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Tuesday September 29 2015
Sizing up the Contenders - Part Two

In the second part of his look at this season’s Scudetto contenders, Mohamed Nassar gives his verdict on Milan, Napoli and Roma.

Milan

In February of this year, Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi said that he wanted to build a young and Italian Milan. Over the summer the club has gone a long way in making this vision come true. With at least five Italian players starting every Serie A match this season, Milan is by far the most Italian team on this list. Berlusconi also brought in Sinisa Mihajlovic as Coach, a very controversial move due to the Serb’s strong links with Inter as a player and an assistant. However, what Miha brings to the table is a ruthlessness of character and an uncompromising dedication to the cause. He’s never afraid to tell it like he sees it and will not accept anything but full commitment from his players at all times.

Milan have had a rocky start to the season. Losses to Fiorentina, Inter and Genoa were painful, while victories against Empoli and Udinese were shaky, however, the squad is developing and they have plenty of strong players that can eventually make a difference. Unlike their city cousins, Milan’s attack has been the brightest spot so far, newcomers Luiz Adriano and Carlos Bacca have been very impressive with their energy and dynamism, while Mario Balotelli - who may find a real mentor in Mihajlovic - can be a world class threat in front of goal if he can find his form. Where Milan seem to be found lacking is in the midfield. Since Andrea Pirlo’s departure to Juventus five years ago, Milan have struggled to balance defence with attack, resulting in various incarnations of a side that can’t seem to find its identity or character. Riccardo Montolivo has struggled to emulate his early career form, while newcomer Juraj Kucka seems to be more of an enforcer than a regista. Milan faithful hope that once Andrea Bertolacci finds his groove in Rossonero he becomes the link they’ve been so desperately missing.

Milan seem to be going through their own “year zero” this season, so a real title challenge might be premature, however, along with Inter, they are the only side with no European commitments this season, so a finish near the top may not be so far-fetched.

Napoli

After Rafa Benitez’s disappointing 5th place exit from the club, owner Aurelio De Laurentis appointed city “boy” Maurizio Sarri as Coach. The appointment raised more than a few eyebrows, as the club was expected to hire a higher profile name more in line with its ambitions. The Partenopei’s start to the season has been a roller-coaster ride, high profile wins against Juventus, Lazio and Brugge are difficult to reconcile with lacklustre draws with lowly Carpi and Empoli.

Napoli have had a relatively subdued summer mercato, where the highest profile incomers were Allan and Mirko Valdifiori in midfield, meaning that they’re the side with potentially the least player integration headaches amongst the contenders. Sarri has at his disposal one of the league’s most prolific front lines which is composed of players who have shared the same dressing room for at least two seasons.

It is difficult to see where Napoli will end up this season, what is certain is that there’s no lack of talent in their squad, if the President’s Sarri gamble proves correct, the sky is the limit for the Azzurri. However, if results don’t start to come quick, the irritable club owner may be tempted to change manager mid-season, a move that would probably end the Vesuviani’s title hopes.

Roma

The Romans are chomping at the bit to get their season going. The club hierarchy knows that this season may prove to be their best chance at winning the elusive Scudetto, largely due to Juventus’s season of upheaval and potential turmoil. Having kept faith in Coach Rudi Garcia, the club’s management has gone on to have one of the continent’s busiest summer transfer markets. Edin Dzeko, Iago Falque and Mohammed Salah have been brought in to bolster their under-performing attack, while Lucas Digne, Antonio Rudiger and Norbert Gyomber to provide quality and depth in defence. Roma continue to have one of the league’s most impressive midfields which can only get better if Kevin Strootman makes a recovery from his knee injury.

As one of the Serie A’s two remaining Champions League representatives, one can’t ignore the fact that their European commitments will probably take their toll on the squad. However, if Roma’s owners are indeed as ambitious as they claim to be, competing comprehensively on two fronts is a prerequisite for all good continental sides.

Over the past two seasons, Roma have acquired a reputation of being chokers. Last season they sat just three points behind leaders Juve at the end of the year, only to finish seventeen points behind them, having bizarrely drawn or lost fourteen games in 2015. If Roma are indeed to realise their dream of a Scudetto, they absolutely must become able to win ugly and collect points in unfavourable conditions, the onus here lies on Garcia who clearly needs to work on the team’s spirit and mentality. Roma’s core includes players such as Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan, and Alessandro Florenzi none of whom can ever be criticised for lacking passion, it is this tough gritty spirit that Garcia must harness and transmit to the rest of the squad if the Lupi are to fulfil their potential.

