01.11.2014 13:02 - in: Serie A S

      Empoli under the spotlight

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      Founded in 1920, the Azzurri ended a six-year exile from Italy’s top flight after finishing second in Serie B last season


      Founded in 1920, Empoli played their first official match as a professional football club a year later when they joined the Terza Categoria Toscana.

      After experiencing a relatively quiet start to life in the lower reaches of the Italian leagues, they made the step up to Serie B in 1948 but were relegated only two seasons later.

      Thirty-three years passed before they were promoted back to the country’s second division during the 1980s, and in 1986 the small-town outfit pulled a rabbit out of the hat by making it to Serie A.

      Empoli contested their first few home games in Florence and won their top flight debut 1-0 against Inter but it served somewhat as a false dawn as they only picked up a further 20 points during the whole season. Aided by Udinese’s nine-point deduction, they survived the drop down with just 13 goals scored in 30 outings.

      Relegation did follow a year later despite an upturn in performances before the club was then demoted to Italy’s third tier in 1989.

      It took the Tuscan-based outfit until 1996 before they were back among the Serie B boys and they then achieved back-to-back promotions a year later to make their long-awaited return to the country’s premier division.

      With former player Luciano Spalletti at the helm, they registered a 12th-placed finish in their first campaign back but were once again relegated in 1999. A three-season spell in Serie B followed and in that time, the club became renowned for its ability to nurture outstanding young talent.

      Nicknamed the Azzurri for their light blue kits, they enjoyed further promotions to Serie A in 2002 and 2005. Following a strong 2006/07 campaign, they qualified for the UEFA Cup and strengthened the squad with on-loan Juventus stars Sebastian Giovinco, Claudio Marchisio and former Bianconero youth team graduate Rej Volpato.

      A disappointing season in Europe preceded relegation to Serie B in 2008 where they remained until last season.

      The club brought their six-year top flight exile to an end by finishing runners-up to Palermo  last time out.


      The Stadio Carlo Castellani has been Empoli’s home ground ever since its inauguration in 1965 and is located on the Viale delle Olimpiadi.

      With a total capacity of 19,847 spectators, it is a multi-purpose venue formed by two grandstands and two ‘curve’, and is predominately used for football matches and athletics events.

      The arena was dedicated to Carlo Castellani, a former footballer from local side Montelupo Fiorentino, who died prematurely following deportation to Mauthausen’s concentration camp in 1944. He originally held the record for most amount of goals scored for the club for over 60 years until Francesco Tavano overtook him back in 2012.

      Transfer activity

      Twenty-three-year-old shotstopper Luigi Sepe arrives at the Stadio Carlo Castellani on a one-year-loan deal from Napoli. The former Italy Under-19 international made his Serie A debut back in January 2009 for the Partenopei in a 2-1 defeat to Fiorentina and will look to make his way into the Empoli first-team and establish himself as a regular.

      Italian Under-21 captain Matteo Bianchetti has joined on a temporary deal from Hellas Verona for the 2014/15 campaign. The centre-back, who enjoyed four seasons in Inter’s youth set-up, has been handed the number 22 jersey but is yet to make a first-team appearance for the Azzurri.

      Defender Romano Perticone has flitted between Serie A and Serie B since making his professional debut for Milan almost ten seasons ago. The 28-year-old, who has signed on a permanent deal from Novara, is looking to kick-start his career at Empoli having been shipped out on loan to various clubs over the years.

      Versatile Uruguayan Matias Vecino arrives from Fiorentina on a year-long loan deal. Able to play at the heart of midfield as well as in the number ten role behind the striker, the 23-year-old has already slotted in nicely in the middle of the park. Vecino loves to take on his opponents and is prone to a shot from distance.

      Inter-owned Diego Laxalt is an exciting young midfielder who spent last season with Bologna in Serie A. Famed for his strength to hold people off the ball, he is also very quick and able to play in a variety of positions.

      Forward Rodrigo Aguirre becomes Empoli’s third Uruguayan signing of the summer, having joined on a loan deal from Udinese. The 20-year-old made his name with Liverpool FC in Montevideo, scoring 17 goals for the club in a three-year-spell.

      Current players

      Captain Davide Moro has been a mainstay at the club since joining the youth sector in 1999. Farmed out on loan for his development in the early noughties, the central midfielder has now made over 300 appearances for Empoli and has a Serie B title to his name.

      Goalkeeper Davide Bassi was in the Azzurri side which held Juventus to a 0-0 home draw the last time the two teams met in Serie A. The 29-year-old was part of Italy’s 2008 Olympics football squad and also had a spell at the Old Lady’s arch-rivals Torino during the 2010/11 season.

      Juventus-owned Daniele Rugani continues to rack up the plaudits for his fine performances at the heart of the Empoli backline. The 20-year-old, who joined the Bianconeri in 2012 but has spent the last two seasons on loan at the Azzurri, has been tipped for greatness and has the world firmly at his feet.

      Veteran Massimo Maccarone is now in his second spell with Empoli having made headlines at the club in March 2002 when he became the first Serie B player in 20 years to be picked for the Italian national side. The 35-year-old spent five seasons with Middlesbrough in the Premier League, winning the League Cup in the process, and also scored two last minute winners during the club’s 2006 UEFA Cup final run.

      Diminutive forward Francesco Tavano has endeared himself to the Azzurri faithful during his two stints at the Tuscan-based outfit. He has scored over a centenary of goals for Empoli and continues to lead the line and cause problems for opposition backlines at the grand old age of 35. Tavano is known for his quick feet and knack for being in the right place at the right time. He also won a Coppa Italia title during a short loan spell with Roma in 2007.

      Twenty-three-year-old Manuel Pucciarelli has begun this campaign in fine form and will be a threat to the Juventus defence on Saturday evening. Able to play either as a second striker or attacking midfielder, he already has three strikes to his name and is very unselfish too having created five chances for his team-mates this season.


      Maurizio Sarri began his managerial career in the lower ebbs of Italian football in 1990 having never played at a professional level.

      The 55-year-old initially commenced at lowly Tuscan sides including Stia, Faellese, Cavriglia, Antella, Valdema and Tegoleto in a decade-long spell which saw him earn minor successes at grassroots level.

      Sansovino came calling in 2000 before he moved to Sangiovannese three years later, gaining promotion to Serie C1 at the first time of asking.

      2005 saw him appointed at the helm of Serie B outfit Pescara but having only been able to lead them to a midtable finish in his solitary season, he joined Arezzo a year later.

      Sarri then flitted between several Serie B and Serie C1 clubs that included Avellino, Verona, Perugia and Grossetto before becoming head coach of Lega Pro Prima Divisione club Alessandria in 2010.

      He was on the move once again a season later and only lasted four months at Sorrento before being sacked in December 2011, despite the Campania-based outfit enjoying a relatively successful Lega Pro Prima Divisione campaign in fourth position.

      Sorrento’s loss was Empoli’s gain though, and Sarri is now in his third full season with the Tuscan side having taken over from Alfredo Aglietti at the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign.

      He steered the Azzurri to a fourth-place finish in Serie B during his first year which saw them then contest an all-Tuscan promotion playoff final with Livorno, losing 2-1 on aggregate.

      That didn’t deter Sarri, however, as he galvanised his side to dispel the bad memories of that final by gaining promotion back to Serie A for the first time in six years.

      Empoli currently sit 17th in  the league having begun this 2014/15 campaign with one victory, four draws and four defeats. Their only success came at home against fellow strugglers Palermo, who they beat 3-0 in early October.

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