Serie A Starts Again!

September 6, 2012 in Serie A

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Another Serie A campaign has kicked off after another bizarre summer. Match fixing still looms large over Italian football as the Scommessopoli scandal will affect yet another campaign. Not only has former Siena defender Emanuele Pesoli chained himself to the Italian FA headquarters in protest at being banned, four clubs have started the season on minus points. Even more astonishing is that in Serie B, nine clubs kicked off with a numerical disadvantage. Not only have clubs been docked points because of match fixing, but last season’s unbeaten title winners Juventus will be without manager Antonio Conte after he too was suspended for ten months.

The club will instead be guided by caretaker boss Massimo Carrera in Conte’s absence, and yet, remain firm favourites for this season’s Scudetto. However, the Turin giants may find this year’s title run a little tougher than last. The Bianconeri have a Champions League campaign to focus on and will subsequently have a lot more fixtures to contend with.

With this mind, the club have bolstered their ranks with some astute additions. Midfielders Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah have come in from Udinese, whilst local lad Sebastian Giovinco, who has played for Parma for the last two seasons, will be asked to try and fill the void left by Sydney-bound Alessandro Del Piero. Arsenal’s sometimes misfiring Dane Nicklas Bendtner has also been drafted in as the Old Lady attempt to turn last season’s 15 draws into wins, while Brazilian defender Lucio also arrives on a free transfer from Inter Milan. After last season’s unbeaten run, Juve will be keen to extend it and will strive to beat the record set by Fabio Capello’s AC Milan side of the early 90s, who went a huge 58 games without defeat. They’re on course too, having won their opening two games of the season.

20 years on, however, it is very unlikely that Milan could achieve that feat again any time soon. Many of the old guard have left, with the likes of Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Gennaro Gattuso all departing the San Siro for pastures new. And if losing a host of seasoned veterans wasn’t bad enough, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and pivotal defender Thiago Silva have both left for money-laden Paris-Saint Germain of Ligue 1. Not only were their departures a blow for Milan, but for Serie A too. Ibrahimovic’s departure meant that, for the first time in history, not one of the top 10 earning footballers in the world were plying their trade in the Italian league. Whilst selling their two top stars will certainly save money in wages, many fans, as well as owner Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter Barbara, believe that the money saved will instantly be lost in seasons to come when the club fail to qualify for Europe. The club have brought a number of players in, however, to try to quell the loss of the old guard. Riccardo Montolivo arrives on a free from Fiorentina and Chievo defender Francesco Acerbi is a 4.5 million Euro acquisition from Chievo. The much coveted M’Baye Niang, who interested the likes of Manchester City and Everton this summer, was purchased from Caen in France, while Sulley Muntari and Bojan have also joined from rivals Inter and Roma respectively. Milan will hope the new signings can hit the ground running early and help the club at least challenge for this year’s title.

Having missed out on this year’s Champions League, Inter Milan will hope that Andrea Stramaccioni can steer the club to success, having impressed since taking the reins from Claudio Ranieri last spring. The former youth coach is highly respected in the game and many believe that he can nurture Inter’s exciting new talent. Right-back Maicon departed for the Premier League with Man City, and goalkeeper Julio Cesar joined him in England, signing for QPR. Cesar’s departure was helped along after Slovenian stopper Samir Handanovic was signed from Udinese. However, as clubs across Europe restrict their managers’ spending, the only other notable Inter signings are striker Rodrigo Palacio from Genoa and Palermo defender Matias Silvestre on loan.

One other bit of business that must be noted is the exchange of strikers between the two rival Milan clubs. AC exchanged Antonio Cassano, who impressed many at Euro 2012 , for Inter’s Giampaolo Pazzini. As well as new players, the two Milan giants will also have to adapt to a new pitch after an artificial one was installed at the famous San Siro stadium this summer.

Besides the ‘big three’, Roma, Napoli and Udinese will be keen to continue breaking the monopoly at Italy’s top table. Udinese, who finished the last campaign in third place, suffered Champions League qualifying penalty heartache at the hands of Portuguese side Braga – as new Brazilian signing Maicosuel’s chipped penalty (Pirlo style) was saved. A plethora of talent has left the Stadio Friuli this summer, and ageing Antonio Di Natale will again have to bag the goals. Finishing in the top three again is a feat even that even the most die-hard Udinese fans will admit may be out of reach this term.

Napoli, meanwhile, will be confident of another productive season. Whilst one of the famous ‘Three Tenors’, Ezequiel Lavezzi, joined the French revolution taking place at PSG, Edinson Cavani stayed. Roma too will be hoping for a good campaign as Zdenek Zeman retunred to the Italian capital. The Roma boss guided Pescara to the Serie B title last year, with his team scoring 90 goals in the process. If it’s exciting, attacking football you want, then Roma will be the club to watch this campaign.

Fiorentina, managed by Vincenzo Montella (yes, the former Roma frontman) who impressed at Catania last term, have had an extremely busy summer. Whilst still clearly seething with Dimitar Berbatov after he rejected the club for Fulham, the Florence side have made some astute signings. Liverpool outcast Alberto Aquiliani has arrived at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and is joined by, most notably, Borja Valero and Matias Fernandez. More importantly, Montenegrin hotshot Stevan Jovetic has decided to remain with the Viola, after much speculation linked him with a move to a bigger club.

Like Fiorentina, another two sides who are synonymous with the ‘Football Italia’ days on Channel 4 are Lazio and Parma. Lazio have a new man at the helm in Vladimir Petkovic from Swiss side FC Sion, and it is hard to tell how they’ll fare under a manager with no experience in any of the top leagues. Parma, on the other hand, are expected to do well this term. Despite a 2-0 opening day defeat to Juventus, they hope to continue last season’s rich vein of form as they won their last seven games.

Siena, Atlanta, Sampdoria and Torino - the four clubs starting on negative points - will have been eager for the campaign to kick off so that they could restore their points total as soon as possible. Sampdoria won their opening two games and are on five points, whilst Torino are also unbeaten after their first couple of games.

So, only a week and a half into the new campaign and already Juventus are at the top of the table. Whether it’ll stay like that, only time will tell.