Carlo Ancelotti analyses the problems at Juventus and gives his Scudetto predictions in a “strange” Serie A race.
The Coach is taking a break and ready to get back to work in January, so sat down with the Corriere dello Sport newspaper.
He cast his eye over the European scene, including the surprise leaders of the Liga and Serie A, Villarreal and Fiorentina.
“They are two different situations. In Italy, Fiorentina are doing very well and surprised the big clubs, who changed a great deal over the summer.
“The Viola are on top and tied to the uncertainty of who will be there at the end. We don’t know who will win the title, maybe even Fiorentina, or Napoli, or Roma, or Juventus fighting back.
“In Spain we already know who wins at the end, it’s either Barcelona or Real Madrid.”
Inter and Milan invested a great deal of money this term, but are yet to reap the rewards.
“It is disconcerting they’ve conceded so many goals, especially as they brought in players of a very high level like Joao Miranda, Jeison Murillo, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, all players that the biggest clubs in Europe wanted.
“It is truly a very strange campaign, open and absolutely anything could happen.”
Ancelotti still has a fondness for the club he played for, but is yet to manage – Roma.
“They are the side with the most quality. In attack there’s Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Gervinho and Iago Falque, plus Francesco Totti. In the middle Radja Nainggolan and Miralem Pjanic bring equal doses of strength and technique.
“There are only a few problems at the back, but right now they seem to be the most reliable team. Daniele De Rossi playing in defence is a bit of a fad after Javier Mascherano at Barcelona and now Javi Martinez at Bayern Munich.
“Mind you, the precursor was the Baron, Nils Liedholm, when he put Agostino at centre-back. I played in defence once, in a friendly for Milan against Barcelona. That one time was enough to realise it was not a good idea.”
Napoli are emerging as surprise title contenders under Maurizio Sarri after crushing Milan 4-0 and defeating Juventus.
“I’ve only seen them play once, against Empoli in perhaps their worst performance. I do like the team for their organisation, speed and technique. Napoli can absolutely win the Scudetto.
“I really liked Sarri’s Empoli last season, as they were a dynamic side with a precise identity and attacking football. It might seem a paradox, but today’s Napoli reminds me of Empoli, sitting compact with a very high defensive line.
“If the quality of the Napoli players marries the quality of Sarri’s organisation, then the fans will have fun.
“I also like Paulo Sousa at Fiorentina. Last term with Real Madrid we beat Basel 5-1 in the Champions League, but the away leg was very balanced and uncertain.”
The giants are struggling so far this season, so how does Ancelotti read the situation?
“Juventus changed a great deal, as Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal are formidable players, fundamental for their style of play and the level of the side.
“They were replaced by young players who still need to settle in. It’s not easy to find an alternative to Pirlo from one day to the next. Claudio Marchisio would’ve fit the bill, but he’s been injured and max Allegri was forced to change within the change.
“However, in the most difficult games of the season, Juventus have done well, beating Manchester City and Sevilla.
“At Real Madrid and Barcelona it’s a different situation. So far my ex-team hasn’t lost, while Barcelona felt the weight of injuries to Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta. Maybe they also felt a bit sated after last year’s success.”
Real Madrid sacked Ancelotti over the summer and replaced him with Rafa Benitez, who he met up with in Nyon.
“I didn’t need to give him any advice because he already knew what it was like there and expected all that has happened. He was born there, he trained in the youth academy and knew that at the slightest slip-up the controversy would explode.
“Criticism at Real is excessive. In fact, the whole environment around the club is excessive, both in a good and a bad way.”