Who Will Win Serie A This Season?
It’s been an interesting summer over in Italy. Juventus’ fourth title in a row and near victory in the Champions League left plenty thinking that their dominance could continue for a little while longer. However with managerial changes, player departures and cash being splashed; it leaves that assertion somewhat up in the air. So, the question is who will win Serie A this season? Let’s see what some of the contenders have to offer…
Close but no cigar is how Fiorentina’s 2014/15 could be summed up in the league. A fourth place finish sees more Europa League football for the Florence side but the departure of Vincenzo Montella as manager was the biggest news this summer. New boss Paulo Sousa is fresh off an impressive stint at FC Basel in Switzerland and will be looking to stamp his authority on his new team.
He will have to do without the services of Stefan Savic and Mario Gomez, the two most high-profile departures. Savic drew 17 million euros from Atletico Madrid while the disappointing spell of Gomez ends with his loan move to Besiktas. Also leaving are experienced heads David Pizarro, Alberto Aquilani and Juan Manuel Vargas while number one Neto has joined Juventus on a free. Atletico’s Mario Suarez has been the biggest signing this summer while former Blackburn man Nikola Kalinic has been brought in to add some much needed firepower. Davide Astori and Gabriel were brought in to shore up the defence.
It’s more small changes rather than a revolution in Florence but some of the more experienced stars are gone and have been replaced with some younger talent. The big issue is goalscoring, a problem Fiorentina thought they’d sorted with Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi, but with Josip Illicic’s eight goals being their top scorer in Serie A then something has to change. Expect much the same from Fiorentina this season.
The five year hangover for Inter post-Mourinho looks set to be cured somewhat by the returning Roberto Mancini. Having steadied the ship last season, this year is Mancini’s team but how much time he’ll get if results don’t go his way is unknown.
He’s certainly not been afraid to make a splash in the transfer market. The rather shaky defence has been strengthened with the additions of Miranda and Jeison Murillo from Atletico Madrid and Granada respectively while Geoffey Knodgobia is fresh off an impressive season with Monaco and rejected Milan for Inter. Stevan Jovetic’s disappointment at Manchester City is over with a two year loan while Martin Montoya has been brought in from Barcelona to provide a natural right back.
Mancini has also done an impressive job shifting on a remarkable amount of deadwood. Out go Hugo Campagnaro, Felipe, Jonathan, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Rene Krhin, Joel Obi and Ruben Botta freeing up plenty of cash to use but the number of new signings has seen two big names depart abroad – Xherdan Shaqiri to Stoke City and Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid.
Mancini’s overhaul is certainly a much needed one for a big side that has really struggled in recent times. The departures of Shaqiri and Kovacic are interesting ones but there has been enough talent brought in by Mancini to at least get into some kind of European place.
Max Allegri’s first season in Turin could not have gone any better. The league and cup double and a brave Champions League final loss to Barcelona saw him better the almost unbeatable Antonio Conte. The hard work for Juve starts now though as this has been a summer of change for them.
While much of the talk has been about the departure of Paul Pogba, the Frenchman has remained but lost two of his partners in crime – Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Pirlo’s departure to the MLS has got most of the headlines but it’s the departure of Vidal to Bayern Munich that shocked many. Angelo Ogbonna was sold on to West Ham as well for a decent fee while top scorer Carlos Tevez finally got his dream move back to Argentina and Boca Juniors this summer.
In their place came some quality replacements. Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Simone Zaza all have great pedigree and will each shoulder some of the burden Tevez’s departure brought while the permanent signing of Roberto Pereyra and Sami Khedira will strengthen the midfield. Exciting talent Guido Vadala was signed as part of the Tevez deal while Neto will add some quality back-up for Gigi Buffon.
The summer upheaval in Turin might take some time to get used to for supporters but the experienced core of the successful side of the last four or five years is still there and will surely make any transition a lot easier. Expect Juve to be as imperious as ever.
