Serie A 2013/14: Forza Italian Football’s Predictions
With the 2013/14 Serie A season almost upon us the Editors at Forza Italian Football have decided to put their reputations on the line and make some predictions for the forthcoming season.
Dov Schiavone: Juventus. I can’t see past the team who are head and shoulders the best in the country. They have bought wisely and added plenty of quality. The only criticism of Juve in the last two years has been the lack of a top quality forward and they have added two. Plus coach Antonio Conte appears to have evolved tactically with a counter attacking style prevalent against Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana.
Enzo Misuraca: Fiorentina. I think Juventus will be close but with Montella in his second season will now be well established and his strategies even more well rehearsed. With the excellent transfer work they have made with the likes of Gomez and Rossi i think they are ahead of everyone.
Adriano Boin: Juventus. While it is never easy to win three consecutive titles, I can’t help but feel the Bianconeri are the favourites. Fiorentina and Napoli will be their biggest rivals, but Juventus have enough depth to balance a European schedule while I worry that the other two don’t. However if the Bianconeri focus their attentions on the Champions League they will be challenged, unlike last seasons relatively comfortable campaign.
Padraig Whelan: Juventus. They strengthened better than closest challengers AC Milan did over the summer and Tevez and Ogbonna could both play a very big part for them over the course of the season but would expect Milan to push them very close this season.
Sam Lewis: Juventus. Quite simply, the best team in Italy. A team that hasn’t lost any key figures added Tevez + Llorente and filled the only need they went into summer looking to address. Bar an injury crisis, can’t see further than Conte’s side.
Peter Galindo: Juventus. They’ve reinforced in every position and have the strongest defence out of any of the contending clubs. Only 24 goals conceded last year, 12 fewer than 2nd best defence in the league (Napoli, who also finished second in the table).
Drew Farmer: Juventus . The Bianconeri have done nothing but strengthen an already solid squad. Napoli and Fiorentina will give them a challenge, but in the end Juve will have too much for both clubs.
Player of the Season
DS: Marek Hamsik. The Slovakian has always been key to Napoli but I think under Rafa Benitez he will be shouldered with even more responsibility especially given Edinson Cavani’s departure. It seems he will be the man charged with the job of supplying Gonzalo Higuain and if he does it Napoli could put in even more of a title challenge than they did last year.
EM: Mario Balotelli. One of the worlds best players and will continue to improve as he gets older. Will be the difference between a good Milan season or a great Milan season.
AB: Mario Balotelli. With AC Milan having a quiet summer by their standards the club will heavily lean on the former Manchester City man to continue his form after last January’s arrival. With Balotelli set to start week in and week out for the first time in his career chances are we will finally see his skills on full display. The club are pinning their hopes for success this season squarely on his shoulders and could be rewarded because of it. If not, things could get a bit troublesome for Massimiliano Allegri and the Rossoneri.
PW: Mario Balotelli. First full season at Milan I would expect him to come into his own. Showed exactly what he is capable of last year but now a settled member of the side, would expect this to be the year he finally comes of age and showcase his class.
SL: Mario Balotelli. Call me biased(and I probably am), but I think this is the season we could all be waiting for from the striker. He showed that he can be Milan’s match-winner last season and having a full season starting for the first time in his career has limitless possibilities, especially in a World Cup year.
PG: Carlos Tevez. Assuming Juventus win the Scudetto, Tevez, most likely the key contributor up front, will take home the player of the season. Attack-minded players usually take home the top awards (as a goalkeeper, this makes me extremely envious).
DF: Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian has been known for having excellent first seasons with his new clubs whether it was West Ham, Manchester United or Manchester City. He should be that missing link at the striker position and will be fantastic with the current Juventus midfield behind him.
Signing of the Summer… so far…
DS: In terms of money spent and quality acquired, Carlos Tevez wins hands down.
EM: Carlos Tevez – for 10m looks a cracking buy when you consider what Napoli paid for Higuain and I dont think their is much difference in terms of ability. Is the top striker that Juve fans have been crying out for over the last 2 seasons.
