“Obviously there is only one team that win will the Scudetto and they will do so with a few rounds to spare,” said Dario Castaldo. His colleagues generally concur.
“You can’t go past Juventus because they have won the last five in a row and this season their side will be even stronger with the acquisition of Higuain,” said Marco Lucchi.
The forgone conclusion theory of Juventus is also the opinion of well-known broadcaster Domenico Gentile, but he would love a Leicester City-type team to emerge and win the Scudetto as a breath of fresh air for the competition.
“It would be nice for say newly promoted Crotone or someone like that to win the Scudetto like Leicester did last season in England,” he said. “However, that’s almost impossible in Italy given the vast economic advantages that some teams have over others and, therefore, it will be Juventus again as they chase a record sixth consecutive title with a strengthened side.”
If the unexpected did occur to the grand Old Lady of Italian football, then which other teams would appear on the radar? The general consensus is that Roma and Napoli are in the mix.
“Roma will probably finish second because they have done well since coach Luciano Spalletti returned midway through last season,” said Lucchi.
Even though Spalletti had his fair share of public jostling with Francesco Totti last season, he doesn’t see Totti as an unsettling influence on the team. “No because he will only play in some games and most likely in the last half hour or so,” he said. “Even though he is old and weary, he is still valuable to Roma and can change the face of matches when he comes on.”
“With Napoli though it really depends on who they buy or how wisely they spend the money they have received for Higuain.”
The enigma of Napoli was a theme picked up by both Dario Castaldo and Domenico Gentile as well. “Napoli may get close to Juventus as they played really well last season under Maurizio Sarri,” Castaldo said, while Gentile mainly agreed but threw Lazio into the mix.
“Napoli, Roma and Lazio could all have good seasons but they are not as consistent as Juventus and are just as likely to lose to the smaller teams,” he said.
The Serie A is definitely lamenting the downfall of both of the Milan teams. Rarely has there been a period of time when neither Inter nor AC Milan are considered as genuine title threats.
“They are both rebuilding and Roberto Mancini may even walk away from Inter,” said Lucchi, a former journalist for Italy’s prestigious RAI network. “They haven’t bought well at all and they need some reinforcements.”
His colleague Domenico Gentile agreed. “Inter and AC Milan are both in trouble and are a long way from their glory days,” he said. “AC Milan need to be introspective and look at their own management, while Inter may even lose their coach soon.”
However, a slightly dissenting view was presented by Dario Castaldo on Inter but not on neighbours AC Milan. “Inter may overtake either Napoli or Roma but not both,” he said. “Mancini as a coach has always performed well when he has had good players, but he is yet to prove himself when the quality at his disposal is somewhat more questionable.
“AC Milan on the other hand lack quality. There are no young and dynamic players in their squad and their precarious ownership situation really leaves them in a holding pattern.”
From teams to players, who are the stars of the coming Serie A season that fans should keep an eye on? Long gone are the days of Maradona, Baggio, Platini, Maldini, Van Basten et al. but there is still a lot of quality present in one of Europe’s iconic leagues.
“Marko Pjaca played well at the Euros for Croatia and he will be interesting to see in Juventus colours,” said Castaldo who has also been part of The World Game podcasts. “Kevin Strootman if he can stay injury free at Roma and Ivan Perisic at Inter are both worth watching”.
“I also expect Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli and Ciro Immobile of Lazio to have good seasons,” he stated. “Immobile is really the only player that Lazio has of a certain quality and I expect the team to provide him with some good service.”
Gonzalo Higuain is natural drawcard for any team and he is highly regarded by all followers of the Serie A. “I expect Juventus to really fire with the Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Higuain combination,” said Gentile. “They should do well both domestically and in the Champions League. I also think that Leonardo Bonucci will have a stellar season. Now that Manchester United have shown interest – and even if he doesn’t go – he will want to keep himself in the forefront of the minds of Europe’s biggest clubs including not just Manchester United, but also Barcelona and Real Madrid.”
Sassuolo’s star Domenico Berardi, even though he was left out of Italy’s EURO 2016 campaign, is also highly rated. “To think that Sassuolo is a little place which is only as big as say Katoomba, yet they are very competitive in the Serie A with one of Italy’s best players in their side,” Lucchi said.
Dario Castaldo agreed: “Berardi is no longer an unknown quantity and even though virtually every other team wanted him, he remained loyal to Sassuolo.”
Moroccan Medhi Benatia is another Juventus player that could potentially turn heads at the Old Lady. “He did so well at Bayern Munich and was always one of the first players picked there,” Marco Lucchi said. “I was really impressed that he spoke Italian at his first press conference which indicates how seriously he is going to take his Italian adventure.”
SBS Radio Italian has for over 40 years provided coverage of Italy’s Serie A and it’s a task that the team of presenters will once again cherish with great enthusiasm. What in particular are they looking forward to? The three T’s: Torino, tactics and travel are their ripostes.
“Torino FC is a club that has always been on the unlucky side of Turin but I expect them to be in Europa League contention under the guidance of coach Sinisa Mihajlovic who has taken over from newly appointed Italy boss Giampiero Ventura,” Dario Castaldo said.
“For me, the Serie A is still the best tactical league in the world and every game is a quality game of chess,” said Marco Lucchi. “Some might not see it as exciting as the EPL, but that misses the point because just look at how England performed at the recent EURO 2016.”
For Domenico Gentile it’s the travel that could take its toll on teams. “Depending on the draws but the top teams competing in Europe will have long distances to cover and fatigue may be a factor.
“Within ten days, a team may have to play four games: an away clash in Cagliari in Sardinia, then a midweek game in Moscow, then back on Sunday to Turin and then a midweek-round clash down in Calabria to face Crotone.”