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Have your say...
@Godman don't get me started about Udinese. It seems that their owners are anti Italian as they only use Di Natale on a regular basis. Funny that they don't do the same with Watford or Granada where they retain a base from the home country. Maybe it's a blessing that they never qualified as they would simply use the money to continue promoting foreign players in Udine. Just imagine Scuffet is now sitting on the bench.
on the 1st October, 2015 at 5:41pm
Agree with Mil_Int about Roma and Napoli letting Italy down in Europe. They seem to let their inexperience show and end up losing games that they should be winning in order to progress. It doesn't help either when teams like Lazio, Napoli and Udinese qualify but get knocked out in the playoffs. One thing you have to give Milan and Inter credit for, they usually get through the CL qualifiers and group stages - although rankings and seeding might have played a part
on the 1st October, 2015 at 7:20am
So lazio doesnt even make the list after a 3rd place finish and the best play in Serie A for the entire second half of season? Nice list bro!
on the 30th September, 2015 at 4:37pm
Fino alla fine!
on the 30th September, 2015 at 3:45pm
@Savonarota

If your last prediction comes true, you can have a drink on me.
on the 30th September, 2015 at 9:39am
Napoli or Roma to win league with Juve 3rd or 4th. Outside bet on fiorentina although squad not good enough to compensate for in juries and suspen.sions. Milan will not even get Europa league and Inter to finish maybe 6th. Torino could be the surprise this year
on the 30th September, 2015 at 8:59am
But can someone please do something about the disgraceful number of transfers each transfer window. They are ruining the game and the competitiveness of Serie A. Quantity over quality every single time.
on the 30th September, 2015 at 12:27am
In total there were 4,358 transfers in Italy this summer. In Spain there were 3,078 transfers and England there were 2,545. In contrast to Juve's 9, Barcelona only added 3 players to the first team. All of this means that it's a bit of lottery who will win the league this year. All of the teams have had such overhauls that it will take months for the teams to find any kind of consistency. Whichever team does has the best chance. I have a bad feeling about Inter. I would take 3rd place with Milan
on the 30th September, 2015 at 12:26am
Not writing off Juve but Allegri is showing what went wrong with his Milan. He likes to make a lot of changes to the squad. Some like replacing Pirlo, Vidal and Tevez were of course forced on him but all in all Juve added about 9 players and sold about 9 players (it's actually hard to work out with all of the loan signings to-ing and fro-ing) but the point is Juve made approx 18 changes to the first team squad. Way too many and they're struggling as a result.
on the 30th September, 2015 at 12:15am
Hopefully Roma does not make it to the CL places. Down 3-1 to Bate right now. Them and Napoli always let Italy down when it matters most. With Chelsea and Arsenal losing we could have used the coefficient points badly.
on the 29th September, 2015 at 9:29pm
The problem is we live in present, but the title will be decided in the future. So, when you have to predict you have to count all the elements. I do believe juventas will be able to save the season by getting cl spot. And that makes ac milan, fiorentina out of list. Inter's season is most difficult to predict as for now. Anything can happen for them- champions, cl spot, even out of cl spot. Roma is the only guaranteed team to finish in cl spot. For napoli they should go on by the saying " Sky Is The Limit ".
on the 29th September, 2015 at 6:27pm
Milan and Napoli certainly have the best attacking lineups but both teams have issues in defence that will prevent them from mounting a sustained title challenge. Roma are the favourites in my opinion. They've got a very good balance between attack and defence, haven't made wholesale changes to their defence and midfield, and even though their attack has changed, the forwards are more creative and clinical than what they had last season. Whatever happens this should make for an exciting season.
on the 29th September, 2015 at 5:35pm
It's an exciting year for Serie A. My personal views are as follows:

Juventus: the loss of Tevez, Pirlo, and Vidal are to hard to overcome.

Roma: Squad still not deep enough to compete on two fronts

AC Milan: shaky defense and inexperience will see them reach 3rd at best

Napoli: Best strike force in serie a without a doubt, they are one solid CB from being true title contenders.

Inter: Will win serie a this year, good balance of youth and experience
on the 29th September, 2015 at 4:15pm
In Sinisa i believe...
on the 29th September, 2015 at 2:44pm

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