AB: Mario Gomez. “Imagine where Fiorentina would be if they had a proven goalscorer in their squad”. That was repeated ad nauseam last season, and despite the Viola lacking that poacher, they still managed to finish in 4th. With Gomez’s track record and Vincenzo Montella’s stellar brand of football, I expect the German international to have a huge impact in Florence and lead the club to a serious Scudetto challenge.
PW: Kevin Strootman. Roma’s summer signing has quality in abundance and should strike up a formidable midfield partnership with Daniele De Rossi. Higuain, Benatia, Cassano and Gomez should all star too but Strootman looks to be exactly the kind of player the Giallorossi have been missing.
SL: Mario Gomez. Combine need with value(€16.5m!!) and the fact that the Gomez joined from the Champions League winners to a side that won’t even be in the competition next year highlights how much a coup this really was. While Arsenal/MUFC are scrabbling around for a striker, Fiorentina nabbed one for a great price.
PG: I tend to evaluate the best signings in terms of how much the team needed him and how the player himself performed during the season. Because of that, I’ll go with Lucas Biglia of Lazio. They finally add a strong double pivot holding midfielder, meaning Hernanes can play further forward and the Argentinean will certainly contribute plenty for the Biancocelesti on both sides of the ball.
DF: Carlos Tevez. No one has signed a player this offseason with his pedigree. He should take Serie A by storm.
Young Players to Watch
DS: Paul Pogba looks to be the man to watch in the Juventus midfield. He will wan to build on some impressive performances from last season and given the recent injury to Claudio Marchisio, he has the chance to stake his claim for a regular staring spot.
EM: Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza of Sassuolo. If they can bring their Serie B form into the new campaign then the team will have no relegation concerns. They may even push for a World Cup place if they start to fulfil their huge potential.
AB: Mateo Kovacic. With Inter out of Europe new coach Walter Mazzarri can focus solely on the league in hopes of improving on the Nerazzurri’s disappointing 9th place last season. With the Italian giants having no real alternative in the squad to the youngster, Kovacic will be heavily leaned upon to add flair and creativity to the Beneamata midfield. With six months in Italy already under his belt, the stage is set for the Croatian international to become a mega star at the Giuseppe Meazza this season.
PW: With players like El Shaarawy, Florenzi and Insigne are all established talents now despite their age so will go for others who could do something similar. Perin as Genoa’s first choice should have a big impact as well as Bellomo for Torino, Aveni at Catania, Chievo’s Da Silva and Rozzi at Lazio can all shine if given the chance.
SL: Paul Pogba is set for a season where he announces himself as one of the best foreign players in Italy while Lorenzo Insigne has been embodying the spirit of Roberto Baggio with some of his displays for Italy this summer. Expect both to shine.
PG: Gino Peruzzi, he’s a speedy, technical fullback who can also help out at the back for Catania. Manolo Gabbiadini, he’s most likely going to start a lot more this year for Sampdoria & it’s a World Cup year. If he shines, he could be a solid impact substitute for the Azzurri in Brazil.
DF: Paul Pogba. The Frenchman was outstanding in his first season with the club and showed he is head and shoulders above the other young guns of Serie A. This season will be his coming out party, more than last season, as he already showed his capabilities in the Supercoppa Italiana this season.
Coach to Watch
DS: I am very interested to see how Rolando Maran builds on the job he did at at Catania last season. After taking over from Vincenzo Montella, he bettered the Fiorentina coach’s record, leading the Elefanti to their best ever finish since the 1960s. His job will be tough with the departure of Alejandro Gomez but if he gets it right Catania could be a team to watch.
EM: Eusebio di Francesco of Sassuolo – the new Zeman! Worked under the Czech coach in the late 90s and certainly uses his brand of 433 if a little more tempered. His Lecce side from a season ago was not as bad as the league table suggested and as long as the club keep the faith and do not get impatient during any sticky patches which they will undoubtedly have, he could be one of the coaches of the season.
