Serie A Preview: 10 Bold Predictions for the New Season
Serie A is gearing up for the new season, and it has the potential to be explosive.
Juventus, the champions, look formidable, but remember that unlike any other league, Serie A clubs tend to be very active in the closing hours and minutes of the transfer window and a lot can change.
Italy's magnificent performance at Euro 2012 has given the country a boost and Serie A should benefit, with Cesare Prandelli instilling a new philosophy and casting his net wider than ever before in search of a new generation of Italian superstars.
Most of those players will be on display in Serie A this season, so pay close attention to a new-found excitement that the league has not always been able to boast.
Check out the following predictions, and be sure to engage in some debate in the comments section.
Promoted Pescara's Former Wonder Kids to Make Huge Impact
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne were magnificent for Delfino Pescara last season, culminating in the Delfini earning promotion to Serie A under the guidance of Roma's new manager Zdeněk Zeman.
Immobile is now with Genoa and given the lacklustre form of Alberto Gilardino, he could find himself immediately starting for the Grifone.
Insigne will have a less prominent role, but I still expect him to sparkle now that he is back with Napoli. After Ezequiel Lavezzi's departure, the burden to replace him will be divided between Goran Pandev, Eduardo Vargas and himself. A clever ploy from Walter Mazzarri, as not to heap too much expectation on the boy.
I fully expect to see moments of genius from these two and a glimpse of an exciting future in prospect for the Azzurri. Cesare Prandelli will be keeping a watchful eye on these two remarkable talents and you should too.
Superstar to Arrive in Serie A Before the Transfer Deadline
Italy is notorious for their belated approach to the transfer market in comparison with the majority of the other European leagues.
The final day of the transfer window in Italy is so frantic that the Serie A executives book into a hotel collectively, in order to complete the inevitable last-minute deals more efficiently.
This season should be no different, and I expect one of the late arrivals to be a big fish.
Kaka is an unwanted man at Real Madrid, and realistically only has one option: return to Milan with his tail between his legs after his big-money move to the Merengues has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
Adriano Galliani will bide his time, as he always does, knowing that Real Madrid will have to cut their losses, and they will be big losses. It would be astonishing if Milan returned even a quarter of the original fee of €60 million that the Rossoneri received three years ago.
Even if Madrid are reluctant to take such a heavy hit on a former Ballon d'Or winner, the deal makes sense for everybody.
Udinese to Continue to Defy Logic & Earn a European Place
Udinese have done what they do every summer: they sell their best players, before acquiring obscure talents from their vast scouting network for a pittance. Samir Handanovic, Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah have all departed and so have any hopes of retaining a European place, if you speak to most Italian football fans.
Antonio Di Natale will still score the goals and new talent, as always, has been acquired to support Toto.
Marco Davide Faraoni arrives from Inter as part of the Samir Handanovic deal and Luis Muriel returns from a superb loan spell with Lecce.
A collection of Brazilians that include Willians, Maicoseul and Allan take the Zebrette's Samba collection to seven now.
Danilo and Mehdi Benatia are two of the league's best defenders, with Udinese resisting the overtures from Europe's best clubs. Pablo Armero is another key player that has remained, despite speculation.
Underestimate Francesco Guidolin's men at your peril.
Roma to Flip Six Point Deficit on Eternal Rivals Lazio
Roma endured a terrible time last season under the ownership of American entrepreneur Thomas Richard DiBenedetto for the first time.
Manager Luis Enrique was a complete failure, while signings aplenty flopped.
This time is different though.
Legendary manager Zdenek Zeman is back to inspire a club he managed once before, after guiding Pescara to promotion in swashbuckling fashion.
The signings of Michael Bradley, Federico Balzaretti and Mattia Destro all seem like good value and Erik Lamela will finally be settled after his move from River Plate last season.
Lazio, on the other hand, are a year older, with key players entering the final years of their careers, such as Miroslav Klose and Andre Dias.
Edy Reja left by mutual consent, despite performing admirably in wretched circumstances.
He is replaced by Vladimir Petkovic, a mystifying appointment from Claudio Lotito, with the Bosnian manager's best achievement being second place in the Swiss league with Young Boys. To put it kindly, this is a risk.
With that in mind, I predict that the six point difference between the sides last season will be turned around. This time, in the Giallorossi's favour.
Fiorentina to Finish 10 Points Higher Regardless of What Happens to Jovetic
Fiorentina suffered a crisis last season. The Viola flirted with relegation and disgraced their proud tradition with a collection of unacceptable performances on the pitch that were mixed with asinine behaviour off of it.
