The inception later this month of the Italian top flight vows to be packed with excitement, intrigue, enjoyment and incidents as usual. And I for one am looking forward to it more than usual, mainly because of the exciting additions made to the Italian top flight. Here’s my thoughts on the exciting season ahead.
For the past two seasons Antonio Conte’s Juventus were nearly unstoppable in the Serie A. They won the 2011-2012 scudetto without a single loss, and last season won it again with ease. With the addition of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente they’ll undoubtedly be stronger this season. But this year won’t be as easy as the last two were for Juventus, all of the three teams that finished below them last season have a chance for the scudetto this season. The first team that springs to mind when talking about who can challenge Juventus, are the renascent Napoli.
Last years runners up have dealt with the departure of two big names, Edinson Cavani and Walter Mazzari. But they look stronger than ever. Their newly appointed manager, Rafael Benitez have dealt with the departure of Cavani brilliantly. With the signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens, they’ve not only replaced Cavani but they’ve strengthened the whole squad. With the new signings and the players that were already there last season, I can totally see Napoli giving Juventus a run for their money this season.
AC Milan, who finished third last season, will look to improve and try to get a higher finish than that of last season. After a quiet summer in the transfer market, Milan’s chances next season will most likely depend on how can Massimilliano Allegri fit Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy in the same side and to full effect. For the first half of last season El Shaarawy was brilliant for Milan, but with the arrival of Balotelli Allegri had to move El Shaarawy to the wing to accommodate Super Mario, and from there El Shaarawy wasn’t as effective as before. So if Allegri can get Balotelli and El Shaarawy to play effectively in the same side, AC Milan will be up there challenging for the Scudetto. After their awful season last year, AC Milan’s rivals, Internazionale had a much needed shake up this summer, with the inexperienced Andrea Stramaccioni out and former Napoli manager, Walter Mazzari in. There have been some changes made in the squad too, with Antonio Cassano leaving forParma and Ishak Belfodil, Hugo Campagnaro and the young Argentine Mauro Icardi joining Inter. Walter Mazzari will hope to get Inter where they belong, but in order to do that a return to the Champions League is a must.
Fourth last year were Fiorentina, who this season many (me included) consider them as the underdogs for the Scudetto. La Viola had been in turmoil since Cesare Prandelli left them in 2010 and finally, in Vincenzo Montella they have the man to lead them to top four finishes and further. With the signings of Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich and Josip Ilcic from Palermo, La Viola are looking stronger than ever and with a little bit of luck Fiorentina could surprise a few this season.
The two Rome clubs will look to improve from last season. Lazio didn’t have the best of seasons last year, but the cup win over rivals Roma saved their season. This season Lazio will be looking to challenge for Europe again, but it certainly won’t be easy. Roma’s new manager Rudi Garcia have been busy this summer in the transfer market, with promising defender Marqunihos joining PSG and Maarten Steklenburg joining Fulham. But it hasn’t been departures only for the Giallorossi. With Kevin Strootman, Mehdi Benatia, Maicon and Gervinho joining them, Roma’s expectations will be for a higher finish than last season, preferably a top four finish. Also chasing Europe will be Udinese. With a little help from their talismanic captain Antonio Di Natale and promising striker Luis Muriel, they could have a good season.
Mid-table will be seen as a success for all the other teams this season with the exception of newly promoted Livorno, Sassuolo and Hellas Verona who will be desperate to survive. Which won’t be an easy task. This season, I’m predicting it to be much more competitive in terms of competing for the title, with Napoli, Milan and Fiorentina all improving their squads from last season. But still, till now, I can’t see anyone knocking Juventus off their perch.
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