Fans of Italian football haven’t been this excited in years, Serie A is back baby! After a chaotic summer of wheeling and dealing, Serie A seems to be set for its own renaissance. Inter Milan made great moves, AC Milan got an actual owner, and a superstar striker. Monchi flexed his muscles at Roma, and Lazio held on to SMS, for now. Oh, and the seven-time defending champions only added Cristiano Ronaldo.
Serie A Preview
Juventus, having won those seven straight Scudettos, are clearly the favourites and team to beat in Italian football. Over the summer they added Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo, Mattia Perin and brought back one Leonardo Bonucci. Sadly they also said goodbye to an icon of World Football, Gianluigi Buffon.
Juve hope that, by bringing back Bonucci, they can offset some of the loss of leadership by Buffon’s move to Paris. His place between the sticks will be handed over to Wojciech Szczęsny with Perin breathing down his neck. It’s just too bad that Buffon couldn’t stick around for one more season and another run at Europe’s greatest prize.
The Champions League has eluded Juventus for over 20 years, since the days when Zinedine Zidane had hair. In that time they have made four finals, and lost all four. Some have been in truly gruelling ways, such as losing on penalties to Milan in 2003 or getting thrashed by Real Madrid in Wales two years ago. But now they look to be going all in for the UCL; buying the competition’s best ever player, and bringing back a defensive stalwart alongside him.
Now, in order to bring back Bonucci, they had to improve one of their rivals. In the deal for Bonucci, Gonzalo Higuain & Mattia Caldara went to Milan — and expect them to make a major impact. Higuain is just what Milan need, a penalty box predator to finish those chances that Suso & Bonaventura created last season. But Caldara may have a bigger impact.
Milan now have the backbone for the future Italian national team with Caldara and Alessio Romagnoli at centreback, Gio Donnarumma as the GK. Their development will be crucial for both Milan and Italy. If they develop well, and they should under Rino Gattuso, they can really challenge for a Champions League place. But they will have a ton of stiff competition this season.
It starts with their San Siro roommates and eternal rivals Inter Milan. Inter, fresh out of their financial fair play shackles, had a wonderful summer of improvement. It started with securing two outstanding free transfers, Stefan De Vrij from Lazio and Kwadwo Asamoah from Juventus. De Vrij partnering next to either Miranda or Milan Skriniar will give Inter a major advantage in defence against their competition for Europe.
But their best addition so far has definitely been Radja Nainggolan from Roma. The midfield ninja may be on the decline, but a return to Luciano Spaletti’s system where he thrived at Roma may just be what he needs. But The Ninja may not be Inter’s only superstar midfield acquisition.
They have spent the last few weeks trying to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid. However, Florentino has not budged, so Modric is staying in Madrid for now. Without Modric, Inter pivoted quickly and brought in Keita Balde, a winger from Monaco.
Though not the same player type as Modric, Keita brings a strong combination of speed and technical ability that translated very well during four seasons at Lazio. The still only 23-year-old scored 16 league goals in his last season at Lazio. Inter hope bringing him back to Italy will bring back that stellar form.
To think I’ve gone this far into the preview without even mentioning the team that finished in second last season, pushing Juve farther than anyone before; Napoli. The side from Naples’ biggest offseason move was replacing their manager, Maurizio Sarri. But they replaced him adequately with Carlo Ancelotti. Though he struggled at Bayern, Ancelotti might be able to get a lot out of this group.
Ancelotti biggest task will be accounting for the loss of Jorginho, Napoli’s pass-master midfielder. But with the additions of Fabian Ruiz, Simone Verdi and Amin Younes they should have enough elsewhere to make up for the slack. Younes is especially interesting because of the talent he showed at Ajax, however he will miss the first few months recovering from a knee injury. He would be an excellent bit of business if he can recover completely.
Fabian Ruiz was Napoli’s biggest signing over the summer as they paid the Betis man’s €30m release clause. They hope he can be their version of Paul Pogba at Juve or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at Lazio. Ruiz is a premier athlete and box-to-box midfielder, with all the technical ability you expect from someone coming through the Spanish youth system.
