In this blog, I will try to pay attention to the most important leagues of Europe and the Italian Serie A definitely is one of them. After the strike of players in Italy and the international break, the season finally starts in Italy.
Last year, AC Milan was able to break the dominance of Internazionale FC and their 5 consecutive titles run after the infamous Calciopoli. In this new season, we will see if the rossoneri will be able to extend their dominance or if their nerazzurri neighbors will be able to get on track again to recover the crown lost after their historical treble. Aside AC Milan and Internazionale FC, which may be the main favorites on paper, Juventus FC, the club with more Scudettos, will keep fighting to fight for a title again after the disastrous season they had last year, showing that they are still paying the effects of Calciopoli.
Aside the 3 giants, we have to take a look at other classic clubs of the competition, which may be not as favorites for the title, but definitely are classics of the league. Luis Enrique's AS Roma is one of them, the rookie Spanish coach takes his personal experience from the Barcelona youth system to Italy to test his attacking football idea and, of course, in front of them, SS Lazio, managed by Edoardo Reja, who was able to put the team among the best last year after 3 seasons full of frustration.
For the analysis of the new season, I have requested some important posters of the most prestigious football forum in the Internet, xtratime.org, to give their opinion about the season that is about to start. Here are their opinions:
What do you expect from your club for the Serie A season that is about to start?
jani (AC Milan) - I expect Milan to win the title pretty easily. It doesn't mean that we will. But on paper Milan have gotten stronger, our main competitors Inter have gotten weaker after selling their best striker and I am still not convinced by Napoli or Juventus.
Milan have fixed one of their weakest positions in LB by signing Taiwo and reinforced the central defence with the signing of Mexes who will be expected to partner Serie A's best defender Thiago Silva whenever the legendary Alessandro Nesta is unfit.
Adding to that is the signing of one of Italy's best talents Stephan El Shaarawy who I expect will be a nice surprise for the team. The signing of Aquilani also presents a comfortable element of depth to midfield. Not to forget, the ever elusive "Mr. X" that Milan are chasing. All these transfers and also the maturity of players like Boateng and Pato will immensely contribute to Milan being the Scudetto favorites. Last but not least, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. You are guaranteed a title if you have him in the squad, apparently.
Firdaus (Internazionale FC) - I would expect Inter to finish in the top four. While Inter still has the services of various world class and other quality players, the failure to address the pressing need to strengthen and rejuvenate their squad in the transfer market so far creates a substantial concern for the upcoming season. This is compounded by the fact that Inter's competitors have taken or look to be taking steps to strengthen their squads.
Indestructible (SSC Napoli) - I expect my club Napoli to finish in 3rd or 4th place. While they have made some great moves on the transfer market, they still cannot match the quality of both the Milan clubs. Much of our success last year was down to the goals of Edison Cavani and since we have made not made any new purchases in attack, we are essentially expecting him to repeat his 26 goal season. Our manager's tactics are simple and straight forward and when things don't look good he doesn't have a plan B. This Napoli team is only set up to play one system (3-5-2, 3-4-3)
Anomander Rake (SS Lazio) - It depends on whether we manage to trim the roster by the end of the transfer window, right now it's so bloated it's nigh on unmanageable according to our coach. Anyway, Lazio is too much of Jekyll and Hyde club to make any bold prediction but I see us fighting for an Europa League place, not because we are that good but because neither are the other teams.
Dean Fiori "Deano" (AS Roma) - I am not expecting too much from Roma this season. It is a season of transition for the club, and with a young manager, and many young players signed it will obviously take a while for them to gel. I would be hopeful to finish within the top 5, however top 3, which is what we must get to be in CL next season, will be really difficult to achieve.
I think the problem for this group, is that even if Rome wasn't built in a day, it is not a city of patience. I hope they give this new ownership and trainer a chance, but I fear that they will eventually go against them if the results are not there. This squad must at least finish within the top 5 to keep most happy. I feel sorry for Totti as it is a new start, but in the end he has had his day, and there is now no chance he can be a part of a second scudetto winning squad.
