Serie A betting preview
Serie A begins this weekend and in the absence of James Richardson and Football Italia you’ll have to make do with our betting preview. It’s been an interesting summer: an excellent showing in EURO 2012, against a back drop of match-fixing allegations.
Juventus manager Antonio Conte has been banned for 10 months, pending an appeal, after failing to disclose knowledge of match fixing whilst managing Siena. Meanwhile AC Milan lurch from one crisis to another. After refunding disgruntled season ticket holders, after the fire-sale of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, the club swapped Italy’s showman Antonio Cassano for the less effective Gianpaolo Pazzini, and unsurprisingly Pato has been rocked with another injury scare. Here are the odds for the Scudetto in 2013:
Juventus completed an unbeaten season last year, and despite drawing 15 games they conceded just 20 goals all year, which saw them edge home ahead of the more volatile AC Milan who were four points away. As well as a resolute defence the midfield three of Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal were key to the title for the bianconeri. Pirlo was magnificent in the deep playmaking role and Vidal and Marchisio had the energy to press extremely high-up, giving Pirlo time and space.
They have moved quickly this summer, signing Lucio from Inter on a free and adding Udinese’s best midfielders; Mauricio Isla and Kwado Asamoah. Paul Pogba finally made the switch from Old Trafford and with Robin Van Persie heavily linked with a switch, Juventus look in best shape to defend their 28th scudetto (30th if you ask the club).
AC Milan have taken the biggest hit this summer, losing Thiago Silva and the league’s top-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic to PSG. Sold for a combined €60 million it remains to be seen how Massimo Allegri reinvests in his playing squad, if sanctioned by Berlusconi. Milan have already brought in Ricardo Montolivo, excellent business on a free, Bakaye Traore and Columbian, Christian Zapata, from Villerreal. However, none of these signings look like exciting the Milan faithful, and fans will be looking for a star striker to replace the outgoing Ibrahimovic. Carlos Tevez and Van Persie look dead deals, so fans will hope that Pato can stay fit the coming season.
Udinese finished an impressive third last year, but after losing more key players, they will be relying on youngsters stepping up to the plate in 2012-2013. Giampaolo Pozzo’s Udinese experiment reached English shores with his acquisition of Watford, adding to a portfolio that includes the Spanish side Granada, and the president has invested heavily in scouting at the Italian side. Two of the latest products from the scouting set-up, Isla and Asamoah, were sold this summer and the only star performer left is 34-year-old Antonio Di Natale. I think they’ll struggle to make the Champions League in 2013.
Lazio finished fourth last season, and claimed Italy’s first Europa League spot, after the league lost its fourth CL place via co-efficient. They did well to finish above fierce rivals Roma, who spent heavily, and Miroslav Klose adapted well to Italian football. They pipped Napoli to fourth by a single point, but you would expect Napoli to finish above them this season, without the added pressure of Champions League football. The departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi is a massive blow, but the Naples outfit have invested in youth and Chilean Eduardo Vargas will get his chance in the starting XI. Further reinforcements come in the shape of Valon Behrami and Alessandro Gamberini from Fiorentina, and bring real experience.
36-year-old Andrea Stramaccioni has been thrust into the deep-end with Internazionale, and the club seem unsure of how to overcome their Mourinho vacuum. The club have flopped since his departure for Madrid, and despite the core of that side still being around they have failed to threaten domestically, let alone continentally. Expensive flop, Diego Forlan, has been moved on, but the acquisitions this summer are relatively modest for a club that splashed a then world-record €48 million on Christian Vieri in 1999.
Handanovic has been brought in at goalkeeper, but with the experienced Julio Cesar already at the San Siro his addition seems superfluous. Matias Silvestre has signed on loan, and Rodrigio Palacio has come in, as has free-kick specialist, Freddy Guarin, after a loan move. Doubts remain over Wesley Sniejder’s future, as do Chelsea target, Maicon. Inter seem stuck in a rut. Unwilling to splash the cash like their competitors, they need to move on an ageing squad but their rivals are moving away from them. Winning the inaugural Next Gen series indicates that there is some impressive young talent coming through the ranks but these teenagers are not ready to be thrust into Serie A action en masse.
The team to watch for me however, are Fiorentina. They finished a lowly 13th last season, in a year that will be remembered by armchair fans for then manager, Delio Rossi, attacking winger Adem Ljajic as he was substituted. Unsurprisingly the club dismissed Rossi, and bought in the relatively ’green’ Vincenzo Montella. Nicknamed ‘The Little Airplane’ he had a fantastic playing career at Roma and after a caretaker role with the Rome side, he spent last year managing Catania. Montella steered the unfancied side to a 11th place finish, their highest finish in 10 years.
This led to Fiorentina making their move and the Viola have invested superbly this summer. The club lost the integral Ricardo Montolivo on a free, but have acted quickly to make dreams of a Champions League return a real possibility. Alberto Aquilani is a ready-made replacement for Montolivo, whilst the Chile international Matias Fernandez and Emilano Viviano have also come in. Fiorentina managed to raid relegated Villerreal for two of their most important players; Borja Valero and Gonzalo Rodriguez. Despite his failure to breakthrough at West Brom, Valero is one of the most coveted midfielders in Europe and the experienced Rodriguez is a superb replacement for Gamberini.
Gabriel Batistuta scored this for Fiorentina in a remarkable Champions League run in 1999-2000, but within two years the club were on the brink of bankruptcy, and had to be re-formed as Associazione Calcio Fiorentina e Florentia Viola in 2002, starting in the Serie C2. They have a history of giving young managers a chance, Roberto Mancini cut his teeth at Artemio Franchi, while current national team manager, Cesare Prandelli was manager for five years before taking the national post. Montella was a cult icon at Roma and I predict an impressive year for him and Fiorentina.