A success story built on team work, Lazio are not big spending giant of Italian football they once were but have the ability and desire to mix it up at the top end. Last season’s third place finish looks to be as far as they can go right now however.
It’s been all quiet at Lazio. Recent transfer policy and finances dictate that they can’t just throw cash at a problem and hope it fixes itself. Instead, the focus is on players with potential that haven’t quite got there yet. The likes of Felipe Anderson and Balde Keita have flourished at Lazio and they will be hoping for similar success with the sigings of Ravel Morrison from West Ham, Patric from Barcelona, Wesley Hoedt from AZ Alkmaar and Ricardo Kishna from Ajax. Only Ederson, Michael Ciani and Diego Novaretti have left but doubt shrouds the future of club captain Lucas Biglia.
Lazio have a solid side with some exceptional talent yet a few key men are starting to age. It will be tough to repeat the form of last season especially with the likes of 37 year old Miroslav Klose leading the line but their team spirit carried them at times last season and might just keep them in the hunt this time around.
Just like cross-town rivals Inter, Milan have been stuck in a pretty hard malaise in the last few years. Tighter budgets and the loss of their very experienced core saw Milan crumble and go through a couple of bosses as Silvio Berlusconi tried to sell the club. It’s now sold and with Sinisa Mihajlovic in the dugout now.
Like Mancini at Inter, Mihajlovic has set about clearing out the underperforming and deadwood as he shapes his own side. That meant the likes of Adil Rami, Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien, Robinho, Riccardo Saponara, Didac Vila, Giampaolo Pazzini, Valter Birsa and Michelangelo Albertazzi amongst others were allowed to move on.
That left plenty to cover the cost of a rebuild and Mihajlovic has not held back when spending to get what he wants. 45 million euros was paid to Roma for Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Bertolacci while another 30 million was paid to Sevilla for Carlos Bacca. Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano adds more firepower while former Parma man Jose Mauri is an exciting midfield talent.
After a couple of seasons of disappointment, Milan will be looking for improvement. The main hope is that new signings stop underperforming and the players stop their capitulations. If they can, then this Milan side might have a shout at the top three.
Rafael Benitez’s reign at Napoli ended poorly in fifth place and the now Real Madrid boss has been replaced by Empoli’s Maurizio Sarri. He will be looking for a much improved season as Napoli try to return to the Champions League.
Miguel Britos is the biggest name departure as Sarri has looked to make his own mark in Naples. Returning is keeper Pepe Reina from Bayern Munich while Jorginho’s loan has been made permanent. Elseid Hysaj and Mirko Valdifiori have followed Sarri from Empoli while Allan has been signed from Udinese to strengthen the midfield. Tottenham’s Vlad Chiriches has also been brought in as he looks to prove himself in a top league.
There is certainly a great deal of quality in the Napoli squad but the big questions remain about Sarri and whether he can replicate his success on a bigger stage. If he can then Napoli could be a really tough side to beat this season.
Consecutive second place finishes for Roma have been encouraging but they will be looking to go one better this season under Rudi Garcia. The question remains whether or not they have the firepower and consistency to do it.
With Bertolacci and Romagnoli sold to Milan, Roma also saw Federico Viviani depart for Verona, Jose Holebas to Watford and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to Lyon. One of the more notable departures was Seydou Doumbia’s return to CSKA Moscow after six months on loan.
Roma have reinvested well though. Victor Ibarbo’s loan deal has been extended while Radja Nainggolan is definitively a Roma player now. Iago Falque has joined from Genoa while Garcia has raided the Premier League for three players who were no longer wanted by their clubs. Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah and Wojciech Szcesny have all been brought in on loan as Roma look to go far in the league and Champions League this season.
There has been some smart business done by Roma this summer but there is still doubts about their mental toughness and whether or not they can get over the line and win Serie A. They will be looking for more consistency from their key men and a few more goals up top if they are to challenge Juventus once more.