Osman (Juventus FC) - I expect mediocrity, yet again, because we are repeating the same mistakes, but hopefully enough to make a 3rd spot still. You dont need more then mediocrity to do that in Serie A's current state. Like some our new signings for basic foundation building, but in overall still lacking team.
My hope is that, our main competition for 3rd spot, Napoli, will suffer in the league due to juggling CL. Many minor non top team inexperienced teams suffer in league when they venture out to CL for the first time or after long while.
Who do you consider is the main favorite to win the title?
jani (AC Milan) - In order: Milan, Juventus, Inter, Napoli
I've already mentioned why Milan are favorites. But Juventus are expected to be there somewhere when Serie A is finished next May. Their aggressive transfer campaign shows you that they are serious in their bid to return to being one of Italy's elite. One key worry is whether or not Antonio Conte is up to the task of doing so.
Inter have sold Samuel Eto'o for a big sum of money but at the moment seem content with the squad they have and are only targetting to replace their best player with Diego Forlan. A player who is not a difference maker that Eto'o is. Sneijder is also being constantly linked with a move to England which somewhat tells me his heart is not in it. That being said, Inter are Inter and if they keep their current squad and Gasperini somehow gets his weird 3-man defense to work. They will challenge for the title.
Napoli have done well in the market. Their main piece of business for me is not a transfer, but their ability to keep Marek Hamsik. He will be key to their success this season and their midfield will be bolstered by the arrival of one of Serie A's best midfielders of last season Gokhan Inler. Whether or not they can balance European football and Serie A is another question.
Firdaus (Internazionale FC) - Milan would have to be the main favorite. After a strong finish to win the Scudetto last season, Milan look to be able to do more of the same. After gelling well last season, their squad appears to have enough balance, quality and depth to be able to do it all over again.
However, Juventus should not be ruled out. They may have been inconsistent last season but there is enough quality for them to win the Scudetto if other teams do not take full advantage of their opportunities.
Indestructible (SSC Napoli) - I expect Milan to win the title, with Inter right behind them. Teams on the outside looking in would have to be Napoli, Juve and Lazio
Anomander Rake (SS Lazio) - Milan
Dean Fiori (AS Roma) - The favourite has to be Milan once more. They are the only squad to have not really weakened and still found some valuable additions to the current team. They have yet to replace Pirlo in this transfer market, but I am sure by August 31 they will have signed Montolivo or another of this style. Mexes and Taiwo are excellent signings for the defence and they already have a strong attacking squad. Midfield is really the weak point, but this has been a problem for many Serie A teams who go on to win the scudetto. I found that in this league if you have a strong defence and a couple of players capable of being match-winners you are already halfway to the title.
Osman (Juventus FC) - Milan, maybe Inter if they make some late signings, but mainly Milan.
Among the favorites, who do you consider is going to struggle or fail?
jani (AC Milan) - Unless something surprising happens with Allegri and Milan, the one that will struggle will be Juventus. They have spent a lot of money but none of their transfers other than Vidal are convincing. The likes of Vucinic, Lichtsteiner and Ziegler just do not inspire confidence. Also, the fact that one of their key transfers of the summer was to sign Andrea Pirlo, a player who could not get playing time under Allegri tells you something about the quality of their squad in general.
Firdaus (Internazionale FC) - Inter, for the reasons mentioned above and because of valid concerns over Gasperini's widely reported insistence on his 3-4-3 formation in spite of the nature of the squad.
Indestructible (SSC Napoli) - I can see Inter struggling a little simply because they have not made any significant moves on the market. I do not think that Forlan can replace Eto'o (if indeed he does sign with Inter). And players like Lucio, Samuel, Stankovic and Zanetti are not getting any younger. I can see Napoli struggling since this is their first year in CL. Juve can once again struggle since I think that they have not addressed the issues that made them awful last year... weak cb pairing.
