With the 2012/13 Serie A season getting underway tomorrow, here is a brief look at the teams involved and my predictions of where they will finish.
Despite being deducted six points last season, Atalanta achieved a creditable 12th place finish to comfortably avoid relegation. The Bergamo side will begin this campaign with another point deduction (this time two points) so former Torino coach Stefano Colantuono will hope that they can wipe that deficit out quickly. Whilst it is unlikely that striker German Denis will replicate his success of last season (16 goals in 32 games), he should score enough to keep them away from the bottom three.
Star Man – German Denis
Prediction – 13th
With star striker and talisman Marco Di Vaio leaving the club for Montreal Impact, Bologna may find it difficult to emulate last season’s impressive top ten finish. With talented playmaker Gaston Ramirez also being linked with a move away from the club (possibly to the mighty Southampton) Bologna could find themselves in trouble this season. However, Stefano Pioli is an astute coach, and with Alessandro Diamanti, Robert Acquafresca and Manolo Gabbiadini in the team, they should have enough to finish mid-table.
Star Man – Alessandro Diamanti
Prediction – 12th
After playing a number of league games in Trieste last season, Cagliari will finally return to playing in Sardinia, albeit in the newly renovated ‘Stadio Is Arenas'. Chilean striker Mauricio Pinilla scored eight times after moving from Palermo in January, and if he can continue that form then Cagliari should have enough to avoid relegation. It will also be interesting to see whether Marco Sau (who scored 21 goals for Juve Stabia in Serie B last season) can impress in the top flight.
Star Man – Radja Nainggolan
Prediction – 15th
After Vincenzo Montella left the club to coach Fiorentina, new man in charge Rolando Maran may find it difficult to improve on last season’s finish of 11th. Mirco Antenucci has returned to the club after a successful spell at Torino, although it is unlikely that he will be in the starting eleven. Midfielder Francesco Lodi is one of the most creative players in the entire division, and he may need to have another productive season if Catania want to stay away from relegation trouble.
Star Man – Francesco Lodi
Prediction – 17th
After losing American midfielder Michael Bradley to Roma, and defender Francesco Acerbi to AC Milan, Chievo will be relieved to see the transfer window finally close at the end of the month. The arrival of former Torino striker David Di Michele should see him partner another ex-Toro player Sergio Pellissier in an experienced forward line. However, I have my doubts whether these two players will score enough goals to keep ‘The Flying Donkeys’ in the division.
Star Man – Sergio Pellissier
Prediction – 18th
Under new coach Vincenzo Montella, Fiorentina will be keen to improve on the disappointment of last season and have made a number of new acquisitions in order to do so. Emiliano Viviano, Alberto Aquilani and Borja Valero all look like good signings, and although Riccardo Montolivo, Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini have all left the club, they should still enjoy a successful campaign.
Star Man – Stevan Jovetić
Prediction – 6th
After a disastrous 2011-12 season, in which they only narrowly avoided relegation, Genoa will be hoping for a less stressful campaign this time around. Defender Michele Canini has arrived from Cagliari and should therefore improve a defence that conceded 69 goals last season. Whilst the departure of Rodrigo Palacio is certainly a blow, it will be interesting to see whether Ciro Immobile, the top scorer in Serie B last season, will be an adequate replacement.
Star Man – Andreas Granqvist
Prediction – 11th
With no Champions League football on the agenda after last season’s 6th placed finish, Inter should be able to mount a more serious title challenge this campaign. Rodrigo Palacio, Gaby Mudingayi, Walter Gargano, Antonio Cassano and Samir Handanovic are all solid acquisitions, and if rookie coach Andrea Stramaccioni can gel the new signings together quickly, it could be a successful season for the Nerazzurri.
Star Man – Wesley Sneijder
Prediction – 2nd
As much as it pains me to say this as a Torino fan, it would take a brave man to bet against Juventus retaining their title this season. Their squad has been improved with the signings of Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah, whilst the returning Sebastian Giovinco should provide some creativity upfront. Whilst the ten month ban awarded to coach Antonio Conte could harm their chances of the scudetto, it is my view that the added fixture congestion that comes with Champions League participation could prove to be the bigger problem.
Star Man – Andrea Pirlo
Prediction – 1st
Lazio President Claudio Lotito has made a bold decision by replacing experienced tactician Edy Reja with a man who has never coached in Italy before - Vladimir Petković. In addition, whilst many rivals have been busy in the transfer window, Lazio have been relatively quiet, with Brazilian midfielder Ederson the only notable addition. However, with quality players such as Miroslav Klose, Mauro Zarate and Hernanes in the squad, nobody should be writing Lazio off just yet.
