Remember the mid 90’s when channel 4 was your permanent Sunday afternoon fix? James Richardson messing about with Paul Gascoigne before going through the papers outside a café in Rome, the great AC Milan dominating Europe under Fabio Capello, the impressive architecture of the San Siro & Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Sampdoria under Sven Goran Eriksen with Gullit, Lombardo & Platt. Teams like Parma, Lazio, Foggia & Cagliari household names in English living rooms as Dad comes in from playing Sunday morning football and asks ‘what’s the score’ before mum shouts “Dinner is ready”…
Well it’s back!!!!
Football Italia and the Serie A starts this weekend and although viewers in the UK are restricted to what we see (we can watch the odd match on Freesports unless we pay for Premier Sports although best practice might be to simply stream the games over the internet on the betting channels) the demand and love for Serie A and Italian soccer is still surprisingly alive as we look back on our fondness and first taste of football screened from overseas during what has since became a cult following for many over the last quarter of a century.
I support Milan, although my love has grown for Napoli over the years, everyone of my age has an Italian team they fondly remember and lean towards, it’s just the done thing, because the Italians in the 90’s made football look cool.
These days the league is severely dominated by Juventus but that’s not to mean it doesn’t still have the quality of top international footballers and great iconic football clubs (and Coaches) to showpiece. Juve have won eight straight league titles since 2012 but this season more than ever in that time their dominance may come under test.
Antonio Conte who started the Juventus dominance in charge of their first three titles this decade is now in charge of Internazionale whilst Massimiliano Allegri the man who took Juventus to their last five scudetto’s has since left the club to be replaced by former Napoli nemesis Maurizio Sarri.
Sarri was not a popular choice for many Juventus fans and despite winning his first major piece of silverware the Europa League with Chelsea last season has yet to win anything in Italian football despite being known for his attractive style of Sarriball whilst coaching Napoli to almost toppling the Turin giants on a couple of occasions.
The defending champions have strengthened their squad though with the signings Matthijs de Ligt, Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey but with a large squad including the unwanted Dybala, Khedera, Mandzukic, Higuain and more pleasing everyone will be impossible and keeping the dressing room will arguably be Sarri’s greatest task ahead.
Of the challengers, Inter have done the next best business and are fancied by many as the team best equipped to topple Juve. In new head coach Antonio Conte they have a Manager that knows how to win the league, they also have added players in Diego Godin and Romelo Lukaku that will add strength, power and experience in both defence and attack.
Never far away are Napoli who for a second season under Carlo Ancelotti are hoping to go one better and win their first title since 1990 and the days of Maradona. The San Paolo based side have finished second in four of the last six seasons and have added Greek centre back Kostas Manolas from Roma and Mexican winger Hirving Lozano from PSV Eindhoven as their big money summer signings.
Roma finished a disappointing sixth last season and replaced Head Coach Claudio Ranieri with Shakhtar Donetsk boss Paulo Fonseca. The Portuguese Manager has added Leonardo Spinazzola from Juventus and Amadou Diawara from Napoli with some savvy loans in Davide Zappacosta, Jordan Veretout and Gianluca Mancini.
Of those punching above their weight last season were Atalanta who under Gian Piero Gasperini finished third to reach the Champions League for the second time in the clubs history. In bolstering their attack and midfield they have signed Luis Muriel from Sevilla and Ruslin Malinovskyi from Gent but their biggest transfer business perhaps was in keeping free scoring striker Duvan Zapata as well as the likes of Marten de Roon, Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic who were exceptional last season.
Whether the lure of Champions League football would have a negative effect on Atalanta’s small squad is one thing, to go another season and over perform will be tough especially as so many near them have strengthened not just in playing staff but in coaching staff too.
Of the rest Milan, Torino & Lazio could all form a push as outsiders to challenge for Champions League football. AC Milan have done some good business in adding Rafael Leao from Lille, Theo Hernandez from Real Madrid and Frank Kessie from Atalanta on permanent deals. They also have a new coach in Marco Giampaolo who left Sampdoria in the summer.
Lazio finished eighth last season a place ahead of Sampdoria and have added the likes of Manuel Lazzari and Dennis Vavro to strengthen their defence, Torino who had no such issues last season in leaking goals have done little business believing in what they have should be enough for a top eight finish and European qualification.
Perhaps an outsider pushing for European football will be Sampdoria under Eusebio di Francesco who left his post at Roma last March. The Genoa based side have lost Danish defender Joachim Anderson to Lyon and Dennis Praet to Leicester but have moved in for youngsters Gonzalo Maroni, Fabio Depaoli Julian Chabot & Mehdi Leris with reliance on youth it could have an exciting impact on the blue half of the city?
Of those looking to settle for mid table spots and clearly avoid relegation will be the likes of Bologna, Sassuolo, Udinese and Parma who after a long absence enjoyed their first season back in Serie A last year by finishing in 14th largely thanks to the goals of former Arsenal striker Gervinho and his attacking partner Roberto Inglese who’s still on loan from Napoli
Hoping to avoid relegation will be SPAL, Cagliari, Genoa and Fiorentina who’s awful campaign last year ended without a win in their last 14 matches. Saving grace perhaps is that la Viola have at least signed Kevin Prince Boateng and Franck Ribery who should add much needed quality to their squad under Vincenzo Montella. Coming up from Serie B are Brescia, Lecce & Hellas Verona who will all be looking for survival during the year ahead.
My Predictions for the 2019/20 Serie A campaign are as follows:
Odds with Betfair: 4/9 Juventus 10/3 Napoli 6/1 Internazionale 19/1 Roma 25/1 Milan 40/1 Atalanta 45/1 Lazio 125/1 Fiorentina 175/1 Torino 400/1 Sampdoria 500/1 Bologna, Brescia, Cagliari, Genoa, Lecce, Parma, Sassuolo, SPAL, Udinese, Verona.