Title: Juventus appeal to be miles clear of the field in their bid for an eighth straight Scudetto and the singing of Cristiano Ronaldo confirms that they are now focusing on the Champions League. So superior are they, however, that they should have enough no matter where they focus their resources.
Top 4, Top 6: The addition of Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli brings fascinating potential, but the former Milan and Real Madrid coach is world renowned for good reason and has an awful lot to work with there, although he has focused on Europe at his previous clubs and that might be the case once again here. Napoli have done well to ‘only’ lose Jorginho and Pepe Reina from last season’s First XI, but it is hard to escape the idea that their best chance went last season. It remains to be seen how Ancelotti shapes the players left by Sarri.
Roma were miles adrift last season, although they did get to the Champions League semi-finals in what was a very good season. They have lost Radja Nainggolan and Alisson however, and whilst their director of football Monchi has worked miracles on many occasions, a lot rests on the shoulders of Javier Pastore, who has suffered a few injuries during his time at PSG.
They are both weaker than last season and Inter might be able to take advantage. They did not end last season well but they had kept pace with Juventus and Napoli through the first half of the season, going unbeaten until December with twelve wins and four draws. Their winter of discontent – they went nine games without a win – removed all their ambitions but Luciano Spaletti; has now upgraded his team after a strong window and they look ready to kick on.
The Nezzauri have added Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez, Sime Vrsaljko, Stefan de Vrij, Kwadwo Asamoah, Federico Dimarco, Matteo Politano, and Keita Balde to a side that managed to sneak into fourth last year and whilst those numbers ought to help them in terms of handling European football, they will look to try and challenge Juventus at home and can do so.
Lazio just lost out on European football in the last minute of the last day of last season and bar a couple of key departures – namely Stefan de Vrij to Inter and Felipe Anderson to West Ham – they have maintained the same core as last season and they ought to play a big part once again although they have lost two outstanding players.
Milan have more issues off field than a member of Love Island but Genaro Gattuso finally got the best out of a team that had been chronically underperforming last season and they were third in the table for the second half of the season, That was just a point behind Napoli and whilst there’s been a whole load of movers and shakers from the club, there’s plenty to like there.
There have been more changes once again as American hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation have now taken the club after the Eastern adventure of Yonghong Li’s ended up with him failing to pay his loans.
Gonzalo Higuain ought to prove more reliable than either Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic ended up being last season and he can prove to be a useful foil young forward Patrick Crotone, who earned sixth for Milan with his goals last season and also was the only forward in black and red to hit double figures.
Leonard Bonnuci leaves to go back to Juventus but aside from that there is a young squad that does have a strong defensive core now that the formation is a 4-3-3. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara and Davide Calabria all improved markedly in the second half of last season and should improve once again, allowing a more solid base for their midfield to work off.
In Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu ac Milan have players with enough quality to give Higuaín chances and Franck Kessie was incredibly durable last season in midfield. Should Milan manage to hit the ground running – and with Gattuso, there’s every reason to think that’ll be the case – then they can think about a serious Top 4 challenge and maybe more, although strength in depth could be a worry.
Advice: 2 pts Inter w/o Juventus (15/8 genreral), 1 pt AC Milan Top 4 Finish (4/5 Betfair)
Top Goalscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo scored 26-40-46-34-31-48-35-25 and 26 in his nine seasons with Real Madrid so it’s obvious that many people will be keen to take the 4/5. However, given Juve’s dogged pursuit of the Champions League is remains to be seen if he’s going to play every single game and there could be enough rotation to put such prospects at risk.
Mauro Icardi was the joint top scorer within 29 goals last season, the same as Ciro Immobile, and both should have another big season and set a high standard.
A lack of goals hit Milan hard last season, but Gonzalo Higuaín is not bereft of creative players in midfield to try and supply him and it’s possible that, being the sole focus of a side aiming for Europe, that he could improve on his 16-goal tally.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Mauro Icardi (13/2 general), 1 pt each/way Ciro Immobile (14/1 Paddy Power, Betfair), 1 pt each/way Gonzalo Higuain (10/1 Paddy Power)
Relegation: A number of sides have signed very well on paper after a huge relegation scrap last season – only five point separated 11th placed Saussolo to 17th placed Spal – and that could make life hard for Empoli, who won Serie B last season but went down the season before. They concede 49 goals in Serie B, a frightening defensive record, and manager: Aurelio Andreazzoli is preciously short on experience at this level with just 17 Serie A games.
Advice: 2 pts Empoli (9/4 general)