SBI’s Italian Serie A Preview

JuventusScudetto (Getty Images)

Juventus did not lose a game in Serie A play last season and managed to get better in the offseason, making major signings and letting the rest of Italy know that the club's return to greatness was not a one-year fluke.

Juve enter the new season as the overwhelming favorites to capture the scudetto again while teams behind them reshuffle their rosters looking for answers. The changing of the guard at AC Milan does not necessarily signify a down year for the Rossoneri, but it does mean a transition period for a club that lost a ton of talent.

Inter Milan struggled mightily for prolonged stretches last season, but a number of important transfers mean the club should be back in contention in the country's top tier. As for the lone American abroad in Serie A, Michael Bradley's move from Chievo to Roma gives Americans a good reason to track the progress of the capital city power in its quest to return to the UEFA Champions League.

Here is a closer look ahead to the 2012-13 Serie A season:


THE FAVORITE

Juventus

Juventus are the clear favorites to win the title and repeat as champions, but the match-fixing ban given to manager Antonio Conte that prevents him from coaching this season lends potential for an unpredictable negative effect. As long as Andrea Pirlo is running the show and Gianluigi Buffon is backstopping it all, though, Juve will be in the mix, and with the sly additions of Sebastian Giovinco, Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah and Lucio, the champions got stronger and deeper by making some of their top Italian competitors weaker.

The one major loss Juventus will have to take into account is that of legend Alessandro Del Piero, who left the club after scoring 289 goals in 704 games over 19 years. 

Juventus already has a leg up on AC Milan after capturing the Berlusconi Trophy in a friendly between the two sides last weekend, and with a SuperCoppa win over Napoli before that to boot, the Bianconeri enter the season with plenty of momentum.

THE CONTENDERS

AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli, Roma, Lazio

AC Milan were right with Juventus until the end of the season last year and figure to give the champions the biggest fight this season as well. The Rossoneri saw a bevy of stars and veterans bolt, though, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Mark van Bommel all heading for the exits.

Normally, that would crush a franchise, but the club has reinforcements in the form of Robinho and Kevin Prince Boateng and brought in Italian internationals Riccardo Montolivo and Giampaolo Pazzini as part of the new-look Milan. Alexandre Pato's health will be paramount to the team's attack, but he is already carrying an early knock before the season has even started.

Inter comes off a down year in which they failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, let alone contend for the scudetto, but with the additions of Uruguayan midfielder Walter Gargano and left back Alvaro Pereira, Argentine forward Rodrigo Palacio and Italian forward Antonio Cassano, the club seems primed for a rebound season.

Napoli lost Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris St.-Germain, loaned Gargano to Inter and have been rumored to potentially be losing Edinson Cavani as well, which could make matching last year's success a bit of a challenge.

Roma keeping veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi was a huge development for a side looking to get back into the upper echelon of Italian soccer, and the addition of Michael Bradley from Chievo brings another rock into the midfield that coach Zdenek Zeman can count on.

Roma rivals Lazio, meanwhile, gets Argentine attacker Mauro Zarate back from his loan to Inter Milan and feature a balanced squad that will provide stiff resistance for any opposition.

TOP TRANSFERS

Antonio Cassano from AC Milan to Inter Milan

Samir Handanovic from Udinese to Inter Milan

Rodrigo Palacio from Genoa to Inter Milan

Giampaolo Pazzini from Inter Milan to AC Milan

Riccardo Montolivo from Fiorentina to AC Milan

Michael Bradley from Chievo to Roma

Federico Balzaretti from Palermo to Roma

Sebastian Giovinco from Parma to Juventus

Mauricio Isla from Udinese to Juventus

Kwadwo Asamoah from Udinese to Juventus

Lucio from Inter Milan to Juventus

Goran Pandev from Inter Milan to Napoli

Borja Valero from Villarreal to Fiorentina

Matias Fernandez from Sporting Lisbon to Fiorentina

Dorlan Pabon from Atletico Nacional to Parma

BIGGEST QUESTIONS

Will Conte's ban throw off Juventus?

On paper, there is no reason for Juventus not to contend for another scudetto. The club returns its core from last year's championship squad and added some major reinforcements to make the already-talented squad even deeper. Losing coach Antonio Conte for the season is a major blow, though, and while it's not as if an entire new coaching and technical staff has been brought in, there will still be a transition period. It seems as if internal issues are the only factors holding back Juventus from another title season.

How will AC Milan's new-look side adjust?

It will take some adjusting to watch an AC Milan side without all of their former lineup staples, and losing Ibrahimovic, the league's top scorer a season ago, provides a massive hit to the club's production. The problem for Milan is that they can ill-afford to fall behind Juventus early on, and the new pieces face a sink-or-swim situation right off the bat. 

What will Michael Bradley's addition mean for Roma?

Bradley's emergence at Chievo Verona last season was a massive development, not only as an American making waves in a league where few have before but also capturing the attention of the traditional powers in the transfer market this season. He became known as "General Bradley" for his play with the Flying Donkeys, and playing on that level for a club like Roma would only accelerate his growth and exposure in a crucial year of World Cup qualifying.

Can Fiorentina return to the top tier?

If there is a dark horse looming in Serie A, it may very well be Fiorentina, which made some shrewd transfer moves to improve a side that finished 13th in the league last season. Losing Montolivo to AC Milan hurts, but the additions of Alberto Aquilani, Borja Valero, Matias Fernandez and David Pizarro give new manager Vincenzo Montella plenty of intriguing pieces to mold into a winner.

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Do you see any team seriously threatening Juventus' place at the top? Do you think it will be a down year for AC Milan considering all of those personnel losses? How do you see Bradley faring at Roma? Which teams do you think can surprise in Italy this season?

Share your thoughts below.

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9 Responses to SBI’s Italian Serie A Preview

  1. ManicMessiah says:

    I was rooting for Roma (as much as I ‘root’ for anyone in Seria A) before they got Michael Bradley, so it’ll be nice keeping an eye on them this year.

    That said, seeing Conte’s press conference (reading a translation more like), makes me want to root for Juve by proxy.

  2. Roma says:

    Mattia Destro was Roma’s best addition. Future Italian NT regular who was wanted by every team in Italy.

  3. Illmatic74 says:

    I could see Juventus winning this league by as much as 10 points. It is unbelievable how much weaker AC Milan is. Allegri deserves a ton of credit if he guides them to the Champions League qualification.

  4. This Guy says:

    Having a Yank on a legitimate Serie A side should open Americans to the excitement and beauty of the league. Most fun to watch in my opinion.

  5. somedude says:

    Inter Milan, Fiorentina, and Roma all reinforced their squads. It should be a great battle for the 2nd/3rd champions league spots. I hope AC Milan barely qualify for the Europa League.

  6. Mig22 says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard anyone say that. :)

    Seriously though, I appreciate the Italian game but ‘most fun’ is not a phrase I would apply to Italian ball.

    Cheers!

  7. This Guy says:

    BTW, Lazio is the sleeper and could win this thing. I’ve seen the previews from 4-8 but the younger talent they have is quite impressive and should get a go if the older veterans fizzle or get injured.

  8. Midnight Jump says:

    Forza Juventus…We are back to glory…Back to the CL…and Conte will be pulling the strings from above!!!

  9. Rod says:

    Del Piero to Chicago Fire???