Calcio Fever brings the latest happenings in Italian football.
Zahi Sahli and Khalid Shakran present their predictions for the upcoming Serie A season:
The Bianconeri, led by manager Claudio Ranieri, look to compete on two fronts (three if we count Coppa Italia) and have put together a squad that can handle multiple competitions. Juventus have had an active transfer campaign, no gigantic names have arrived, but the players that have been acquired will fit into Ranieri’s system and work for the team. €23 million striker Amauri will hope to replicate his Palermo form in a black and white shirt. With that kind of depth, winning the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia should bring back the golden days to Turin.
This is the year Milan have to redeem themselves. The Rossoneri had a season way below expectations last year, based on a mix of injuries and a terrible summer transfer market. This year, Milan signed Ronaldinho, the best acquisition in the whole Serie A. The Brazilian playmaker seems to be growing into that team leader, but with the absence of Kaka with injury, the mission will prove to be a difficult task to accomplish.
Of course, the biggest story of the summer for Inter has been Jose Mourinho. The egotistical Portuguese manager has made his way to Serie A, and will take charge of last season’s Scudetto winners. Inter didn’t really make big moves on the market (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it), but brought back Adriano from his Brazilian rehab session, signed Amantino Mancini from Roma, and bought Sulley Muntari from Portsmouth. They have also recently suffered huge losses to their back-line. Third place in the league table should be realistic for them.
4. AS Roma
Roma’s main problem last season was dropping too many points to small teams, and if you want to win the Scudetto, winning against small teams is a must. Juilo Baptista, John Arne Riise, and Jeremy Menez should be good enough to cover the apparent holes in midfield and attacking options. Alberto Aquilani, the 23-year-old midfielder will likely pair with Daniele De Rossi in the center of the park and will be on the watch as a star. If Francesco Totti stays healthy, he will make the difference and possibly lift the team into the top three of Serie A.
2007-2008 wasn’t just a good year, it was a great year for Fiorentina. Led by great performances from key players like Sebastian Frey, Alessandro Gamberini, Ricardo Montolivo, and Adrian Mutu, Fiorentina ended the season in 4th place, gaining Champions League qualification for the first time since the days of Batistuta. With the latest moves made by the four Italian giants at the top of the table, Fiorentina will likely lose its fourth place spot.
Napoli should be able to finish in the UEFA zone and even do well in the UEFA Cup this season, as the San Paolo should be one of the most intimidating places to play in Europe this year.
Manager Walter Mazzarri, who is one of the best up-and-coming tacticians (Zahi agrees) in Italy, took charge of Sampdoria. He imposed his 3-5-2 formation which provides exciting attacking play with good defensive coverage as well. Samp has a good side and if they improve on last year’s performances, they can definitely qualify for the UEFA Cup and maybe even trouble the big sides.
The team have been impressive in the preseason, however, the question remains however if Udinese can handle two competitions. The UEFA Cup may be a distraction for them and they could lose ground in Serie A. But, the squad is there and Udinese should put in a good season.
After an excellent season in 2006-2007, where they finished 3rd place, last season was an utter disaster. Lazio have revamped their squad in preparation for the 2008-2009, but seem to lack strong midfield presence. Lazio will look to improve this season and try to qualify for Europe, but for some reason this squad still doesn’t convince me.
Palermo are another team that will look to redeem themselves this year. Palermo did an excellent job of revamping the squad, however, they could use a star striker that can score at least 15 goals a season. But rumors are club president Maurizio Zamparini is planning one more surprise before the transfer window ends.
Last season Genoa head coach Gian Piero Gasperini showed that he is one of the top up-and-coming managers in Serie A, after keeping the underrated club in the top-half of the table. He plays a 3-4-3, relying on the two outside midfielders to run up and down the wing all game. Even though Genoa lost their top scorer in Marco Borriello, who rejoined AC Milan, Genoa did an excellent job on the transfer market, strengthening their squad in all areas. Arguably, their best summer buy Raffaele Palladino, who joined the club on a co-ownership deal with Juventus.