Anomander Rake (SS Lazio) - Napoli and Juventus. When a Serie A team makes it to the CL against the odds they usually struggle the next season, while Juventus just seems grossly mismanaged. Then again, this might be just wishful thinking.
Dean Fiori "Deano" (AS Roma) - Who do you count as a favourite in Italy these days? I think A.C Milan is the genuinely only quality team from this league right now, and in fact I do like how Napoli have kept the same group, but just added some great players.
So below them, I think both Inter and Juve will struggle to make an impact compared to their expectation. Though Juve have signed some good players, they still have not solved most of their problems. Conte promises to play a kind-of 4-2-4, which is what already killed Juventus last season. 4-3-3 is the best team they could play with their squad, but anyway they still need to sign a quality CB, then maybe I can consider them as getting their ultimate aim for this season which is top 3.
With Inter they have a new manager, who I dislike anyway, and they have (or about to) sold probably their best player of last season, Eto'o. The biggest problem though is that the new manager will insist on 3-4-3 for his life, and yet he will be playing out of the comfort zones for most of his players. I can understand the back 3, but I can never understand 3 forwards on top of that with Sneijder in the central midfield. They will be too open this season, and also I remember some of the Genoa games, this formation doesnt really work and I feel we have already seen this in pre-season. I could see Gasperini getting sacked by Christmas.
Osman (Juventus FC) - Inter more likely then Milan, losing Eto'o will hurt them alot.
About the European competitions, who is your favorite to win the UEFA Champions League?
jani (AC Milan) - Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Firdaus (Internazionale FC) - Is this a trick question? Barça, of course!
Indestructible (SSC Napoli) - Barcelona will once again win the CL. There is not a team in Europe that can match them techincally.
Anomander Rake (SS Lazio) - Barcelona. It's time some team manages to repeat their CL title.
Dean Fiori "Deano" (AS Roma) - It may probably sound boring to say it, but it has to be Barcelona. Is there really a point for me to expand on my prediction? Well all I can say is they have the best players, they have the backbone of the World and European National team champions with some of the best creative players on top of that. Even more frightening is they signed 2 of the world's best players and they have strengthened.
However, we do know that it is really difficult to defend your European title, so it has to be said that no team is really that unbeatable. If Barcelona stutter then I think it would be to an EPL team, and who knows, I think Chelsea will go all out for this trophy as alot of the players are now in their final years.
Osman (Juventus FC) - Simple, Barça.
And your favorites for La Liga and the Premier League?
jani (AC Milan) - Same as above. [Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United]
Firdaus (Internazionale FC) - Barça for La Liga, without hesitation. For the EPL, the favorites would be the ever-reliable Manchester United. Their records over previous seasons speak for themselves. In addition, the recent transfer activity of both teams look to assure themselves of more silverware.
Indestructible (SSC Napoli) - Both Barcelona and Man U will repeat this year
Anomander Rake (SS Lazio) - Barcelona and Manchester Utd.
Dean Fiori "Deano" (AS Roma) - Well if I think Barcelona will win the Champions League it is obvious my prediction for La Liga will also be them. Real Madrid will once again improve, but I think just not enough yet.
In the Premier League, I can see Man City going on to win the title this season, Tevez or not. I think its already clear that Dzeko has improved with his half season and looks ready to get close to 20 goals while Aguero is just of this world and could well be the signing of the summer from any team in the world. If Mancini can maybe be more positive when it really counts (as this is not the Serie A I was talking about earlier, positivity wins EPL's not just having a great defence and a match-winner) Man City have a great shot at winning this EPL.
Osman (Juventus FC) - Also simple, Barça and Manchester United.
Disclaimer: These interviews were done a couple of weeks ago and the transfer window had not closed yet.
Once again, I would like to say thanks to all the Xtratime forum members who helped me to make the first analysis of the season. Thanks for all, guys! You are great!