Why AC Milan Is The Obvious Pick to Win Serie A 2013/14
Whilst Juventus may have reigned supreme last season and galloped to their second consecutive Serie A title, the Bianconeri were less magisterial than their unbeaten campaign of the previous year.
The eventual margin may have been nine points between themselves and runners up Napoli, but the fact Juve dropped 27 points—equal to nine defeats; one loss every four games—suggests that their rivals are finding a way to decipher the Old Lady's hermetic style of calcio.
As time ticks towards the final weekend of August, when the 2013/14 season commences, clubs welcome back their charges and begin pre-season in earnest: With next season culminating in the Brazil-based World Cup, many players will be keen to hit peak fitness from as early as possible.
In addition, after months of speculation, whispers and rumours, now is the time when a club's hierarchy submit bids for their desired transfer target, with the aim of completing business as early as possible.
With fresh blood combining with old hands, a number of teams will be feeling confident they can wrest the scudetto title from the grips of the Turin club.
History tells us these things are cyclical: Whilst Inter Milan's 2009-10 league victory completed a run of five consecutive titles—including the one bequeathed to them by the Calciopoli scandal—that was only the third time in 60 years that a team had completed a hat-trick of successive vanquishes (Milan's run from 1991-94 and the superior Torino team of the 1940s finish the set).
When examining which team could gazzump the 29-time champions Juventus, there are a host of hungry birds of prey circling the injured black and white beast.
Last season's bridesmaids Napoli look like the most logical to usurp the kings. However, the Partenope's momentum disrupted by a hectic summer of upheaval.
As manager Walter Mazzarri departed after almost four seasons at the Stadio San Paolo—where he delivered European football every year—it remains to be seen if his replacement, Rafael Benitez, has the ability to not only challenge in the Champions League, but also on a domestic front.
With only six months experience in Italian football, he endured a miserable spell at then-European champions Inter Milan three seasons ago (his December dismissal had been anticipated for several weeks).
He has not won a league title since he steered Valencia to La Liga success in 2004. Since then, he has failed at Liverpool, Inter and Chelsea.
In an interim role at Stamford Bridge last season, he impressively delivered Europa League success, despite vocal fan revolts. However, he does not possess the pedigree to replicate this to a gruelling league campaign.
His efforts will be further hindered by the anticipated departure of last season's top scorer, Edinson Cavani.
Heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, Real Madrid and now Paris Saint-Germain, it is the latter which looks his most likely destination: Having scored 29 goals last season, the Uruguayan would thrive in a star-studded team which includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura and one-time teammates Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Nadia Carminati wrote that talks are still ongoing, despite the French club's bid £43 million falling someway short of his £54 million buyout clause.
Fiorentina are looking strong: Their fans have many reasons to be confident that last season's final day disappointment of missing out on the Champions League should be allayed by a strong campaign.
However, one team who not only has the nous and ability to upset the status quo—not to mention having done it many times before—is AC Milan.
Despite eventually finishing third, the Rossoneri had a season of two halves: After having a turgid start to the campaign where they won only two of their opening eight, they went on to win all but one of their 20 league games of 2013. It is poetic that the solitary loss came at the hands of Juventus.
With Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy in attack,
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