Season Preview: Serie A’s top contenders

As published on ‘The Roar’ – 24/08/2013

The Serie A is shaping to be another exciting season of football, with the major players looking to loosen the Bianconeri’s grip on the Scudetto title in recent years.

There have been a number of major transfers, of both player and coach, which will no doubt provide extra intrigue ahead of this weekend’s kick-off.

Juventus and AC Milan are the two standouts as Scudetto challengers, with the third spot seemingly up for grabs to a handful of clubs.

With many important changes taking place at Napoli, Inter, Lazio and Fiorentina, the race for Europe will be a major highlight of the season, with very little separating the chasing teams.

In looking at all the major players for the season, it seems fitting to start with the champions themselves.

Juventus
One of Juventus’ major transfer accomplishments was made early when they acquired the services of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City in June.

If Antonio Conte can get the most out of the 29-year-old Argentinian, the potential combination of Teves and Fernando Llorente, feeding off the likes of Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, would worry any defensive unit across Europe.

Add rising French star Paul Pogba, who is set to benefit from more playing time following Claudio Marchisio’s knee injury, and Juve’s goal threat seems destined to improve.

In defence, Juventus have also moved to secure one of the most promising backs in Italy through the signature of Angelo Ogbonna from Torino.

With so much depth of talent across the park, you would be brave to bet against the Bianconeri to claim the Serie A title for a third consecutive season.

Last season: First.
Predicted finish: First.

Napoli

The new Rafael Benitez led Napoli provides an interested but somewhat unknown power for the season ahead.

They’ve parted ways with Edinson Cavani, last season’s Serie A top goal scorer, leaving a huge hole in front of goal.

Gonzalo Higuain was a great purchase and will no doubt help fill the void left by the Uruguayan, however there is a great deal of pressure on the Argentinian to produce and anything under 20 goals will be viewed as under-par.

With Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne still pulling strings for the Partenopei, the Neapolitan faithful will be hoping the pair can conjure up a strong combination with Higuain upfront.

Much will come down to how effectively Benitez can utilise a strong team on paper and limit some worrying defensive frailties at the back, particularly after the loss of their experienced centre back, Hugo Campagnaro, to Inter Milan.

Last season: Second.
Predicted finish: Fourth.

AC Milan
Massimiliano Allegri has (somehow) managed to stick around for another season at the helm of AC Milan and will enter this weekend’s season opener with a great deal of confidence in his team’s title credentials.

Milan will be looking for a much more competitive start to the season this year, and boasting the services of Mario Balotelli from the outset will surely help to avoid a repeat of last year’s early season ‘difficulties’.

Andrea Poli is a great midfield pick-up for the club who could be a great success working with the likes of Balotelli and the ever improving Stephan El Shaarawy.

Barring a catastrophe, Milan have the squad to be able to challenge for the title and should be assured of at least a top three finish.

Last season: Third.
Predicted finish: Second.

Fiorentina
The re-signing of one of Italy’s most promising young coaches, Vincenzo Montella, has provided a positive outlook for the Viola following last season’s impressive finish.

The loss of Stevan Jovetic to Manchester City is a significant but expected transfer, however the prized signing of Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich could well do wonders to help fill this void.

Massimo Ambrosini will bring a great deal of experience to the midfield, joining the likes of Adem Ljajic who will be looking to continue his form into the new season.

A successful midfield combination with the German talisman could see the Viola not only equal last season’s achievements, but perhaps even secure a Champions League birth.

Last season: Fourth.
Predicted finish: Third.

Udinese
Udinese have become one of the Serie A success stories of recent years and, despite often selling off their most promising assets, continue to compete among the top powers in Italy.

Boasting an exciting brand of counter-attacking football, which will once again be led by club legend Antonio Di Natale, you can never write off the Zebrete, who should be among the top six once again.

Last season: Fifth.
Predicted finish: Sixth.

Roma
Much of Roma’s transfer news, and admittedly most of my interest in the club’s movements, has revolved around Erik Lamela.

If he indeed stays, he will be pivotal to the Giallorossi’s chances for a European finish. Top three seems a bit beyond their capabilities for this season, with arch-rivals Lazio boasting a better squad on paper.

The purchases of Gervinho and Maicon are not necessarily exciting, and provide something of a risk after neither impressed in their Premier League stints at Arsenal and Manchester City respectively.

Following a very colourful 2012/13 season, Rudi Garcia needs to instill some consistency before they can again become a top Serie A contender.

Last season: Sixth.
Predicted finish: Eighth.

Lazio
Lazio have managed to hold on to the vital services of Antonio Candreva in Rome for another season, providing a massive boost for the Biancelesti.

With Miroslav Klose and Hernanes sure to be a potent attacking threat once again, the addition of Felipe Anderson, the youthful and exciting midfield prospect from Santos, could provide a great buy at just over £7 million.

Lazio boast a very strong first 11, however depth could be an issue if injuries strike like last season, when they fell away significantly following a strong start.

Last season: Seventh.
Predicted finish: Sixth.

Inter Milan
Inter Milan are set to begin yet another ‘project’, this time under the highly rated Walter Mazzarri, who took Napoli to second position last season.

Since his appointment there have been a number of promising transfer moves, with the acquisition of Mauro Icardi from Sampdoria and Ishak Belfodil from Parma sure to avoid a repeat of last season’s striker drought.

The experience of Rolando plus Hugo Campagnaro, who followed Mazzarri from Napoli, will provide some answers to Inter’s defensive woes of recent seasons.

If the likes of Fredy Guarin and Mateo Kovacic can carry some consistent form throughout the season, Inter are capable of competing for the final Champions League spot.

However if the new squad fails to form meaningful on-field partnerships, the Nerazzurri could just as easily find themselves fighting for a Europa birth.

Last season: Ninth.
Predicted finish: Fifth.

The Dark Horse
With the headline addition of Antonio Cassano upfront, Parma provides an interesting squad which has been reinforced with experience across the park.

Boasting the highly sought after Nicola Sansone, who has the potential to make a significant impact if given the game-time, the Crociati will be looking to build on a comfortable tenth place position last season and could be the surprise challengers (albeit a long shot) for a final Europa League position.

Here’s to an intriguing and hopefully scandal-free season of Serie A!

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