The last league to kick off is the Italian Serie A as those greasy wops are still working on their tans and glass of red wine. Okay that’s a joke, kind of, but the Serie A is back in full force this Saturday. The three time reigning champions Juventus will look to make it a four-peat but this time with a new manager. During the summer manager Antonio Conte left the club via “mutual consent”. He’s now the Italian National Team manager and he will surely have his work cut out for him. To replace Conte, Juventus have appointed Massimiliano Allegri, the former AC Milan skipper, as their head man. In his time at the San Siro he won a Serie A title in 2010/2011 but recently a few subpar years got him the axe in Milan.
The entire Juventus roster from last season is intact and in fact they’ve added pieces. Juve have acquired defensive left back Patrice Evra from Manchester United and Alvaro Morata, a 21 year old central midfielder from Real Madrid. On paper they have the best team in the league hands down: Tevez, Vidal, Pogba, Bufffon, Chiellini and Marchisio. However the biggest question mark isn’t talent, it’s motivation and how they are going to interact with their new manager.
What message is Allegri going to get across to his players that Conte hadn’t already? What fire is he going to light under his players to make them push for a fourth consecutive title? I don’t think it will be an issue but it’s worth mentioning, Andrea Pirlo and Allegri do not have a warm fuzzy relationship with each other. Before Andrea Pirlo was winning everything in sight with Juventus he was a midfield legend at AC Milan. When Allegri came on board at the Rosaneri he decided to leave because Pirlo stated that he was not in Allegri’s first team plans. Pirlo felt that he was no longer useful to them and turned down their one year contract offer for a longer term deal at Juventus. Again I don’t think Pirlo will make it an issue but you never know how relationships can twist and turn throughout the course of a year.
Last season AS Roma were the only challengers to Juventus’ crown and I see them being the only legitimate one again. They’ve managed to hold onto all their talent as well while adding a Premier League left back of their own in Ashley Cole. Roma look to be a strong team and their manager Rudi Garcia is receiving a lot of praise for the job he’s done thus far. Finishing in second place with 85 points and 72 goals is very solid for a debut campaign. They’ve also signed with Nike stepping up their level of swag.
Francesco Totti will don the captain’s armband again, a club he’s been with since 1992 and has played in 561 matches for. Danielle De Rossi will be his vice captain and an extremely important part of the midfield along with Marcus Strootman and Seydou Keita. The majority of the scoring last season came from Gervinho (9 goals) and Mattia Destro (13 goals) with five others scoring six to eight goals a piece. The only reason I’m not picking Roma to win the league is their lack of fire power compared to Juvenetus. Juve has too many weapons and right now I don’t see how Roma can out score them.
So what about the rest of the pack? Remember when the league used to be all about AC Milan and Inter Milan? Yeah those days are long gone. AC Milan looks to be a mess right now, they finished 8th last season and did not qualify for the Champions League, it was their worst finish in 15 years. They’ve had a revolving door at manager, not only booting Allegri but Clarence Seedorf after only six months. Seedorf is a club legend who played for Milan for a decade and 300 appearances. So they brought in another legend to manage, former striker Pippo Inzaghi (202 apps, 73 goals) to figure this thing out. They are clearly desperate.
Not that the pre-season is any foresight into the real season but AC Milan has allowed 12 goals in 4 exhibition matches to top flight teams. They’ve also sold their leading goal scorer from last season Mario Balotelli (14 goals) to Liverpool which was finalized today. Their next highest scorer was 32 year old Kaka (not on the team anymore) with 7 goals and Sulley Muntari with 5 goals. Milan made a few signings this summer acquiring Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez, PSG defender Alex, PSG midfielder Jeremy Menez and Valencia defender Adil Rami. Unfortunately none of those moves puts their head above water and it could be another long season for the red team in Milan.
The third place team will almost surely be Napoli who are lead by Rafa Benitez who has a history of winning in Europe (Liverpool, Chelsea, Valencia). Napoli had a respectable showing in last year’s Champions League group stage despite not advancing and it appears they’re on the brink of stepping up to the next level. They have Gonzalo Higuain (17 goals), Jose Callejon (15 goals), Marek Hamsik (7 goals) and added Michu from Swansea City to help with the goal scoring. The player to watch in the Serie A is going to be Lorenzo Insigne who is an up an comer. Watch out for his name this season. Napoli lost their goalkeeper from last season as Pepe Reina moved to Bayern Munich and that could be their biggest hole entering this season.
On the blue side of Milan there is a bit of hope, not league championship hopes, but top four finish hopes. I think they fall into the fourth spot by default, I don’t trust Fiorentina, I’ve already written off AC Milan and Parma hasn’t improved at all. The Inter Milan roster looks more like a historical soccer yearbook than anything else: Javier Zanetti (41 years old), Esteban Cambiasso (34), Walter Samuel (36) and Diego Milito (35). Inter is not giving any reason to doubt the stereotype that the Serie A is old, slow Italian men. Oh yeah they’ve added long time Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic who is also 32 years old and slow but still very talented on defense.
Also welcome back Palermo, who spent two seasons in the Serie B before winning the league last year.
*Season kicks off August 30th
**Top 2 teams advance to Champions League, 3rd place into Champions League Qualification
- AS Roma
- Inter Milan
- Chievo Verona
Top Scorers in 2013/2014
- Ciro Immobile, Torino – 22
- Luca Toni, Hellas Verona – 20
- Carlos Tevez, Juventus – 19
- Rodrigo Palacio, Inter – 17
- Gonzalo Higuian, Napoli – 17
- Antonio Di Natale, Udinese – 17
Top Assisters in 2013/2014
- Alessio Cerci, Torino – 10
- Gervinho, AS Roma – 10
- Francesco Totti, AS Roma – 10
- Borja Valero, Fiorentina – 9
- Romulo, Hellas Verona – 8
Pre-Season Best XI
- GK – Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus
- D – Ashley Cole, AS Roma
- D – Nemanja Vidic, Inter
- D – Medhi Benatia, AS Roma
- D – Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
- M – Daniele De Rossi, AS Roma
- M – Andrea Pirlo, Juventus
- M – Arturo Vidal, Juventus
- F – Antonio Di Natale, Udinese
- F – Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli
- F – Carlos Tevez, Juventus