If Ancelotti can figure out a strong defensive midfielder to replace Jorginho then watch out. With Ruiz & club legend Marek Hamsik, Napoli boast twin attacking powerhouses in midfield behind an already excellent front line of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon. Napoli could easily challenge for the Scudetto once again.
Finally lets talk about the last two serious challengers for the title; AS Roma & Lazio. The two Rome clubs have built their sides through excellent scouting and strategic buying of players. Roma made a killing on two major sales this summer, Allison & Nainggolan, and hope they have reinvested that money in the right places.
To many, they have. Justin Kluivert is a young talented winger that will certainly grow. They brought in attacking midfielders Javier Pastore & Bryan Cristante, two players that add strength and depth to an already solid midfield. That midfield was bolstered again by the signing of Steven Nzonzi, the holding midfielder from Sevilla. There also very excited about the progress Turkish winger Cengiz Under is making this summer. They expect big things from him.
On the other side of town, Lazio have so far managed possibly the biggest move in Serie A, sans Ronaldo. They have been able to hang onto midfield powerhouse Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Some of his biggest fans would say he is a better player than Pogba was at Juve, and for what Lazio do he might just be.
Their 3-5-2 requires Savic to do almost all of the box to box inside running, while providing the link between their defence & forwards. Those forwards, Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile, combine with SMS to form an outstanding attacking trio. The trio combined for 52 goals and 26 assists in Serie A last season, another year together could lead to even more attacking glory.
They will need to account for the loss of Stefan De Vrij in defence, a big loss that could do serious damage to their team, and they need to make sure they retain SMS for the rest of the month. There is still time for a club like Real Madrid to come knocking and Lazio’s ability to withstand their overtures could be crucial to their European challenge.
Any of these clubs could finish in almost any order, they are clear favourites for the top six positions. Juve are the favorites for the title but, should they decide to prioritize the Champions League, their position could take a hit. They do not have as much depth as previous years.
The Final European Place
The race for seventh, the final European place, is also tightly contested. In the last two seasons, Atalanta have won that race, but their challenge has taken a hit with the departures of many of their key contributors. The loss of Leonardo Spinazzola, Mattia Caldara and Bryan Cristante open the door for challengers to Atalanta’s Europa league spot.
Namely, these clubs are Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Torino. All three of these clubs managed to hold onto the players that made them top half sides last season. All three of these will make it very hard for Atalanta to retain their Europa league spot. Torino could be considered the biggest challengers. Star striker Andrea Belotti is healthy and motivated this season and big things are expected. But don’t underestimate Fiorentina either. Another year for young players like Gio Simeone and Chiesa could be huge.
Finally let’s save a little space for the teams most likely to get relegated from Serie A. Any relegation conversation has to start with Parma. The former Serie A staple were relegated all the way to Serie D in 2014 for filing bankruptcy including €63m in unpaid wages. But four years later here they are back in Serie A once again.
However despite their promotion they will start the season with -5 points. One of their players, Emanuele Calaio, was found to have texted two opponents in their last game to “elicit a reduced effort.” Basically, match fixing, but luckily for Parma they stay in the first division and still have a shot to stay, but are the favourite to go down.
The other favorite to go down is Frosinone. The tiny club from central Italy will have a hard time staying up this season. They have thus far failed to bring in any sizeable reinforcements for the upcoming Serie A campaign, and that should cost them. It looks like Frosinone will have another one season stay in Italy’s top flight.
The tip for relegation is SPAL. The tiny club from Ferrara managed a minor miracle staying in the top flight last season. This season will be much tougher than last. Though they could challenge teams like Empoli or Chievo for the final safe position, it’s more likely that those teams will see SPAL in their rear-view mirror.
Firstly I think that for the first time in 8 years someone other than Juventus will be lifting the Scudetto. My money is on Inter, they held onto their best players will also making strong improvements throughout their squad.
As for the top four, I’m going for Inter, Juve, Roma & AC Milan. Inter and Juve seem to me like the head and shoulders best teams in Italy. Juventus have won so many Scudetto in a row, that it seems like they are not going to prioritise the league, leaving just enough room for Inter to steal the show.