Just two match days into the Serie A season, we see some surprises in the standings. Or perhaps they are no longer surprises.
Chievo, a team that grew out of a small neighborhood of about 4,500 people within the city of Verona, is the lone team in the league with six points.
While Chievo’s chances of winning the Scudetto are not very strong, the belief of this side as being one of the weakest in Serie A is nothing but a long fad of the past.
Chievo is now entering its ninth season in Serie A over the last 10 years. This has included four finishes amongst the top nine in the league. Chievo’s worst showing was 18th 2006-07, but the club managed just one season in Serie B before returning to the top flight in Italy.
Current Juventus coach Luigi Del Neri is the man that got Chievo into Serie A and a number of coaches have followed. But the model the club has thrived on has stayed relatively the same.
And while many of the names have changed, Chievo has managed to keep a few players together that have been the building blocks of the organization has formed its team around.
Striker Sergio Pellissier has been with the club since 2002-03. He is the highest paid player on the team at just 500,000 euros. The club ranks 19th among 20 clubs in the league with the lowest payroll at just 13.2 million euros ($17.2 million).
Brazilian midfielder Luciano has been with the club since 2000-01 with the exception of a six-month loan to Inter Milan in the fall of 2003. Defender Davide Mandelli has been with the club since the 2004-05 season and fellow defender Andrea Mantovani has been with Chievo since the 2005-06 season.
When the air begins to clear in the next few weeks, chances are Chievo will fall back into the middle of the pack in Serie A. That is perfectly fine with the club, which realizes its success is nothing short of a fairytale considering it didn’t even reach the lowest ranks of professional soccer in Italy until the 1986-87 season.
Inter has a new manager in Rafael Benitez who has for the most part operated under a “don’t fix something if it isn’t broke” system. Benitez has kept intact the lineup that he was left with when he inherited the European champions from Jose Mourinho in the summer. But Inter hasn’t shown the killer instinct it showed a year ago. The club tied Bologna in its league opener and had to rally from behind at home against Udinese, before prevailing 2-1.
Baring a complete disaster, it would hard to figure out of the top three in Italy.
AC Milan did not look like a title contender until late in the summer when it added Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. Many have the club little chance of winning the Scudetto or the UEFA Champions League because it has a number of key players that are over the age of 30.
While that statistic is a fact, what many do not realize now is that the club is deep enough to where many of these players will not need to play 90 minutes twice a week as was the case many times in the past. Midfielders Kevin Prince Boateng and Mathieu Flamini have given a boost to the longtime quartet of Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini, Clarence Seedorf, and Gennaro Gattuso, only three of which start now.
AS Roma always looks like it is ready to make the next step up and yet it seems to always fall just short. Following Roma’s 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich in the Champions League Wednesday, it appears Roma is still an excellent side, but not one of Europe’s elite.
Juventus is in a transition as many new players have been brought in and time is what it will take for Luigi Del Neri to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Even several Juventus players have openly said they do not expect to compete for the Scudetto this season.
At the beginning of the summer, Fiorentina appeared to have perhaps the best shot at jumping up and be a surprise Scudetto candidate.
The club didn’t sell any key players and added playmaker Gaetano D’Agostino from Udinese. Not competing in Europe this season, the Viola have an opportunity to focus strictly on Serie A.
But a serious knee injury to playmaker Stevan Jovetic just before the season started appears to have been a major blow to the Viola’s confidence level. Fiorentina lost 1-0 at Lecce, which had been thrashed 4-0 by AC Milan in the season opener.
In the end, expect the two Milan clubs to fight it out for the Scudetto with the Rossoneri overtaking their rivals.