5 Surprising Starts in Serie A This Season
Three rounds in and Serie A is beginning to take shape. Italy's top flight has seen a few unexpected starts this term, and while it's still early days, the signs are that this could be an incredibly competitive year on the peninsula.
New managers have gotten off to great starts and promoted sides are mixing it with established powers. It's been competitive throughout the table. So which teams have raised the most eyebrows? Read on to find out.
Walter Mazzarri has had an immediate effect on things at the San Siro. Inter have two wins and a draw under their belts so far. More importantly, they look like a completely different side to the one that struggled so much last season.
Convincing wins against Genoa and Catania were followed by a draw that was their most compelling result so far. The Nerazzurri held champions Juventus to a 1-1 stalemate in the Derby d'Italia, and while they're still some way off the Old Lady in terms of squad depth and quality, the signs are that Mazzarri's side are now done being pushovers.
I've written at length about the challenges facing the new manager, but on the evidence of these early rounds, the former Napoli boss has wasted no time getting down to work.
Livorno didn't get much of a honeymoon in Serie A. An opening day defeat to Roma at the Armando Picchi gave the Amaranto a taste of what to expect for the coming year.
However, rather than get down on themselves, Livorno have bounced right back with two convincing wins. A former Romanista, Leandro Greco, has arrived from Olympiacos and wasted no time in showing how valuable his Serie A experience will be.
Greco got the first of four against Sassuolo at the Mapei Stadium, inspiring momentum that hopefully can keep Livorno safely away from the relegation zone.
The Brazilian striker Paulinho also netted against last year's Serie B champions, and was on target twice in the following game against Catania, who have had a miserable start to the campaign. Now 27, he might finally deliver on the promise that saw him called up for Brazil's U-20 side and first earned his move to Italy from Juventude.
Davide Nicola has some players of real quality at his disposal, and aside from the disappointment in the opening fixture, six points from two crucial games against fellow relegation candidates will have the former Genoa defender quietly pleased with his side's start to the season.
President Aurelio De Laurentiis has been building something special in Naples for a while now, but with the sale of star striker Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain and the departure of manager Walter Mazzarri to Inter, there were some doubts about how well the Partenopei could realistically start the season.
Those doubts proved baseless. Right from the off, Napoli have been perfect. New boss Rafa Benitez has the side looking more defensively organised, but not at the expense of their attacking bite.
Three wins from three in the league proves the manager has settled right in. The nine goals his side have scored proves that they don't miss Cavani. And the way in which they beat Borussia Dortmund proves the southern Italians are finally living up to their massive potential.
This could be a memorable year at the Stadio San Paolo.
After 11 years away from the top flight, Hellas Verona would have been forgiven for struggling to get to grips with life in Serie A.
The Mastini have six points from the opening three games, which would be good going no matter the opposition. What makes their start truly outstanding is that they began their league campaign with a resounding 2-0 win over giants AC Milan.
Veteran striker Luca Toni put in an inspired performance and bagged two trademark headers to sink Max Allegri's Rossoneri, securing a victory that got the Bentegodi outfit off to the best possible start—one that could prove crucial later in the season when those around them are scrapping for points.
Andrea Mandorlini's side also saw off fellow league debutantes Sassuolo, but were thoroughly undone by an excellent Roma performance in the second round. On the face of it, they won't be the only ones to suffer that fate this year, and Verona's key targets will be to beat the opposition lower in the table anyway.
If Mandorlini can keep the 36-year-old Toni fit, they shouldn't have too much trouble avoiding relegation.
For fans of Serie A, seeing Roma with nine points from their three opening games might be the biggest shock of all so far this term.
The Giallorossi are notoriously slow starters, and have endured two difficult seasons under Luis Enrique, Zdenek Zeman and Aurelio Andreazzoli.
New boss Rudi Garcia has wasted no time putting his stamp on the Lupi, and for the moment they look very good all over the park.
That Roma are attractive going forward is hardly news—it's the way things are done at the Olimpico. The fact that they also look defensively organised and are playing in a cohesive, controlled manner is more startling.
The loss of star winger Erik Lamela doesn't seem to have hindered them too much, either. And though tougher challengers lay ahead, the likes of Livorno, Hellas Verona and Parma are traditionally the sides against whom Roma struggle more than the league's top teams.
It's early days, but the signs are good.