The Scudetto And Race For Third

Despite a higher finish last season than Germany, Serie A has fallen to 4th place in the total UEFA coefficient rankings. With a coefficient of 50.481 significantly behind the German 61.436, the fight for Champions League places is now extremely tough within Serie A. With the league losing a Group Stage berth, qualification for the play-off round now goes to 3rd place.

The Main Contenders

AC Milan.

It’s been a low key summer by Milan standards with perhaps the most significant transfers Taye Taiwo and Phillipe Mexes on Bosmans. Nesta and Thiago Silva were the central defensive partnership in Italy in 2010/11 but as Nesta is seven years the senior of Mexes we will see him become the long-term successor to Alessandro as the season progresses.

Ibrahimovic made the legally required full time transfer for €24m whilst Kevin-Prince Boateng also completed his move for €7m following a hugely successful year for the Ghanaian at the Giuseppe Meazza. 18 year old El Shaarawy joins from Genoa for €10m after impressing for Padova in Serie B bringing youth and pace to the midfield as the natural successor to 35 year old Clarence Seedorf.

It takes a brave man to bet against Zlatan Ibrahimovic winning a title, especially a scudetto, and I feel Milan’s strength in depth in attack should see them retain their championship. The midfield is in need of youthful regeneration, but the same could be said of Inter. Abate overtook Maicon as Serie A’s leading right back last season and with Taiwo providing pace on the opposite flank I can see a very successful year for Massimiliano Allegri’s side.

Internazionale

Gasperini may not have been a Interisti first choice, but I quite like him. His Genoa side were very entertaining to watch and we may see a Diego Milito renaissance this year. With the hitman struggling to replicate the form of his debut Inter season, the arrival of a manager who coached 26 goals out of him whilst at Genoa should compensate for the immanent loss of Samuel Eto’o.

With Ranocchia and Pazzini now settled in following their January arrivals, I’m also expecting big seasons from the ex-Bari and Sampdoria men.

Santos’ Jonathan arrives for €5m, highly rated and ready to push his compatriot Maicon, whilst on the left Yuto Nagatomo signs up permanently for €4.5m after impressing on loan last season. Inter beat Arsenal to the signature of Argentinian winger Ricardo Alvarez for €12m in the most significant attacking addition.

Napoli.

My favourite Serie A chairman unveils new signings in a different way

Keeping hold of the front three of Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi, there’s no reason it won’t be a successful season at the San Paolo. The Champions League will put a strain on the squad, but the addition of Swiss captain Gokhan Inler adds guile to the centre of the field and Bologna’s Britos could be an astute purchase, linking up with fellow Uruguayans Cavani and Gargano will inevitably lead to an international cap in the near future.

It’s also worth noting that at the fixtures announcement for this season, chairman De Laurentiis stormed out after reacting badly to the difficult trips they will face following Champions League ties.

“It’s all been mapped out against us.  Enough is enough, I’m going back to cinema”

“I’m ashamed to be Italian! I want to change citizenship!”, he finished with…before driving away on a scooter.

Udinese.

There has been a trio of high profile departures from the Friuli this summer, with Zapata, Inler and Sanchez moving to pastures new. This will inevitably hurt but there is still a plethora of talent available to the Udine side. Di Natale has matured with age, leading the Serie A scoring charts for the past two seasons. Danilo comes highly rated and will slot in nicely for Zapata.

Keeping hold of Kwandwo Asamoah for at least another season will go a long way to replicating last season’s impressive form. They will cause any team problems with their quick movement, and in Isla and Armero they still have the key personnel for swift counter-attacking.

If any club has perfected the ability to adapt to the loss of key players, it’s Udinese.

Juventus.

With 2011/12 marking the opening of the Juventus Arena, a summer of big spending for The Old Lady has seen the frontline bolstered by €15m Mirko Vucinic as well as Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri making their loan deals permanent for a combined total of €26m from Napoli and Cagliari respectively.

The full back situation has also been addressed with Reto Ziegler joining on a free, whilst Stephan Lichtsteiner left Lazio for €10m. Lichsteiner demonstrated the attacking side to his game to great acclaim last season, a relationship with Krasic could develop into one of the strongest right hand sides of the division.

It is in the centre of midfield where the signings have really caught the eye, however, with a free run at Bayer Leverkusen’s Arturo Vidal for €10.5m appearing an absolute bargain for such a complete midfielder. The signing of AC Milan’s ten year veteran Andrea Pirlo has captured the headlines and imagination, with the calibre of signings around him, it could be a very successful year for the seasoned regista.

Lazio

Lazio vs Udinese was an intriguing battle for 4th last season, but head coach Edy Reja will know that an assault on the top 3 will be an uphill struggle.

Miroslav Klose on a free transfer will join up with €5.8m Djibril Cisse in a new look attack, whilst €5m Lorik Cana joins from Galatasaray in a move which saw Fernando Muslera move in the opposite direction, following a highly impressive Copa America. Federico Marchetti has been brought in the new number one for €5.6m from Cagliari.

Roma

New ownership and management under Luis Enrique has seen a summer of relinquishing the old guard on high wages; replacing them with fresh blood as eleven new faces came through the gates at the Stadio Olimpico.

Bojan arrived from Barcelona for €12m along with Dutch international number 1 Maarten Stekelenburg from Ajax for €6.4m in the two highest profile recruitments. Possibly the most exciting signing, Erik Lamela, still commanded a fee of €15.1m despite River Plate’s relegation from Argentina’s top division. Following the disappointment of narrowly missing out on the Scudetto in 2009/10 it was a turbulent season last time around, culminating in the resignation of Claudio Ranieri after a 4-3 loss away to Genoa, having led 3-0 at half time. It is a gargantuan task Luis Enrique faces to propel Roma to the top once again, returning to the Champions League is only the beginning.

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