AB: Vincenzo Montella. Not exactly a shocking decision but one that I believe is warranted. Montella won’t surprise anyone as we are all aware of his qualities after two great seasons with Catania and Fiorentina respectively. Expectations were low at Fiorentina last season and Montella managed to surpass the club’s wildest dreams with his work last season. He won’t have that same luxury this season as the Gigliati are widely being tipped as serious Scudetto challengers. If he is able to bring the Scudetto crown to Florence (and I believe he can) for the first time since 1969, it’s safe to say his name will be on the shortlist of Europe’s biggest clubs next summer.
PW: Vincenzo Montella. In his first season in Florence, he almost achieved the incredible feat of securing Champions League football but for final day heartbreak. This year, he has a settled squad, a genuine superstar striker and a squad now one year further on in his project. If they can bring in a quality goalkeeper, then Montella could further surprise a lot of people.
SL: Rudi Garcia. Takes over a very talented Roma side that have added Strootman, Benatia and Gervinho to their ranks that already included Destro, Totti, De Rossi etc. If he can bring the team together, expect them to be great to watch.
PG: Massimiliano Allegri. He has one of the best attacks in Serie A, but without a creative spark in midfield, some youngsters added to the squad, and some holes at the back, squad rotation is integral, and he tends to overplay his starters, so it’ll be intriguing to watch him this season.
DF: Vincenzo Montella. The Italian was brilliant as coach of Catania and more recently Fiorentina. I think Fiorentina’s undoing maybe their Europa League run and Juve’s strength, but another solid mercato next summer and Fiorentina will take the Scudetto in a year’s time.
DS: It is difficult to look past the promoted three of Hellas Verona, Livorno and Sassuolo, though I think the latter will have momentum from winning Serie B and should be safe. Livorno and Hellas still need work so I see them struggling and possibly Atalanta or Bologna being dragged into the fold too.
EM: Livorno, Hellas and Genoa – The first two will go straight back down as they appear to be just a little too weak in terms of squad. Genoa have not improved from last season’s disaster and it looks like another tough season ahead for them. Nothing in the squad that makes them into anything other than a Serie A struggler.
AB: Hellas Verona, Sassuolo, Genoa, Torino. No surprise in the newcomers to Serie A as aside from Livorno, I’m not overly thrilled with the players they’ve brought in over the summer. I have the most faith in the Amaranto as Davide Nicola is a coach to watch out for and I believe he can get the most out of his young squad, but it will be an adjustment for him as he looks to prove himself in the Serie A.
With Palermo relegated, Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi takes over the mantle of ‘most likely owner to change multiple coaches’ this season. If that is the case, third time may not prove to be the charm for the Rossoblu after their great escape acts of the last two campaigns. With Angelo Ogbonna gone and no real replacement having been signed, I worry about Torino as well, though they may just be able to avoid the drop thanks to their great attacking talent in Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile.
PW: Sassuolo have the weakest squad on paper and should immediately struggled, Sampdoria have lost players and not strengthened considerably and could be there or thereabouts along with Torino, fellow new Serie A arrivals Livorno and Hellas have done decent business will be down there scrapping too and I would not be surprised to see Cagliari dragged into it as well.
SL: Sassuolo and Livorno are obvious favorites, as neither have had the sort of transfer window one needs to truly avoid the drop while Hellas may have enough thanks to Luca Toni, who can still score past 50% of Serie A teams and young players like Romulo(from Fiorentina) and Jorginho. Expect Torino and Genoa to have problems again, especially the former who lost captain and best defender Angelo Ogbonna.
PG: Livorno, Sassuolo, Bologna. The former two teams haven’t strengthened enough to face the vigor of Serie A, whilst Bologna got a tad weaker and their defence was a shambles last year, could cost them their top flight status.
DF: Bologna, Livorno, Sassuolo. Livorno don’t seem to be that strong and I expect them to return to Serie B. Sassuolo, though they’ve made some good moves, aren’t as strong as some other clubs within the league. Bologna will just be relegated as the club have lost Gabbiadini, Gilardino and Taider this mercato and haven’t brought in much aside from Bianchi. Pioli is a solid coach, but the talent he has to work with will see them back to Serie B.
Forza Italian Football’s Predicted table