurry of signings in the transfer market has seen Mandorlini attempt to solidify his side’s status in Serie A.

      Full-back Antonio Luna has joined on a season-long loan deal from Premier League team Aston Villa. Having found first-team opportunities hard to come by in England, the former Spain Under-20 international is also yet to make an appearance for the Verona-based side.

      Seasoned professional Rafael Marquez – who played for European giants Barcelona from 2003 to 2010 where he won a multitude of honours – left Mexico outfit Leon for Hellas at the start of August 2014. The 35-year-old was immediately appointed vice captain upon his arrival.

      A familiar face to the Bianconeri faithful, Frederik Sorensen moved to the Gialloblu from Juventus on a one-year loan deal. The 22-year-old was re-signed on a permanent basis by the Old Lady prior to his departure following two years on a co-ownership deal at Bologna.

      Tough tackler Panagiotis Tachtsidis has arrived at the Bentegodi on a season-long loan from Serie A outfit Genoa. Normally deployed in front of the defence, the 23-year old is known for his combative nature and ability to break up play and begin attacks.

      With a CV that would make many a player envious, former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Benfica frontman Saviola has joined after the expiration of his contract at Olympiacos. Despite having only scored once this season (against Perugia in the cup), the man from Buenos Aires can prove a real menace for opposition defences and has bagged a total of 212 strikes during a professional career that spans 17 years.

      Former Roma forward Nicolas Lopez has made a switch from Udinese for the 2014/15 season. Having  proved to be the key fulcrum between midfield and attack during his time in Verona, the Uruguayan has already bagged four goals and an assist to his name.

      Going the other way, Daniele Cacia – who finished top scorer in Serie B with 24 goals during the Gialloblu’s promotion campaign back in 2013/13 – has left for pastures new with Bologna whilst defensive midfielder Massimo Donati was released at the expiration of his contract and has rejoined former side Bari in Serie B.

      Brazilian midfielder Romulo swapped Verona for Turin as he left for Juventus on a loan deal with an option to make the switch permanent at the end of this current season. The 27-year-old is currently out of action following surgery on a thigh problem.

      Also leaving the Bentegodi was hot prospect Juan Manuel Iturbe. The Argentine – dubbed the ‘new Lionel Messi’ for his diminutive stature and similar playing style – signed a five-year contract with Roma back in July 2014.

      Manager

      Mandorlini turned the club’s fortunes around when they were languishing at the bottom of Serie C1 with his emphasis on hard work and discipline, an approach which has seen them rise all the way to Italy’s top division.

      The Ravenna-born coach began his football career as a player, starting out at Torino before making a move to Inter, where he won the Scudetto in 1989 and the UEFA Cup in 1991.

      His managerial career did not get off to the most auspicious start, unable to avoid relegation as manager of Serie D side Ravenna is his first ever season in a dugout.

      But he managed the complete opposite with Atalanta ten years later, leading them to promotion from Serie B.

      For the next few years he embarked on fresh challenges almost every season, taking charge of Bologna, Padova, Siena and Sassuolo before landing the job at Romanian side CFR Cluj.

      There he pulled off the biggest achievement of his career, masterminding a momentous league and cup domestic double in 2009/10, but following a poor start to the subsequent campaign he parted company with Cluj and took up the reins at Hellas Verona.

      Since taking over from Giuseppe Giannini in November 2010, Mandorlini has recorded two promotions which have seen the Gialloblu end an 11-year exile to dine at the top table of Italian football once again.

      The 54-year-old will be hoping to match last season’s tenth place finish once more this time around as he looks to ensure the club’s Serie A status for a third consecutive year.

      As the 2014/15 campaign approaches the halfway stage, Hellas have recorded five victories, six draws and seven defeats thus far. With 21 goals scored and 28 conceded, they currently sit 13th, six points above the dreaded relegation zone.

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