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Monday September 28 2015
Sizing up the Contenders - Part One

In the first of a two-part blog, Mohamed Nassar analyses three of the potential Scudetto contenders.

Fiorentina

If there is a dark horse running in this season’s race, you can bet that it’s the Viola. With the exception of the fracas with Inter over the ill-fated move of Mohamed Salah, the Tuscans have largely flown under the radar all summer long. Their appointment of Paolo Sousa as Coach seemed a reasonable, but not spectacular, choice and their reinforcements lacked any big marquee signings.

However, what Sousa has accomplished has been to take the outgoing Vincenzo Montella’s football style and slowly upgrade it, adding bits of quality across the pitch to make that vision a reality. In Nikola Kalinic, Sousa now has a striker with international and European experience who can be relied upon to find the back of the net, a definite improvement on the seemingly eternally injured Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez. The resurgence of Borja Valero as playmaker has also been a contributing factor in the Viola’s resurgence, while the width afforded to the side by Marcos Alonso and Polish International Jakub Blaszczykowski has been instrumental in adding to the side’s attacking prowess.

Whether Fiorentina have the depth and stamina to sustain a prolonged run for the top remains to be seen, especially in light of an increasingly onerous schedule owing to their Europa League commitments, but in the meantime, we can all enjoy some of the peninsula’s most attacking and attractive football.

Juventus

Champions for the last four seasons in a row, Juventus were clear favourites going into the season, however all didn’t start as planned for La Vecchia Signora. After having collected a measly one point from their opening three games, Italian sports dailies were ringing the alarm bells and warning of a potential crisis for the Turin giants. A convincing and comprehensive win away to Manchester City in their opening fixture of the Champions League season went a long way in allaying some immediate fears but the midweek draw with Frosinone followed by defeat in Naples, seem to have brought back an air of urgency and unease over the Bianconeri camp.

What is for sure is that Juventus have been extremely unfortunate with injuries, especially in midfield. Having lost Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal this summer, Allegri has been deprived of his yet another midfield star in Claudio Marchisio, which means that of his preferred midfield quartet from last season, only Paul Pogba has been available. To make matters worse, newcomer Sami Khedira who was brought in to replace Vidal has not yet featured for the club due to yet another long term injury. Injuries to strikers Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic mean that the Bianconeri infirmary currently hosts close to a starting eleven of its own.

There is no doubt that Juve will eventually put up a serious title challenge, however, if they continue performing well in Europe come the spring of 2016, one may see Juve focus more on trying to secure the one missing trophy from Gigi Buffon’s glittering cabinet, the Champions League.

Inter

Inter’s dream start to the season came to a spectacular stop on Sunday night against the Viola. But this, as Roberto Mancini alluded to after the game, changes little. Inter still sit at the top of the table and have become a side that is very tough and very capable of grinding out positive results with little or no flair.

To say that Inter have had a busy summer would be nothing short of a gross understatement. The Nerazzurri have said goodbye to more than a handful of players and brought in nine others, of whom only Adem Ljajic and Martin Montoya haven’t become starters for the side.

Mancini’s Inter is built on a no-nonsense midfield of Felipe Melo, Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia, who sit in front of a central defensive pairing of Joao Miranda and Jeison Murillo, of whom only Medel was in the side last season. Notwithstanding the Fiorentina result, there have been surprisingly little integration issues in both midfield and defence, both of which have performed above expectations. Where the Nerazzurri seem to be having issues is at the other end of the pitch. Inter have not yet won by more than a single goal’s margin, and the lack of understanding between the front trio of Ivan Perisic, Stefan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi is palpable, resulting in missed passes, unnoticed or ignored runs into space and occasional selfishness.

Many argue that Inter have had a favourable fixture list and that the Inter against Fiorentina is the real Inter, but it is exactly in games against “weaker” opposition where Inter would drop points the past few seasons. For now, Inter seem to be relying on their defensive solidity and waiting for their attack to find its rhythm, if that happens, the Nerazzurri will be a much more feared opponent and the “Scudetto Inter” labels might not be the sarcastic jibe they’ve become of late.

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Have your say...
THIS Juve will not win the league this year. The Juve of last year maybe - as they had more leaders on the pitch - Vidal, Tevez, Pirlo, Buffon and Bonnucci. This year, they only have Buffon and Bonnucci. Big squad but not the RIGHT squad. Maybe (a big maybe) next year!!
on the 29th September, 2015 at 11:09am
With such a small squad, it's unlikely that Fiorentina will be able to sustain a realistic title challenge. Their best bet is to focus on winning Europa to get into CL. Juve will come back, but 10 points behind Inter already is a lot. They have to win the upcoming game at the San Siro to get back into the mix. Inter, even with the Fiorentina defeat are contenders but I've always felt even after their start that the title was a step too far. They need more creativity in the middle.
on the 29th September, 2015 at 8:43am
Oh okay, waiting for the second part :) .
on the 28th September, 2015 at 11:38pm
I know Roma is not the most likely team to win the Scudetto but counting Fiorentina as a contender and leaving them out is pretty ridiculous.
on the 28th September, 2015 at 11:37pm
hernanes was a awful buy truely shocking,hes no defensive midfielder thats for sure but allegri plays him there juventus wont win anything this year especially if he plays a diamond with pogba out on the left,i have been impressed with napoli and fiorentina
on the 28th September, 2015 at 10:44pm
All this talk about a "favorable schedule" is pretty STUPID after just 6 weeks. Show me a team that has had to play 6 teams fighting for the title or for a European spot for the season thus far. Everyone has played teams that on paper are better and worse than them. Whether they win the match or not has noting to do with the schedule!!!
on the 28th September, 2015 at 8:21pm
Hope Napoli is in part 2 as they and Roma look good so far and will probably have a good run too
on the 28th September, 2015 at 3:26pm
I doubt if Juve can mount a serious title challenge this year. Unlike previous years, when Juve was the strongest team in the league by far, a lot of the teams have improved by a great margin. So, when Juve eventually does start collecting points - the other teams will be too far ahead. Additionally, Juve does not look have the right blend of players this year. Hernannes was a big big mistake - almost a desperate signing. under Conte he would have gone by now. Just like Lucio was shipped out.
on the 28th September, 2015 at 1:45pm
@anonymous

I imagine Napoli will be in Part 2...
on the 28th September, 2015 at 1:44pm
how about Napoli, they surely have the best attack there is entire Serie A
with even an average sane-minded defenders, they can theoretically roll over teams week in, week out
on the 28th September, 2015 at 1:29pm
Fiorentina have not had difficult fixtures and have had luck. They lost at home to Basel. Luck or lack of it is important in football. It should be an interesting season.
on the 28th September, 2015 at 1:21pm

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