Serie A Previews: AC Milan, Inter, Juventus
Welcome to the second part of The Sport Review’s essential club-by-club guide to the new Serie A season.
Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini
Last season: 5th
The revelation of last season, Il Grifone will look to break into the top four this time around. A busy summer has seen striker Diego Milito and midfielder Thiago Motta depart for Inter Milan with Hernan Crespo going in the other direction. Strikers Sergio Floccari and Rodrigo Palacio have arrived from Atalanta and Boca Juniors respectively, whilst Houssine Kharja from Siena has added strength to the midfield. Between the posts is another new acquisition, Marco Amelia from Palermo as Gasperini looks to employ his tried and tested 3-4-3 formation for another campaign. The Rossoblu would love to have a good European campaign this season and this may detract from matters domestically.
Prediction: Another top six placing
Coach: Jose Mourinho
Last season: Champions
Red hot favourites to retain their title for a fifth successive year, the Nerazzurri have been the peninsula’s biggest spenders this summer. Diego Milito and Thiago Motta have arrived from Genoa and Samuel Eto’o has been brought in from Barcelona. In defence new signing Lucio looks to have been a snip at five million Euros. President Massimo Moratti has made no secret of his desire to win the Champions League and this is the club’s main priority this season. Their strength in depth should see La Beneamata to another domestic title but to be elevated to true greatness, “The Special One” will need to be on the winner’s podium in the Santiago Bernabeau come May.
Prediction: Champions again
Coach: Ciro Ferrara
Last season: 2nd
Again it looks like La Vecchia Signora will be Inter’s closest challengers. Ferrara embarks on his first full season as head coach and the early signs have been good in pre season. The acquisition of Brazilian midfield duo Felipe Melo from Fiorentina and Diego from Werder Breman look inspired and with no nonsense defender Martin Caceres recruited from Barcelona, the Bianconeri look set to pursue Mourinho’s men all the way. If strikers Amauri, Vicenzo Iaquinta, David Trezeguet and the evergreen Alessandro Del Piero can provide the firepower, the season looks set for a classic two team shootout.
Prediction: Another second place finish
Coach: Davide Ballardini
Last season: 10th
New Coach Ballardini has already secured the club’s first piece of silverware this season with an unlikely win over Inter Milan in the Italian Supercoppa in Beijing. Striker Julio Cruz has arrived from Inter Milan as Lazio look to push for a top six finish this campaign. With last season’s outstanding player Mauro Zarate now a full time member of the squad, the Biancocelesti may well be one of the surprise packages this term. Young Fernando Muslera is now proving himself as one of Serie A’s top goalkeepers and Pasquale Foggia will play the fantasista role just behind the front two of Zarate and Tomasso Rocchi. One to watch, a top four finish is certainly within reach for the men from the capital.
Prediction: A Champions League placing this time around
Coach: Gennaro Ruotolo
Last season: Promoted from Serie B
Brought in to oversee the Amaranto’s push for promotion last season, Ruotolo has been given the chance to lead the club into Serie A. The return of club talisman Cristiano Lucarelli has been the main piece of summer activity by the Tuscans as they look to consolidate a place in the top flight. Unfortunately the squad looks far too weak to cope with the step up in quality and the pressure on Lucarelli and striking partner Francesco Tavano to deliver the goals may be too great. President Aldo Spinelli is one of Italian football’s more colourful characters so if things start badly for Ruotolo, expect drastic changes to be made.
Prediction: A quick return to Serie B
Last season: 3rd
In stark contrast to their city neighbours, AC Milan has had a torrid summer. A disastrous pre season has called into question the appointment of rookie coach Leonardo who was promoted straight from Technical Director. The big summer arrival has been that of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the striker deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. The squad looks devoid of any confidence at the moment with another new signing Thiago Silva struggling to settle into the back four. Young Brazilian striker Pato needs to have a successful campaign as does playmaker Andrea Pirlo and tough tackling midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. The fear is that this team of aging stars does not have the depth to compete on all fronts and this season may well see one of the powerhouses of Italian football perform badly in Europe and fail to qualify for next seasons Champions League.
Prediction: Outside of the top four with a Europa League place at best.
Coach: Roberto Donadoni
Last season: 12th
Another campaign begins for one of Italy’s sleeping giants. A lacklustre campaign last year saw coach Eddy Reja make way for ex national coach Donadoni who took over the reigns for the final quarter of the season. The summer has brought one of the more high profile transfers as Azzurri hot shot Fabio Quagliarella joined his home town club from Udinese for 18.75 million Euros. Highly rated goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis arrived from Seville and Under 21 midfield star Luca Cigarini joined from Atalanta. The mercurial Ezequiel Lavezzi will lead the attack as Donadoni prepares for an assault on the top six. President Aurelio De Laurentiis will expect nothing less and if his club make an indifferent start, Donadoni will be under immense pressure as the unforgiving tifosi of the San Paolo vent their anger.
Prediction: Sadly for Donadoni, no European spot as the Partnopei finish outside the top six.