The Serie A returns this weekend and, ahead of the new season, we’re highlighting five things for fans to look out for, offering pre-season betting tips.
Can new-look Napoli retain their title?
2023 will always be the year Napoli finally ended their long wait to become Italian champions.
Before this, I Partenopei’s two Scudettos had both come during Diego Maradona’s time in Naples, in 1987 and 1990, but Luciano Spalletti’s team made their own history.
Half way through last season, Napoli had a ridiculous 50 points on the board, out of a possible 59, with their Friday night 5-1 demolition of Juventus on 13 January feeling like coronation night.
Gli Azzurri’s form did dip towards the end, but a 1-1 draw with Udinese on 4 May, Victor Osimhen with an equaliser, ending their 33-year wait to be champions again, sparking wild celebrations all across the city.
Napoli became the fourth different Serie A champions in four years, a rarity in any major league in modern times.
So, can I Partenopei now retain their title?
Well, the summer didn’t get off to the best start, with manager Luciano Spalletti resigning, following a falling out over his salary with owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.
They’ve also sold talismanic centre-back Kim Min-jae to Bayern Munich for €50 million, just 12 months after buying the Korean defender for €18 million from Fenerbahçe.
But, the mass-exodus many feared has not materialised, with Kim the only notable departure, while both Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen remain at the club which, for now, is unlikely to change.
22 year old Natan, who’s come in from Red Bull Bragantino, will aim to fill Kim’s rather large void at the back.
The new man in charge is what’s concerning some observes, with Rudi Garcia appointed soon after Spalletti’s departures was confirmed.
He won the league and cup double in charge of Lille in 2011, but has enjoyed mixed spells in charge of Roma, Marseille, Lyon and Al-Nassr since his peak way back when.
Napoli are expected to be strong again, but it would be a minor-miracle if they retained the Scudetto.
Who’s most likely to claim the Scudetto?
Back in May, Serie A was firmly in the spotlight aygain courtesy of a Derby della Madonnina Champions League semi-final, which Inter won comfortably.
So, which one of Milan’s two massive clubs is better places to win a 20th Scudetto, as both chase a second star on their crest?
Inter did end their 11-year wait for a league title in 2021 with Antonio Conte, before winning two Coppas, two Supercoppas and reached the Champions League Final in two seasons under Simone Inzaghi.
I Nerazzurri competed well with Manchester City at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı in June, ultimately beaten 1-0.
This summer, Inter have brought in Marcus Thuram, Yann Sommer, Francesco Acerbi, Kristjan Asllani and Juan Cuadrado, while André Onana, Milan Škriniar, Marcelo Brozović and Edin Džeko are the noteworthy departures.
Thus, many are making them pre-season title favourites.
What about A.C. Milan? They’ve been champions more recently of course, picking up their first Scudetto for 11 years in 2022
Stefano Pioli, the man who delivered that triumph, remains in situ, and I Rossoneri have been busy in the transfer window.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Yunus Musah and Tijjani Reijnders will bolster midfield options, while Samu Chukwueze, Christian Pulisic and Noah Okafor could feature in a new-look forward line.
Il Diavolo have funded this spending by selling Sandro Tonali to Newcastle for €70 million, with Zlatan Ibrahimović retiring, but Milan’s squad does look in good shape ahead of the new season.
Will Juventus rise again?
Between 2012 and 2020, Juventus won nine consecutive Scudettos, no team had more than three in-a-row before this, but the days when they monopolised silverware feel a long time ago now.
Last season, la Vecchia Signora’s season was dominated by one talking point; point deductions.
Initially, Juve were docked 15 points for ‘capital gain violations’, a deduction that was whipped before, ultimately, they settled for a ten-point deduction, following months and months of court-cases.
As a result, Massimiliano Allegri’s men end up seventh but, if those ten points had not been taken away, they would’ve come above Roma, Atalanta and A.C. Milan, thereby sitting in fourth.
This all mattered not because, over the summer, UEFA confirmed I Bianconeri would be banned from European competitions for one season, with Fiorentina thereby taking their spot in the Europa Conference League.
To say Juventus aren’t too bothered about not being eligible for Europe’s third-tier tournament would be an understatement, very much encouraging UEFA to ban them for this forthcoming season.
So now, with no European football to distract them, it’s full focus on Serie A, with Juve desperate to get back into the Champions League.
Juve have not been particularly busy in the transfer market so far, with both Juan Cuadrado and Ángel Di María leaving on frees, while Tim Weah, costing €11 million, is the only new arrival.
There is still plenty of quality in this squad, so they can certainly challenge for a top four spot.
The last word of the Juventus section must go to Paul Pogba, who saw just 161 minutes of action last season due to multiple injuries, so can he stay fit and be a key contributor this time round?
Juventus to finish in Serie A's top four- 8/15!
Back Juventus to get back into the Champions League at 8/15!
Which Rome team will claim capital city bragging rights?
For Serie A to have a fifth different champions in five seasons, this would surely require one of Rome’s giants to end their respective long waits for the Scudetto, which does seem unlikely.
Roma, once again, failed to get back into the Champions League last season, finishing sixth having put all their eggs in the Europa League basket.
I Giallorossi knocked out RB Salzburg, Real Sociedad, Feyenoord and Leverkusen, but came a cropper to the Europa League kings in the final, beaten on penalties by Sevilla at Puskás Aréna, following a 1-1 draw.
Despite much speculation, and approaches from two Saudi clubs, José Mourinho remains in charge in the Eternal City, but we’ve all seen the script for third season Mourinho plenty of times before haven’t we?
Spoiler alert Roma fans: it doesn’t tend to go well!
Lazio meanwhile will be back in the Champions League next month, after Maurizio Sarri’s side, very impressively, finishing second last season, the club’s highest finish since last winning the title in 2000.
I Biancocelesti have sold star midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić to Al-Hilal, but have spent that €40 million to recruit Taty Castellanos, Matteo Cancellieri, Gustav Isaksen and Daichi Kamada.
So, of the two Derby della Capitale clubs, Lazio, right now, look better placed to challenge for the top four once again.
How many newly-promoted clubs will stay up?
Sampdoria and Cremonese were automatically relegated from Serie A last season, while Spezia joined them in the second-tier, beaten 3-1 by Hellas Verona in a hotly-anticipated relegation play-off back in June.
Coming up are Frosinone, Cagliari and Genoa, the latter’s promotion made all the sweeter by the fact that their fierce rivals Samp have gone done, although this does deny us two Derby della Lanterna fixtures.
All three are familiar faces to fans of Calcio, so a hotly-contested relegation battle should be in prospect.