The Orobici look to confirm themselves as a good mid-table Serie A side and get rid of the "yo-yo" club reputation they have had to carry for years. Acquisitions like Christian Vieri and Cristiano Doni will aid them in achieving that goal.
Mid-table obscurity for the "Flying Donkeys" would meet the inevitable. With the likes of Nicholas Frey and Stefano, we’ll see if it happens. Chievo are back and avoiding relegation is their main priority. They should be able to do it. Probable formation (4-3-3): Sorrentino, Moro, Mandelli, FREY, Malago, Marcolini, Bentivoglio, Pinzi, Langella, Pellissier, Luciano.
New acquisitions headlined Bologna this summer, as club management spent €20 million on new signings in order to keep the team amidst Serie A. Experienced forward Marco Di Vaio will be the star and captain of the team. However, his durability is questionable. The only problem lies in the average age of the Bologna squad. which is sky high.
The squad is decent, but Giampaolo has been asking for more reinforcements all summer which haven’t arrived. If they aren’t careful they could find themselves in Serie B next season. They did make a good deal with Roma, bringing in former Italy Under-21 keeper Gianluca Curci, who will finally gain some experience as a starter, and Ahmed Barusso, who was supposed to be the new Michael Essien but that never quite panned out.
After their mircale last season performance which saw the team remain in the Serie A competitions, Cagiliari remains mediocre, to say the least. Starting line-up will be the exact same, with new additions like 21-year-old defender Davide Astori, and 24 year-old midfielder Andrea Lazzari, who was one of the best midfielders in Serie B last season.
Lecce’s main goal is avoiding relegation, and having Mario Berretta (who was the Siena Savior) at the helm helps, but it will be very tough.
Torino don’t have a squad to reach higher objectives and once again will be just good enough to avoid relegation. The squad has been just good enough to avoid relegation, but not good enough to reach higher objectives.
Reggina is a squad that for years has been performing miracles. With the current squad I just can’t see Reggina surviving the drop this year, but with this club we never know. I may just be eating my words come May.
The team's best buy, Niculae Dica, the Romanian attacking midfielder was handed the number 10 shirt by Giuseppe Mascaradue to his "talent". If he can adapt to Italian football, Catania will have a very good play to play around with. Other than that, relegation might be the only path Catania will be taking next season.
Best Player: Andrea Pirlo
Surprise Player of the Year: Matthieu Flamini
I trust Jose Mourinho. I think he will keep Inter on the top of Serie A and win another Scudetto. I do agree with Khalid that Inter did not work very well in the summer. But that was because Mourinho had his sights set on capturing Frank Lampard more than anyone else. I'm not sure 4-4-3 will work with Inter, but I think Mourinho is more than capable to find the winning formula in Italy.
I think Milan worked excellently in the summer. With Ronaldinho, Borriello, Flamini, Senderos and Zambrotta joining the team and Shevchenko's return, Milan will surely be worthy contenders.
My beloved Juve are not really prepared to win the Scudetto yet. Khalid thinks they will win the league, I certainly hope so. But I don't think they have the quality that the two Milan teams have. Juve, like Roma, will be outside challengers. 3rd place should do.
Roma have a decent squad. Yes, they have added quality after signing Julio Baptista and Riise. But in my eyes, Roma will fight with Juventus for third place, not more though.
I rate Lazio really highly. The club has kept faith with Delio Rossi and have added quality to their team with Matuzalem, Foggia, Zarate and many others.
In a season where Milan and Lazio were terrible, Fiorentina produced a shock and came in 4th, winning a place in the Champions League. With Milan and Lazio back to the top, Fiorentina won't be able to produce another miracle.
Sampdoria finished 6th last season. They have a very decent side in overall, an excellent manager in Walter Mazzarri and a brilliant player in striker Antonio Cassano. 7th place should be as high as they can go though.
Player of the Year: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Surprise Player of the Year: Pasquale Foggi
Do you agree? Whose picks do you think are more likely to happen?
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