Inter Remains Team to Beat: 2010-11 Serie A Preview

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Inter Remains Team to Beat: 2010-11 Serie A Preview
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As the holders of the UEFA Champions League trophy and winner of the Serie A Scudetto the past five seasons, it is without question that everyone will once again look at Inter Milan as the team to beat in 2010-11.

Inter hasn’t exactly upgraded it's roster from last season. It has sold young star Mario Balotelli and one-time star Ricardo Quaresma, but the club is still loaded with talent and should be difficult to beat.

Young French forward Jonathan Biabiany returns to the club after a loan spell with Parma and may play the biggest role of Inter’s new players. Philippe Coutinho may be just 18, but the young Brazilian could find time as the backup to Wesley Sneijder.

All of the players in Inter’s projected starting lineup are returners from last season.

While Inter is the favorite once again to win in Serie A, a few clubs have made strong bids at closing the gap.

Below is a team by team analysis of each team (in alphabetical order).

 

Bari 

After an impressive return to Serie A last season, Bari once again looks solid.

The club has lost its two center defenders in Andrea Ranocchia and Leonardo Bonucci, but it played without Ranocchia for more than half of the season after the young star went down with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

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Andrea Masiello is a returning starter who will anchor the defense. Sergio Almiron and Massimo Donati are two quality veteran center midfielders that should keep this side competitive. Bari should expect to fight for salvation in Serie A, but achieve it.

 

Bologna 

Bologna has struggled the last two seasons to stay in Serie A. This season they might face the chop.

The club has a quality goalkeeper in Emiliano Viviano and a fine veteran forward in Marco Di Vaio. But there is not much else.

Young Slovenian Rene Khrin, who played just five times for Inter Milan last season, is expected to start in the midfield. Coach Franco Colomba will have his hands full in trying to keep this club from dropping back into Serie B.

 

Brescia 

Brescia returns to Serie A as its main rival, Atalanta, takes its place in Serie B.

The club that was the final stopping point for Roberto Baggio has maintained its starting roster and added a quality veteran goalkeeper in Matteo Sereni, who moves over from Torino.

Big forward Andrea Caracciolo has been highly regarded for years and will be counted on to help keep the club afloat. While Brescia is certainly expected to be in the bottom half of the Serie A standings, keeping its core group of players together from last season can only be seen as a plus.

 

Cagliari 

A side that has played some of the most beautiful soccer in Serie A the past few seasons has kept its core together for yet another season. Former coach Massimiliano Allegri may now be with AC Milan, but this side should expect to find itself in the middle of the pack.

Robert Acquafresca returns to the club he enjoyed lots of success with two seasons ago. He will partner up with Alessandro Matri in the attack in what could be one of the better goal-scoring tandems in the league.

 

Catania 

The Sicilian side begins its fifth consecutive season in Serie A looking quite good. Marco Giampaolo has taken over as coach and wing forward Jorge Martinez is the only departure from the side that has made a living off of finding little-known or forgotten talents in South America that have emerged to form a fine squad.

Forward Maxi Lopez, a former Barcelona player, was an excellent mid-season acquisition and the club did not sell him in the summer. Tiny attacking midfielder Alejandro Gomez moves to the club from Argentinian side San Lorenzo and is expected to start.

Marco Biagianti and Pablo Ledesma form a solid center to the midfield. Catania should expect to finish between 11th and 15th in Serie A.

 

Cesena 

This club hasn’t been in Serie A in 19 years, so expectations are not very high. The club did well in Serie B last season and has brought in a few new players.

Many are high on young Ezequiel Scheletto, who was born in Argentina but has pledged to represent his ancestral homeland on the international level. Brazilian goalie Diego Cavalieri is expected to be the starter after being a backup with Liverpool.

Cesena will be happy if it can remain in Serie A for next season.

 

Chievo 

Once considered "the little engine that could" Chievo is now a respected Serie A side as it will be in playing in the top flight for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

Chievo hasn’t done too much in the transfer market. Key defender Mario Yepes left for AC Milan as a free agent but the club added attacking midfielder Mariano Bogliacino from Napoli.

Defender Andrea Mantovani is liked by many clubs in Italy and abroad. Veteran forward Sergio Pellessier is always amongst the most underrated players in the league. Chievo should expect to finish within the top 15 in Serie A.

 

Fiorentina

This is a side to watch out for. With a new coach nobody is mentioning the Viola as a Scudetto candidate. But this is clearly a team that has the ability to win the Serie A title.

