Friday, 10 August 2012

Serie A Power Shift

Milan Lose 5-1 to Real Madrid
Fresh on the heels of the two Milan clubs suffering losses and Antonio Conte being banned for ten months, I begin asking the the balance of power shifting in the Italian Serie A?

Yes I know AC Milan was only playing a friendly, but losing 5-1 is not pretty, friendly or not, and Inter were playing a Europa League match in which they led 3-0 on aggregate heading into the 2-0 loss to Hajduk.

Also this morning the sentences came down in the Calcioscommesse scandal, and although Juventus did not lose any players, as Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe were both acquitted. They did lose their coach, Antonio Conte who was sentenced to a ten month ban, however he will appeal, and possibly get it down to four or five months.

Antonio Conte banned for 10 months

What was so impressive about Juventus last season was the fact that they managed to win the Serie A without a superstar. Alessandro Del Piero who was no doubt an integral part of the championship run, became a role player rather than the superstar he was for so many previous Juventus championship seasons. Andrea Pirlo played like a superstar, but prior to the season was written off due to his age, and nagging injuries that hindered him in years past. Which left Conte to bring in a hard-working, team mentality. He became the superstar of the team. Which is why I believe the team will struggle more than anyone else seems to think without Conte, especially with the Champions League approaching on top of the already gruelling Serie A schedule. Yes Juventus are still the favourites heading into the season, but for the first time in awhile there is serious contention looming atop the leader board.

Udinese have been able to finish among the Champions League qualifiers in the last two seasons, but face the same question as always; who will replace the men they've sold away this summer?

Napoli 2012 Coppa Italia Winners

Napoli's qualification into the Champions League after the 09-10 taught them a great lesson, they weren't good enough to compete in all competitions. After struggling last season, they are now poised to make a serious run at the Scudetto with the arrivals of Behrami, Insigne, Gamberini among others. They lost Lavezzi and have replaced him with several players which usually bodes well over the course of long season. The Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus tomorrow will be their first real test of the season, however they do seem further ahead in their pre-season preparations than Juve at the moment. It really is just a glorified friendly. The pre-season has been very impressive for the Patrenopei as they've defeated the likes of Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen as well as others so far.

New Roma coach Zdenek Zeman

Roma have been very active in the transfer market this season, as I've documented in my 'Welcome to Zemanlandia' piece from a week or so ago. I really like what they have done and since have brought in Euro 2012 standout Federico Balzaretti and have finally made the transfer of Mattia Destro official. With Zdenek Zeman taking over the helm they will surely score plenty of goals in the coming season and are my pre-season favourite to score the most in the league, however it is the defence that will be a problem for them as it is for every Zeman team. A year of maturity and progression will no doubt help the likes of Bojan Krkic, Erik Lamela and Miralem Pjanic, all players under the age of 22 that were brought in last summer. There is no denying the talent this team has, and I truly believe they have the best chance at the title outside of the 'big three'.

Lazio have been very quiet this summer, but as we saw last season they have a very capable squad. They were at or near the top for much of the first half of the season, until the injury to Miroslav Klose and sub-par performance of Djibril Cisse saw them fall out of title contention.

New Fiorentina Signing Alberto Aquilani

Fiorentina are the wild card in all of this, they have quietly had a very impressive transfer season. Although they lost Montolivo and Behrami, Valero, Aquilani and Pizarro have been brought in. More importantly they have been able to keep star player Stevan Jovetic in the Viola shirt, and are maybe just a striker away from having a very competitive season among the top of the Serie A.

What has excited me is that the teams in the second tier that 4th through 8th group of teams, have recognised the weakness of Inter, Milan, and Juventus, and have begun to get their ducks in order for a push to the top.

Inter seem to still be in transition from their glory years and are still building towards a new cycle, however they still have the talent to contend.

While Milan is also in transition and do not seem to have the finances to bring in new stars. The recent signing of Cristian Zapata won't fill the void left by the sale of Thiago Silva and was just the most cost-effective player they could find. Yes he had some success with Udinese a couple of years ago before moving to Villarreal, but being part of a defence that was relegated from La Liga does not sound to good from here.

Juventus has improved their squad but with Champions League on the horizon, and the coaching situation still up in the air, it is tough to confidently say they will repeat.

Whatever the outcome will be, I can tell you this, it will not be a two horse race atop the Serie A down the stretch this season. Calcio fans are in for an exciting season.

Follow me on Twitter: DanRiccio23 for all the latest Serie A news, and for the latest blog updates.

Your comments are always welcome

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