Tuesday, July 31, 2007

2007-2008 Serie A Preview

AC and I will be presenting our predictions on the teams that'll qualify for the UEFA Champions League this year, throughout the next few days. The shiny new optimism of the season last year led us to detail the EPL in far more depth than necessary. So, for brevity's sake, I'm keeping my choices to the top teams in each domestic league (at least the ones I watch on a regular basis).

Think we're brilliant, stupid, or just a waste of space? Let us know.

Serie A

The 2007-2008 season will begin on August 26. The schedule will be announced at 10:00 am PST from Rome.

1. Inter Milan - Given Inter's streak last year of 17 consecutive wins, it's hard for me to see anyone else besides Milan as close competition for the Scudetto. The addition of David Suazo from Cagliari, is really the only offensive acquisition the Nerazurri have made this off-season. They have, however loaded up a bit on defense and midfield, with Christian Chivu from Roma most notable. While I wasn't particularly enamored with Inter's play last year, it's hard to bet against the big-name squad.

2. AC Milan - Ah the beautiful, nostalgic wonder of all that is Milan football . . . I wanted Milan to win the Champions League Final, only because of my dislike for Liverpool, and they delivered. Alas, they have now become the Italian Scousers for me, not because of the obvious success in Europe, but the tremendous melodrama that follows not just an Italian win in the CL, but one by Mee-lahn. Cursive script on T-shirts, the combo of red and black, and the innocence of Kaka have been ruined for me. But I'll get on with why I'm betting against Milan. Yes, Kaka is a genius, Andrea Pirlo is the Maestro and Carlo Ancelotti will probably never pay for a meal in any Milan-leaning restaurant, but I don't see the consistency in approach that I see in Inter. There were moments of brilliance, like the display against Manchester United in last year's CL semis, but unimpressive performances as well. Any possible back line Ancelotti runs out is over 100 years, cumulatively, and that's with three at the back. While the eight-point deduction didn't help the Rossoneri, it's hard to overlook the 36 point gap between them and winners Inter. And with no potentially impactful players arriving (besides Kaka's little bro, Digao), Milan may need to make a big splash move before the window ends, or perhaps find a ref to pay off.

3. Roma - Much like Milan for me, this is an up and down team. At times last year, they looked entertaining, with good movement, and the attack of midfielder Mancini and captain Francesco Totti can open up holes in suspect defenses. Totti announced his retirement from the Azurri in July, and that may benefit his fitness to a certain extent. Add in midfielder Ludovic Giuly from Barca, and Juan from Bayer Leverkusen at the back and it's a decent haul for the Giallorossi, but not enough to vie for a top-two finish.

4. Juventus - The Old Lady of Turin could go either way for me this year. If Claudio Ranieri fulfills his previous reputation of a tinker man, he'll have to be fairly astute in his team selections. While it may work for Rafa Benetiz at Liverpool, constantly changing your lineup isn't something that lends well to team chemistry. However, I wouldn't compare Liverpool's squad to Juve's, so perhaps there won't be too many choices for the new gaffer. It's an uphill battle, despite a clean start, as Juve's promotion campaign last year was less than dominating, despite a reduction in their points deduction from 30 to 9. I guess I'm basing my choice of Juve to finish in 4th stems from the acquisitions they've made so far, including defender Jorge Andrade from Depor, midfielder Tiago from Lyon, and Vincenzo Iaquinta from Udinese. Oh, yeah, and the illegal payments that'll be made to referrees. At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised to see Juve in the UEFA Cup the following year.


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