Star Man – Hernanes
Prediction – 8th
After the departures of both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG, it will be fascinating to see how AC Milan cope this season without their two best players. Although Cristian Zapata, Riccardo Montolivo and Giampaolo Pazzini are decent players, they are not the world class replacements that the fans desired, and therefore it will be extremely difficult for Milan to mount a challenge for the title.
Star Man – Kevin-Prince Boateng
Prediction – 4th
With no Champions League football to distract them, Napoli should be able to have a more successful campaign than last season. Although the departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi is a shame, Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini look to be good signings, and with Lorenzo Insigne returning from a successful loan spell at Pescara, Napoli should be contenders.
Star Man – Edinson Cavani
Prediction – 3rd
New coach Giuseppe Sannino has performed minor miracles with both Varese and Siena, and if President Maurizio Zamparini is patient, then the Rosanero could surprise many this season. The importance of Fabrizio Miccoli’s decision to stay at the club should not be underestimated, and it could finally be time for Abel Hernández to breakthrough and become a star of Italian football.
Star Man – Fabrizio Miccoli
Prediction – 9th
Sebastian Giovinco’s departure is certainly a blow for Roberto Donadoni’s men, and they could struggle to replicate last season’s outstanding 8th placed finish. However, the return of Amauri, who had a successful loan spell at the club two seasons ago could be a positive, and it will also be interesting to see how highly-rated Colombian striker Dorlan Pabón adapts to Italian football.
Star Man – Marco Parolo
Prediction – 10th
Last season’s Serie B champions have had a difficult summer, with their three best players - Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, as well as their coach Zdeněk Zeman, all leaving the club. However, new signings Vladimir Weiss, Jonathas and Ante Vukušić all have potential, and if they can gel together quickly, they could avoid relegation.
Star Man – Vladimir Weiss
Prediction – 19th
Zdeněk Zeman returns to Rome after a successful season at Pescara where he led the club to the Serie B title, scoring an incredible 90 goals in the process. Michael Bradley, Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Mattia Destro and former Torino defender Federico Balzaretti are all good signings and should improve the squad from last season. The decision to bring back Zeman will either be a great success or a disastrous failure - there will be no middle ground. However, one thing is certain; it definitely will not be boring in the capital.
Star Man – Daniele De Rossi
Prediction – 5th
After sneaking into the Serie B playoffs last season, Sampdoria hit form at the right time to beat Varese in the final, and therefore return to Serie A at the first time of asking. Samp will be looking to continue that momentum, and the acquisition of Maxi Lopez from Catania does seem to be a sign of their intent. However, new coach Ciro Ferrara failed in his previous spell in club management at Juventus, and if they get off to a poor start, he may not last long.
Star Man – Maxi Lopez
Prediction – 16th
After being deducted six points for their role in the betting scandal, Siena will have a lot of ground to make up immediately. In many ways, charismatic new coach Serse Cosmi is probably the perfect choice to create a ‘siege mentality’ within the Siena squad, and if they can pick up points quickly, they could shock many by avoiding relegation. However, with star striker Mattia Destro leaving the club, it is difficult to see where the goals will come from.
Star Man – Gaetano D'Agostino
Prediction – 20th
After three seasons in Serie B before gaining promotion in May, the majority of Torino fans would be happy with avoiding relegation this campaign…and maybe an overdue derby victory over Juventus. The Granata have retained most of the defence that conceded just 28 goals last season, and in Angelo Ogbonna, Toro have one of best young defenders in Europe, who will be keen to show why he is so highly rated. Strikers Rolando Bianchi and Riccardo Meggiorini have scored plenty of goals in pre-season, and if they get the service from new signings Mario Santana and Alessio Cerci, they should score the goals to keep Torino in the division.
Star Man – Angelo Ogbonna
Prediction – 14th
After drawing 1-1 in Tuesday’s Champions League qualifier against Braga, Udinese are well placed to reach the group stages. If that does happen, then their small squad may struggle to cope with the fixture congestion, and their league form may suffer. Despite losing Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah to Juventus, their incredible scouting system has continued to find good players at little cost, and Brazilian midfielder Willians is a player to keep an eye on. Antonio Di Natale will obviously continue to score goals at an extraordinary rate, but if he has to be rested for European fixtures, then Udinese may struggle to score goals.
Star Man – Antonio Di Natale
Prediction – 7th