Europe's Most Open Title Race

 Serie A Preview

It’s time to lay to rest one of football’s biggest myths. “Italian football is boring.” Four different title winners in the last four seasons suggests otherwise. No other top European league can boast that kind of competition. Whilst Serie A had three European finalists but no champion, we were given the opportunity to see the Champions, Napoli, tear apart both Ajax and Liverpool in the group stage in devastating fashion. We saw Inter Milan push Man City all the way and on any other night would have won in Istanbul. The competition in Italy has never been so intense. As Fabio Capello proclaimed in the spring: “Calcio is back”.


 Napoli

There’s nowhere else to start this preview other than with the champions, Napoli. The perennial “nearly guys” of Italy finally broke their hoodoo last season and did so in spectacular fashion, guided by the charismatic Luciano Spalletti. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, playfully nicknamed “Kravadona” by the Napoli faithful, was electric on the left, scoring 14 goals and providing another 17 for his teammates. One of those beneficiaries, Victor Osimhen stayed injury free for the season and hit 31 goals in 39 games. With key players in their squad approaching their primes, Napoli look set for a prolonged stay at the top of Italian football. The only issue I see derailing that prospect, is the departure of head-coach Luciano Spalletti this summer. His resignation came as a shock however Italians are excited about his appointment as the Italy coach. His replacement, Rudi Garcia, is an underwhelming choice and it’s hard to imagine Napoli will play with the same vigour this season. Garcia is, at least, a steady pair of hands and perhaps not seeking to change too much, will be his best bet.


 The Milan Sides

As far as challengers go, Milan is a city with two hopefuls. Champions League runners up, Inter Milan, will look to go one step further as Simone Inzaghi seeks to lift a first league title. Being a “cup manager” potentially saved Inzaghi his job last season as mid-par league performances were masked by success in the Coppa Italia and more significantly, the Champions League. Inter have lost some key players though, namely Onana, Brozovic, Skriniar and Dzeko. Summer signings have been steady without being sensational and with that Inter look slightly weaker on paper than they did last season.

On the red and black half of the San Siro, AC Milan have become stronger this summer. Being over reliant on Rafael Leao for an attacking threat last season, the Rossoneri have sought to address that. Attackers such as Noah Okafor from Salzburg, Christian Pulisic and Samuel Chukwueze have been brought in. An attacking trio of Leao, Pulisic and Chukwueze behind the fine wine, that is Olivier Giroud, is a frightening prospect for the rest of Serie A. Head-coach Pioli guided this team to the title in 2022 and will be eager to repeat that success this season.


 Dark Horses

And now is the time to introduce you to a couple of dark horses. Then again, is it possible to label Juventus as a dark horse? Really? The Old Lady’s grip on Serie A was wrestled from her in 2021 ending a nine-year stranglehold on the league. Last season Juventus were plagued with off the field issues, culminating in the entire board of directors resigning and a 15 point deduction. Juventus were in 2nd place at one point last season and the feeling on the field is that the pain of the last few years had been easing. Barring another off-field scandal (which never seem to be too far away), the skies ahead look a lot clearer and without European football, Juventus are certainly in the mix.

From a fallen giant to a real success story in Atalanta. They’ve been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Serie A for a few years, punching above their weight in style. Their daring 1v1 brand of football, isolating defenders one on one when attacking and marking man to man when defending is risky but greatly rewarding and fabulous to watch. Their star has risen so much that their 5th place finish last season seemed a little underwhelming. Having recruited well this summer, particularly up front, Atalanta are one to watch for the top four. Beyond that? Who knows.


 Rome Hopefuls

The final two supporting acts to this star-studded cast are both in Rome. Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio have gone under the radar around Europe, and even in this blog post, having finished 2nd last season. Finishing above Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus and their Rome counterparts is no mean feat and Lazio may feel they are in the conversation for the title. Their summer has been relatively quiet, bringing in younger players for low fees and free transfers, although they have lost midfield lynch-pin Milinkovic-Savic which is a blow.

Across the city and it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows for Roma and Jose Mourinho this summer. Their talisman, Tammy Abraham, injured his ACL in Roma’s last league match and is expected to be out for the next 4 months at least. Roma’s replacement? Well, they don’t have one. Mourinho making that point as he hugged an “imaginary striker” for a photo in what was an obvious hint to the Roma bosses. It’s not like Mourinho to moan though, is it? Roma have made several good additions for low fees including Paredes and Sanches joining from PSG on a permanent basis and loan deal respectively. Evan Ndicka and Houssem Aouar join on free transfers and look exceptional deals given the high ceiling of both players.  With star-man Paulo Dybala still at the club, Roma will hope to match their sixth place finish and sneak into the Champions League spots.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, I’ve written about seven teams and could make a case for all of them to finish in the four champions league places. Arguably there are four teams you’d probably not look past for the title but it wouldn’t be a huge shock, an incredible achievement nevertheless, for a team like Roma to win the league. Napoli weren’t anyone’s favourites this time last year so who knows? I have to pick one though, and I’ll pick Napoli to win what is set to be Europe’s most open title race.

1st – Napoli

2nd – Ac Milan

3rd – Juventus

4th – Inter Milan


Top scorer: Victor Osimhen

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