5 Reasons Why Milan Can Win the Scudetto This Season
Milan enter the coming season with relatively little fanfare, but the team has a balanced look to it and Massimiliano Allegri will play to the squad's strengths.
But Milanistas should be relatively pleased by the lack of expectations placed on their side, as with closer examination, Milan can certainly consider themselves candidates for the title.
Here is why.
Best Striker in the League: Mario Balotelli
Milan possess the best striker in the league and the rest of the team will play for No. 45.
Mario Balotelli was almost stolen by vice president/CEO Adriano Galliani in January given the price that City accepted to release the 22-year-old.
At £17.6 million, Balotelli represents an outstanding piece of business by Milan—especially when you consider that PSG paid £56.8 million for Edinson Cavani.
Balotelli hit the ground running for the Diavoli, striking 12 times in 13 league appearances, suggesting he is the favourite to claim the Capocannoniere next season. The departure of El Matador certainly helps as well.
With Super Mario spearheading the Rossoneri's attack, a title challenge can certainly be mounted. Allegri will be afforded the luxury of focusing on other areas of the team due to the reliability of Balotelli's goalscoring prowess.
Transfer fees courtesy of TransferMarkt.
The Champions' Focus Will Be Elsewhere This Year
Juventus look to be the favourites once more for the Scudetto, but the reality is that the Bianconeri will be treating Serie A as a secondary objective this season.
Antonio Conte knows that the next stage in his project is to break through in Europe with this side, especially after securing a second consecutive title last season.
Signings such as Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were made to provide the Old Lady with increased firepower on the European stage, something that was glaringly exposed in their tie with Bayern Munich.
Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella, Mirko Vucinic and Alessandro Matri have all proven to be excellent strikers in Serie A, but they all failed to convince in the Champions League. The club's transfer policy certainly appears to point to a different focus for next season.
With Juve concentrating more on Europe, their domestic form could suffer. Milan might be able to capitalise on this.
Unlikely to Go Deep in the Champions League
Milan were very close to claiming a famous victory over two legs against Barcelona last season and perhaps the width of the post—which denied M'Baye Niang a crucial away goal at the Camp Nou—prevented such a memorable night.
The truth is that Milan were not expected to push the Blaugrana that far and played above themselves to even win the first leg 2-0.
This leads me to believe that even matching last season's feat of getting out of the group stage would be a success to an extent.
With a seeding in pot two, Milan will surely fall into a difficult group and this could complicate their passage to the last 16—especially with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City coming out of the third pot.
This will ultimately be a blessing in disguise, though, as it will surely allow the Rossoneri to focus on their domestic objectives from the beginning of 2014.
Rafael Benitez Will Take Time to Master Serie A
Rafael Benitez has made plenty of noise with his signings since arriving at Napoli, backed heavily by Aurelio De Laurentiis.
The Spaniard has a formidable squad at his disposal—even without Edinson Cavani—with plenty hoping that he can improve on last season's runner-up place, achieved by Walter Mazzarri, who has since departed to Inter.
But the truth of the matter is that Benitez did not fare too well with Inter during his first spell in Italian football and his methods will surely take time to be fully recognised in Naples.
The Partenopei have been used to Mazzarri's three-centre-back formation over the past few seasons, something that Benitez will change.
Again, this will prove to be a hurdle for the side to overcome in the preliminary stages of Benitez's tenure.
Milan, on the other hand, are a settled unit under Allegri and will surely be able to improve upon that dreadful first half of the season last term.
If they can do so, that six-point gap between both sides last season will surely be overcome.
Allegri Can Draw Upon Experience to Repeat Feat of 2010-11
Massimiliano Allegri has actually won a Scudetto before, although you wouldn't know it by the lack of respect he garners from the Milan hierarchy, who failed to support their coach on numerous occasions over the last season.
The former Cagliari tactician is capable of putting together a title-winning side, and with support finally arriving from above, Milan can get on with their work knowing their manager will be safe for the foreseeable future.
That title-winning side has some striking similarities to the squad that he has at his disposal this season too.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic—a talismanic centre-forward to lead the team—is replaced by Mario Balotelli, who can certainly match Ibra's 14 goals in 29 matches of that season.
Ibra's partner was Alexandre Pato, who also chipped in with 14 goals. Stephan El Shaarawy will easily be able to manage that, with 16 goals last season despite suffering from fatigue towards the end of the campaign.
A solid third option in attack was Robinho—who also scored 14 times that year—and his place as the first reserve will be occupied by Giampaolo Pazzini, who offers a great option off the bench.
Pazzo was on the scoresheet 15 times in 30 appearances last season, proving that he will help the side whenever called upon.
Allegri looked for a midfield to include a deep-lying playmaker (Andrea Pirlo), a tenacious tackler (Gennaro Gattuso) and a second, more advanced creative force (Clarence Seedorf) to act as the team's engine room.
While Riccardo Montolivo, Sulley Muntari and Andrea Poli are not yet of their calibre, they at least possess similar characteristics that Allegri can use to mould a title-winning side.
The quality in the defence is something missing to repeat the triumph of 2011, as Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta were world-class stoppers, but Allegri trusts Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata was solid during his first season back in Italian football since his spell at Udinese.
Milan might not be favourites for the Scudetto, but they are much closer than many would believe and a 15-point difference will be closed considerably to give the Rossoneri a chance of a winning a 19th title.