Stevan Jovetic could still depart, but the Florentine club are ready for this eventuality after an impressive foray in to the transfer market.
The Viola have acquired no less than 13 players, discarding 16 others for good measure, to completely overhaul the squad in a defiant reaction to an absolutely dismal season.
Fiorentina have assembled a group of top-class footballers that includes David Pizzaro, Alberto Aquilani, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Borja Valero, Emiliano Viviano, Matias Fernandez, Juan Cuadrado, Mounir El Hamdaoui and Facundo Roncaglia. They mean business this season, make no mistake.
Even if Jovetic was to depart late in the window, it seems like the Viola are perfectly ready to strive for a European place rather than scrapping to avoid relegation like they were last season.
The overhaul is made to be even more impressive when you consider that the net spend has been €10 million. Grande Viola.
Juve Will Lose at Least Three Games This Season
Juventus were sensational last year in avoiding defeat over the entire Serie A season, winning the Scudetto in the process.
The Bianconeri were only the third team in Italian football to successfully complete a season without a defeat—Perugia in 1978-79 and Milan in 1991-92 being the other two sides.
This season will be different, though, because when you inherit the tag of champions, you become a bigger target for the rest of the league.
Furthermore, the Champions League will inevitably effect their preparation for the games with fatigue becoming more of a factor this season.
Juve have assembled a tremendous squad that they hope can maintain the momentum from last season to plow through a more congested calendar. In theory, this works, but when you begin to rotate the starting 11, the flow of the side is disrupted.
The absence of this was a key advantage for Juve last season, as they could avoid this for the most part due to no European endeavours.
Based on that, I foresee losses this season—at least three.
Pato Will Play at Least 33 Matches for Milan
Alexandre Pato has been ravaged by injuries in recent seasons, disrupting his progress for the Rossoneri.
Given that star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been sold, Milan's success this season is now dependent on Pato's fitness.
In the past two seasons, Pato has missed 15 and 10 league matches, respectively, due to various injuries. This season must be different if he is to fulfill that enormous potential—if only to ensure he remains a contender to start for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup with Leandro Damiao's form beginning to nudge the Duck out of contention.
I think it would be a success if Pato was to only miss a maximum of five league matches this season. If this can be done, it will surely kick-start his career again.
Diego Milito to Capture the Capocannoniere
I envisage Diego Milito claiming the Capocannoniere this season.
Last year's winner, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has departed to Ligue 1 which makes the competition is more open.
Milito now has a supply line to provide him with ample opportunities in order to win this award, and become the first Argentine to win the Capocannoniere since Hernan Crespo in 2001.
Rodrigo Palacio, Philippe Coutinho, Ricardo Alvarez and Wesley Sneijder will be a dream support cast for Il Principe to cement his legacy as an Inter legend by providing the goals to drag the Nerazzurri back to Champions League football.
Pescara to Be in Contention to Survive in the Closing Weeks
I foresee Pescara being able to defy the critics that say they could be the worst team in Serie A history.
Honestly, it's not looking good, especially when you lose your three best players and your manager. Inevitably, you will be severely weakened.
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, Pescara's top scorers last season with 46 goals between them, both departed. The playmaker Marco Verratti was sold to Paris Saint Germain and the genius behind it all, Zdenek Zeman, was persuaded to return to his former club Roma.
Veteran forward Marco Sansovini also departed, joining Serie B newcomers Spezia, a peculiar move after his 16 goals played a significant role in the Delfini returning to Serie A.
On the positive side though, another talented young player has joined on loan: Vladimir Weiss from Manchester City, who will be expected to provide the team with inspiration in the way that Insigne did.
The main point of optimism for Pescara, though, is not how they replace these key figures from last season; rather, four teams are beginning the season on negative points. Siena will start the season with six points deducted, Atalanta with two and both of Sampdoria and Torino with a one point penalty.
Derby Della Lanterna Will Give Us the Game of the Season
Sampdoria are back. After a season in the doldrums of Serie B, the team returns to the big time, and that means one thing for us all.
The Derby della Lanterna is back, which is one of the fixtures every calcio fan anticipates.
Genoa, fortunately for us, narrowly avoided relegation last season to ensure this would be possible.
Absolutely make sure you capture one of these remarkable occasions at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris this season. You will not be disappointed.
Unrivaled passion and a cauldron of noise awaits you. I can't wait!
Ben tornato calcio.