The 5 Serie A Teams That Will Underachieve This Season
With Juventus once again the hot favourites to take out yet another Scudetto, the rest of the teams in Serie A could once again find themselves fighting over the minor places.
While most of the other sides will hardly be hugely disappointed at missing out on top spot, they will all have their own goals for the season that has just begun.
Roma, for example, would be unhappy if they cannot repeat their second-place finish of 2013-14, while newly promoted Palermo will think they have a squad good enough to remain in the top flight.
Based on what the realistic expectations of both fans and players are likely to be, then, he are five Serie A outfits who could underachieve in 2014-15.
After a ninth place finish in 2013-14, Rome giants Lazio will be hoping this is the season that sees them emerge as a power once more, or at the very least fight their way back into the European places.
Three signings which look very good on paper in Stefan De Vrij, Marco Parolo and Filip Djordjevic, as well as a new coach, Stefano Pioli, have added to the air of optimism around the Biancoceleste.
Despite these high hopes of a top-six finish, this could turn out to be another frustrating year of transition for Lazio, as the fresh recruits settle in Rome and the new coach establishes his authority.
On paper, the squad does not look anywhere near as strong as the likes of Fiorentina, Napoli or Inter, let alone the top two title contenders, Roma and Juventus, and there are a handful of sides who finished mid-table last time around who have strengthened.
Though Lazio fans should probably be content with another finish in the top half of the draw with a view to building for next season, it is unlikely they will be.
New owner Tommaso Giullini has taken a gamble by appointing uber-attacking coach Zdenek Zeman to the helm of Cagliari, and there is a definite risk that gamble will backfire.
Strengthening the squad and ensuring a dependable manager was in charge would have aided the club in their annual quest to remain in Serie A, and while Zeman's arrival could mean a higher finish than normal, it could also result in relegation if things go pear shaped.
The eccentric Czech did not fare well last time he appeared in Italy's top flight as coach of Roma and Cagliari's cause won't be helped by the losses of key men Davide Astori and Mauricio Pinilla.
It should be clear within a couple of months whether the Zeman experiment is working. If it is not, Giullini would be best advised to jettison the veteran manager in favour of someone else.
What was supposed to be a revitalised Milan squad in 2013-14 ended up putting together a turgid, uninspired campaign to finish eighth in the league.
After the departures of Massimiliano Allegri and Clarence Seedorf, former goalscorer Filippo Inzaghi has taken over managerial duties and has at least given the team a more determined aura about it.
Milan fans, like Lazio fans, will be sick of hearing their side is going through a transition period and instead will be eyeing up a Champions League place for next season. They may be set for another discouraging year, then, because the club is probably not quite ready to be competing with the big boys again.
Though there are some exciting young talents available to Inzaghi, such as Riccardo Saponara, Hachim Mastour and M'Baye Niang, as well as a sprinkling of world-class players, overall the squad does look to contain a number of weaknesses.
All of the central defenders who will be competing for starting spots can be mistake prone, while Inzaghi's midfield looks solid, but lacking flair.
Upfront, forwards like Keisuke Honda and Stephan El Shaaraway are undoubtedly skilful, but they have failed to produce the goods consistently in the past.
Expect Milan to be entertaining to watch in Serie A but not at the level required to keep pace with the top teams.
Fruili outfit Udinese have long been one of Italy's most likeable sides due to their ability to play attacking and effective football despite lacking the budget of the country's bigger clubs.
Last season saw something of a downturn in fortunes, however, as the side struggled to stay out of the relegation zone.
New coach Andrea Stramaccioni must rejuvenate the side or a drop down to Serie B could be on the cards.
It might be too much to ask for the former Inter manager to inspire a young squad to play above themselves as so many Udinese teams of the past have done.
Following up an excellent 2013-14 campaign, in which they finished a very respectable seventh, will be an extremely difficult task for Torino.
The Turin outfit managed to qualify for the Europa League thanks to last season's efforts, but that could prove both a blessing and a curse as they attempt to match their previous performance levels.
A positive run in Europe could keep morale high but it may also affect the ability of the side to remain competitive in the league, especially considering some vital departures.
The key to Torino's success last time around was the 35 goals scored by their brilliant pair of Italian internationals, Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci.
Both have now left the club, with Cerci signing for Atletico Madrid and Immobile moving on to Borussia Dortmund.
To make matters worse, the players brought in to replace these vibrant forwards don't look capable of providing anywhere near the same attacking threat.
Fabio Quagliarella and Amauri were both once top Serie A strikers, but neither has been impressive in recent seasons, meaning Torino are now looking fairly blunt up top.
Expect them to drop down into the lower half of the table this season.
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