So, who do I think will win Serie A? I think quite honestly Juventus will be just too strong for everyone else despite the personnel they lost. Roma will fall short in second once again with Inter sneaking into third ahead of Napoli on the final day. Milan will falter near the end but finish fifth with Fiorentina sixth and Lazio seventh.
What about you? Who do you think will win Serie A? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley
Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.
Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.
First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..
Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart
So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.
With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.
Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit
Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.
Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.
In-form Son strikes again for Spurs
The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.
Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.
Juventus eye up Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as a replacement for Leonardo Bonucci – Should they let him go?
In a surprising news item, The Sun claim that Juventus could look to Chelsea to replace Leonardo Bonucci after the Italian’s move to AC Milan and may target Gary Cahill as a replacement.
The Chelsea captain is currently serving a three game suspension after his red card on the opening day, but the Italian club may be hoping that he has played his last game for the Blues. They are reportedly prepared to spend as much as £16.5 million to bring him to the Juventus Stadium.
That could be tempting for Chelsea given that Cahill is 31-years-old and undoubtedly past his best. With a number of young defenders coming through, including the likes of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen, it could be tempting to cash in on Cahill and give more opportunities for them to develop.
His rash challenge against Burnley also left his team in the lurch and critics have claimed that it was symbolic of how out of depth the former Bolton man is as captain of the Premier League champions. With mounting pressure, he will need to be up to scratch when under scrutiny more than anyone.
However, Cahill was only recently appointed captain and it would send out entirely the wrong message if he was to be sold now. After a disastrous transfer window so far, it would not only be a psychological blow to lose the club captain, but would also leave Antonio Conte with less than a week to replace him.
His experience is also invaluable. Whilst the likes of Christensen may be knocking on the door of the starting line-up, he will need experienced heads like Cahill’s in and around him to help his development to reach his full potential as a Chelsea player in the years to come.
It could be tempting for Chelsea to allow Cahill to move on, and had this move have happened in June, it may well stand a chance of happening. Now with the season under way and only a matter of days away from the transfer window closing, it would be an incomprehensible decision if Chelsea do sell their captain.
Claudio Marchisio linked to Chelsea – what would he bring?
Chelsea are likely to be active until the final days of the transfer window as they look to add quality and depth to their squad. Antonio Conte currently lacks options outside of his starting eleven and competition is needed if they are to successfully defend their title. Gazzetta dello Sport report that the Italian is interested in signing Claudio Marchisio, who he has worked closely with before.
The midfielder is understood to be unhappy at Juventus due to being a bit-part player under the current regime. Ahead of the World Cup, he wants to play regular first team football and could be prepared to force a move before the transfer window closes. The Serie A champions already have a lot of players in the position and have recently bought Blaise Matuidi, which further limit the minutes that Marchisio is likely to be given.
What would he bring to Stamford Bridge?
The Blues have been criticised for their lack of ambition and poor squad planning this summer, but those will quickly be brushed to one side if they can land Marchisio. Despite having an underwhelming 2016/17 campaign, the midfielder is still regarded as a great player and it would send a statement to the rest of the division if Chelsea manage to bring him to the Premier League.
There is already a working relationship between Marchisio and Conte, which would mean that he would be able to adapt quickly to the style at Chelsea. He understands what it requires to be successful in a team managed by his fellow Italian, while the Blues’ manager trusts the midfielder. That can’t be said about certain other players currently at Stamford Bridge.
It has already been evident that Chelsea are short in central midfield as they resorted to playing David Luiz there at the weekend. The Brazilian played well, but it underlined the squad problems that the club have. Marchisio is disciplined and capable of carrying out a specific role in the team, which appeals to Conte. He can be a creative presence from deep and offers more than Cesc Fabregas does in terms of defensive work. It would be a smart signing if the Blues can pull it off.
How likely is a deal?
Juventus have already lost two important players this summer in Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci. It would be a surprise if they also let Marchisio leave the club. The midfielder could force the issue, but unless Chelsea submit a huge offer, a transfer looks unlikely at this late stage of the window. Conte will want to add another central midfielder, but there are other positions that are viewed as a bigger priority.
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