Hellas Verona, known by fans as the “Gialloblu” or “Mastini”, are newly-promoted this year after a 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 Juve 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 current 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 figure 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 last year.
Hellas Verona share the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi with Derby della Scala rivals Chievo Verona. 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.
With the last derby between the two sides having taken place in 2002, it is sure to be a special occasion when the long wait comes to an end this season.
Luca Toni is the team’s main marksman, a World Cup Winner in 2006 who many may have thought was past his best at 36, but who proved that he has still got the eye for goal with a brace against Milan on the opening day of the season.
His strike partner, Daniele Cacia, is also one to watch in the final third. He was top scorer in Serie B last season with 24 goals, and Hellas Verona have held on to him despite considerable interest from other clubs.
As well as bringing in proven attacking force Luca Toni, Mandorlini has added a bit of backbone in midfield with new signings Massimo Donati and Ezequiel Cirigliano. The former is a veteran in Serie A, but the latter in particular is one to watch: the 21-year-old is a hot prospect from River Plate who has joined the Gialloblu on loan.
Further arrivals include versatile attacking midfielder Bosko Jankovic, Fiorentina right back Rômulo, Italian Under 21 international Samuele Longo and a goalkeeper with Champions League experience in Nikolay Mihaylov.
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.