Yes, Stefan Jovetic will be out for much of the season and Adrian Mutu, the man he replaced won’t be back until October. But Fiorentina is solid across the field and does not have to worry about playing in Europe this season, allowing it to concentrate on a top four finish.

Add in a fine midfield playmaker in Gaetano D’Agostino and anything less than a top five finish would be a disappointment.

 

Genoa 

No team improved itself more in the summer than Genoa. This side should push to be among the top six or seven in the league.

The new additions include forward Luca Toni, Portuguese goalie Eduardo, defender Andrea Ranocchia, Portuguese midfielder Miguel Veloso, Brazilian wing back Rafinha, young Argentine midfielder Franco Zuculini, and young Italian forwards Mattia Destro and Gianmarco Zigoni, who come from Inter and AC Milan, respectively.

Putting the puzzle together will now be the difficult part for coach Giampiero Gasperini.

 

Inter

The defending league, cup and champions of Europe are once again the favorites to win the Scudetto.

Inter has a new coach in Rafael Benitez who replaces Jose Mourinho, who left for Real Madrid. Benitez comes from Liverpool, where he enjoyed a fine run that include a Champions League title.

Inter was not very active in the transfer market. It did sell Mario Balotelli, who was a super substitute. But Balotelli’s issues with fans and teammates caused the team to unload the talented youngster.

What Inter has now is what it hasn’t had in past years and that is a set starting eleven. A decade ago Inter coaches had difficulty figuring which pair of superstar forwards to start. Now the direction appears more set with a depth chart in place.

Young Brazilian Coutinho is the brightest new addition to the team and is expected to backup Wesley Sneijder. Don’t expect much to change this season.

 

Juventus 

The overhaul is still going on. With the season about to start Juventus is still trying to unload some of last season’s cast members, while adding on many new pieces.

With goalie Gianluigi Buffon expected to be out for the first few months of the season, the club brought in veteran Marco Storari to be the starter until Buffon returns.

The defense was upgraded with the addition of young Italian internationals Marco Motta and Leonardo Bonucci. Former AS Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani has returned to Italy on loan from Liverpool. He joins Serbian winger Milos Krasic, who is one of several wing players brought in.

Also joining the side are Italians Simone Pepe and Davide Lanzafame as well as Uruguyan Jorge Martinez. The key players that have left are attacking midfielders Diego and Sebastian Giovinco.

Fabio Quagliarella, who nearly single handedly advanced Italy to the second round of the World Cup, has been brought in just days before the start of the season to replace Diego.

Juventus will do well, but it will take time for the group to mesh together. But this group figures to also become the bulk of the Italian National Team.

 

Lazio 

After a disappointing season, Lazio is hoping things will be better in 2010-11.

Lazio sold Serbian left-sided midfielder Alexsander Kolarov to Manchester City. But the club reinvested much of the money it received from the transfer of Kolarov to purchase Brazilian playmaker Hernanes, who had been linked with many of the top club in Europe.

Lazio added veteran Australian midfield Mark Bresciano as a free agent. Lazio is deep in numbers, but the question is whether or not this side has enough quality.

Club President Claudio Lotito is disliked by most of the club’s supporters. However, the club has avoided an almost complete collapse due to a huge debt he inherited when he took over in 2004.

Mauro Zarate and Sergio Floccari along with Hernanes create a quality attack. Lazio should expect to be better this season, but not by much.

 

Lecce

Back up after just one season in Serie B, this side is not deep and will certainly face a relegation battle.

The club has two Uruguayans that have had enjoyed lots of success with the club in midfielder Guillermo Giacomazzi and Ernesto Chevanton. Chevanton returns after spending the second half of last season with Atalanta.

Former AS Roma prospect Daniele Corvia is penciled in as the starting center forward. Italian Gianni Munari is also expected to play a key role in the midfield. Antonio Rosati, who was the starting goalie last season in Serie B, retains his role.

 

AC Milan 

The Rossoneri have not made any sales and have added several players to the mix. Goalie Marco Amelia joins where he will team with Christian Abbiati to form a solid one-two, even though it is unclear which will start.

The defense is solid and has added Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Genoa and Mario Yepes from Chievo.

Midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng joins from Portsmouth via Genoa. And last but not least, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to finalize a deal that will return him to Italy as the season is about to begin.

AC Milan’s midfield is still aging, but the group of Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf and Gattuso continue perform at a high level. Matthieu Flamini and Boateng will help that group. A couple of players from Milan’s youth side, including Alexander Merkel could be promoted.

Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato, along with Marco Boriello give Milan a quality attack even if the Ibrahimovic deal falls through. And of course, one can’t forget scoring machine Filippo Inzaghi, who may be deep on the bench. Inzaghi’s smarts make him a threat whenever on the pitch.

 

Napoli

This side is still one of the better ones in Serie A. But with the loan of Fabio Quagliarella to Juventus, the club appears to be on par with its roster from last season.

Edinson Cavani’s addition from Palermo gives the club a pure center forward. Quagliarella, while perhaps more talented, is better suited as a ball-handling second striker.

Coach Walter Mazzari will operate with relatively the same group he had last season. Midfield workhorse Manuel Blasi returns on loan from Palermo and he is expected to partner with playmaker Walter Gargano in the center of the midfield.

The loan of Quagliarella allows attacking midfielder Marek Hamsik to remain in the role he has played so well in.

Napoli should expected to finish in the top half of the Serie A standings and compete for a Europa League spot.

 

Palermo

A question mark certainly hangs over how Palermo will fare in 2010-11. On paper the squad does not appear to have improved with the losses of defender Simon Kjaer and forward Edinson Cavani. The club brought in veteran Massimo Maccarone from relegated Siena to help fill in the gap left by Cavani.

But the biggest keys to the team are clearly young Argentine Javier Pastore and Italian playmaker Fabrizio Miccoli. Miccoli will miss the beginning of the season due to injury. Pastore is wanted by just about every team in the world and Palermo is not willing to give up on its biggest star yet.

Young Uruguyan forward Abel Hernandez will be given a bigger role and could turn out to be a star.

Palermo should expect to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in Serie A.

 

Parma

This club has switched managers with Udinese and with that has brought a new style. While Francesco Guidolin is known more as a defensive coach, while Pasquale Marino coached sides general score more and give up more goals.

Parma has lost a few key players in the transfer market, but has picked up some quality talent as well.

Playmaker Sebastian Giovinco joins from Juventus and free agent left back Massimo Gobbi, who joins from Fiorentina, are two quality players. Defender Gabriel Paletta, who joins from Argentina’s Boca Juniors, is a player to keep an eye on.

Young forward Alberto Paloschi returns after missing most of last season due to a growth spurt and could be ready for a breakout year.

Parma should expect to finish in the bottom half of the standings, but should be able to avoid relegation.

 

Roma

For a side that plays some of the most beautiful soccer in the world, things are once again looking good in 2010-11. Roma is back in the Champions League and have added a few key pieces to the puzzle surrounded by leaders Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi.

The biggest new piece is Brazilian forward Adriano, who returns to Italy after returning to his country following his release from Inter. Adriano can be a great addition if he is focused. He can also be a distraction if he is not.

Aleandro Rosi returns from his loan with Siena to be the backup at right back to Marco Cassetti. He replaces Marco Motta, who is now with Juventus. Fabio Simplicio is a free agent signing from Palermo that provides depth.

The club has helped itself on defense with the addition of Guillermo Burdisso from Rosario Central. It appears to close to re-acquiring his brother Nicolas, who was on loan with Roma last season from Inter and has been vocal in his wishes to stay in Rome.

Roma should compete for the Scudetto and is deep enough to certainly be able to advance past the round of 32 in the Champions League.

 

Sampdoria 

If there is a side that played to the best of its ability last season, it was Sampdoria.

The club is not deep, but this group collectively plays like a well-oiled machine. While Domenico Di Carlo takes over as the new coach, not much has changed from a year ago.

Gianluca Curci comes over from Siena to be the new starting goalie. But aside from him, the midfield is still anchored by Angelo Palombo and the attack still features the great combo of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini.

Sampdoria narrowly missed out qualifying for the round of 32 in the Champions League. The only thing that could keep the squad from putting together another nice run in Serie A is injuries and depth. Because the club will participate in the Europa League, it could cause for some tired players at the season’s end.

 

Udinese 

No side in Serie A lost more this summer than Udinese. Gone are at least three starters, led by midfielders Gaetano D’Agostino and Simone Pepe.

Defender Alexander Lukovic has also left.

Francesco Guidolin, known more as a defensive coach, has taken over the club and has already switched to a four-man back after the club played with three last season.

While Udinese struggled last season, it does have Antonio Di Natale back after leading the league with 29 goals. Antonio Candreva, who spent the second half of last season on loan with Juventus, is the top incoming player.

There is talent on this side, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes Guidolin to put everything together.

Udinese should avoid relegation, but will face a tough time finishing in the top half of the Serie A standings.

 

 

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