Serie A 2013/14 Preview
This weekend brings with it the start of the 2013/14 Serie A season and what a season it promises to be. There has been much exaggeration about the demise of Italian football in the last few years. In reality, it’s clear to see for any Italian football fan that the Italian game is very much on the rise again. Of course, Serie A clubs are not able to splash the cash like the good old days, when almost all of world football’s stars were available to watch every Sunday on Channel 4. However, Italian football is beginning to rebuild itself by focusing on youthful talent and a very good scouting system, bringing in cheap talent from around the globe. This year promises to be another fantastic season and apart from current champions Juventus, the top 6 is very hard to predict.
Unlike in La Liga or in the English Premier League, there have been few Managerial changes in Serie A this season, with Raphael Benitez replacing Walter Mazzarri at Napoli being the only Managerial change in last years top 5. Former Lille manager Rudi Garcia has replaced interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli at Roma and Walter Mazzarri has taken the hot seat at Inter. Elsewhere, Giuseppe Sannino has replaced Eugenio Corini at Chievo and Fabio Liverani is now in charge of Genoa.
In terms of player transfers, like every season in Italian football, there has been a tremendous amount of activity. There have been some big names who have moved on from Serie A, with the most notable departees being Stevan Jovetic, from Fiorentina to Manchester City as well as Edinson Cavani and Marquinhos, who have both moved to cash rich Paris Saint Germain. The departure of these players to big money clubs is obviously a big loss for Serie A, however there have also been some big players that have made the move to Italy. Most notably Gonzalo Higuain has moved from Real Madrid to Napoli to replace Cavani, and Carlos Tevez has swapped the beautiful city of Manchester to play in the black and white stripes of Juventus.
Juventus, who have won the Scudetto for the past two seasons, are the obvious favourites to make it three titles in a row. Despite winning the League again last year, many fans were left disappointed with the manner of their defeat in the Champions League to Bayern Munich, with a lot of the blame being pointed towards the Bianconeri’s lack of top class strikers. However, coach Antonio Conte has brought in Carlos Tevez from Manchester City and Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao to bolster his team’s attack, and challenge on all fronts this year. Conte has also strengthened in defence by bringing the talented young Italian International Angelo Ogbonna from their rivals Torino, which should see some competition for places in Juventus’ already world-class defence. With no noticeable departees, and with some intelligent summer buys, its hard not to predict another title winning season for Conte’s side.
Many people felt that AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri would be let go at the end of last season, as they finished in third place by the skin of their teeth. Due to an excellent second half of the season, Allegri was given the vote of confidence by Silvio Berlusconi but the worrying thing for the Rossoneri is that there has been very little transfer activity at the San Siro this summer. Milan have brought in midfielder Andrea Poli from Sampdoria and Argentine defender Matias Silvestre from Inter on Loan. Their only other confirmed signing has been Colombian defender Jherson Vergara from Deportes Quindio.
According to the Italian press, the Rossoneri have already agreed terms with Japanese International Keisuke Honda but they are yet to agree a fee with CSKA Moscow to confirm the deal. If Milan are to mount a serious challenge for the Scudetto this season, I feel they will need to bring in another few top class players or be destined for another disappointing season.
After such a great season last year, it seems absurd not to view Napoli as an outside bet for the title. However, with coach Walter Mazzarri moving on to Inter, and Edinson Cavani swapping Naples for Paris, even the most optimistic of Napoli fans must feel a little nervous about this season and maintain the fantastic progress they have made over the past four or five seasons. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentis has brought in Rafael Benitez to take charge at Stadio San Paolo and that could turn out to be a fantastic coup for I Partenopei. The Spaniard has used the money from the sale of Edinson Cavani to bring in some terrific signings and help Napoli stay as serious title contenders.
Benitez has brought in Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Maria Callejon and Raul Albiol from Real Madrid. Talented Dutch winger Dries Mertens has been drafted in from PSV Eindhoven and Josip Radesovic from Hadjuk Split. They have also brought in two new goalkeepers in Pepe Reina and Rafael to replace the outgoing De Sanctis. With another few signings promised by De laurentis, Napoli must be not be underestimated as serious contenders to break Juventus’ domination this season.
Inter Milan, Roma and Lazio are teams who would usually be seen as title contenders, however all three teams have been far too inconsistent over the past few seasons to be considered as a real threat to Juventus’ crown.
Finishing outside the European places altogether last season, Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has started a revolution within the club to try and turn their fortunes around. Walter Mazzarri, who was instrumental in Napoli’s success over the past few seasons, has been charged with the difficult job of moving the club forward, and try and bring back the glory days of Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho. With no fewer than 20 players departing, Antonio Cassano, Maicon and Dejan Stankovic are the most notable names to depart the club. They have also brought in a considerable number of new faces with, Rolando, Mauro Icardi, Marco Andreolli, Hugo Campagnaro, Diego Laxalt, Wallace and the extremely talented young Argentine Ruben Botta to name a few. With such a huge amount of changes taking place this summer, this must be seen as a transition year for Inter, and Walter Mazzarri must be given the time to make things work, which as we know isn’t always the case in Italian football.
Predicting how Roma’s season will pan out is almost an impossible task. They have so many top class players at the club but they have struggled over the past few seasons to find the right balance and consistency to make a serious challenge for the top four. New coach Rudi Garcia has been charged with taking the club forward this year and to try and push the club forward for a top 4 finish. Top class teenage defender Marquinhos has moved onto Paris Saint Germain, however they have found an able replacement in Medhi Benatia from Udinese. Gervinho, Maicon and Babu are just a few of the players the club have brought in during the summer. Pablo Oswaldo has left for Southampton, so much of the onus in attack will be left to Mattia Destro who will be looking to improve on a poor first season at the Stadio Olimpico.
Lazio had a decent first season under coach Vladamir Petkovic last season, winning the Copa Italia but will be looking to improve on their 7th place finish in the league. Argentine International Lucas Biglia, Brazilian Felipe Anderson and Colombian Brayan Perea are the most notable signings for the Biancoceleste. However, after last weekends 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Juventus in the Italian Supercup, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done if they are to improve on last seasons campaign.
Fiorentina, who narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification last season, finished in 4th place and were an absolute revelation. Playing some of the most exciting and attacking football in the league, coach Vincenzo Montella has managed to put together a team who should be considered real contenders for a Europa League spot, or possibly a Champions League place.
Star man Stevan Jovetic has moved on to Manchester City, but the club have made some very intelligent signings to try and compete with the big boys once again this season. Their most notable signing is Mario Gomez from Bayern Munich, who will almost guarantee goals for the Viola. Along with Gomez, they have also brought in Joaquin from Malaga, Josep Ilicic from Palermo and Massimo Ambrosini from AC Milan. With the talent they have at their exposal I expect a top five finish from the Viola at the very least.
Udinese, who finished in fifth place last season, had an atrocious start to the campaign before finding form and proved that they should never be underestimated as a top Italian side. They seem to have the combination of an excellent youth system and a top quality scouting team to be able to bring in the some of the best young talent from around the globe. Young Uruguayan striker Nico Lopez, who was one of the standout performers at this summers Under 20’s World Cup, has been brought in from Roma. He will now compete with a strike force that already has bags of quality, with goal machine Antonio Di Natale and the fantastic young Colombian International Luis Muriel in their ranks. Udinese are definitely a team to watch out for this season.
Palermo, Siena and Pescara were all unable to avoid relegation last season and have been replaced by Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Livorno.
Sassuolo were the eventual winners of Serie B last season, finishing in top spot over Hellas Verona to secure their first ever season in the top flight. They have made a number of new signings including Diego Farias from Chievo and Simone Zaza from Juventus in a bid to try and compete at the highest level in Italian football.
Hellas Verona were Serie A regulars back in the 70’s and 80’s and even won the Scudetto back the 1985/86 Season. Last years second place finish in Serie B saw Verona sercure their first season in Serie A since the 2001/02 season. They have made a few decent signings and seem the more likely of the three promoted teams to beat the drop. They have brought in the likes of Luca Toni and Romulo from Fiorentina, Bosko Yankovic from Genoa, Alejandro Gonzalez from Penarol of Uruguay and Ezequiel Cirigliano from River Plate.
The newly promoted teams are the obvious favourites to go down, but with Hellas Verona making some good signings during the summer they could have a decent chance to stay up. The bottom half of Serie A is very competitive and if any of the teams have a bad run they they could see themselves involved in the relegation battle. For me, the most likely teams to be involved in the relegation battle with the newly promoted sides would be Torino and Atalanta.