Serie A Season Preview: Juventus, Napoli, Roma all to fight for title

Serie A Season Preview: Juventus, Napoli, Roma all to fight for title

European Soccer

Serie A Season Preview: Juventus, Napoli, Roma all to fight for title

Juventus return to Serie A as the defending champions for the seventh straight year. So what did they do in the summer transfer window? Only add arguably the best player on the planet.

Obviously Juve enter the 2018/19 campaign as the heavy favorites to win Italy’s top flight league once again. Will any team be able to finally end their dynastic reign? Roma and Napoli have traded second and third places over each of the past three seasons, and once again they’ll both look to challenge Juve for the top spot. Napoli may have the better chance of the two, as they finished just four points behind the Bianconeri in the final table.

Inter, Lazio, and AC Milan round out the top six from last season and will look to improve upon their table position this year. Empoli, Parma, and Frosinone earned promotion to Serie A and will battle to remain in the league.

Here is SBI’s full 2018/19 season preview for Italy’s Serie A:

Atalanta

Transfers In: Davide Bettella, Marco Tumminello, Marco Carraro, Pierluigi Gollini, Arkadiusz Reca, Matteo Salvi, Simone Emmanuello.

Transfers Out: Jasmin Kurtic, Bryan Cristante (loan), Alberto Paloschi, Giuseppe De Luca, Michele Messina, Davide Merelli, Stefano Cason, Antonio Palma, Akos Kecskes, Doudou Mangni, Michele Canini.

Player to Watch: Alejandro Gomez may be 30-years-old, but he’s one of the most crucial players on the field for Atalanta. The Argentinian played more than 2,700 minutes in 2017/18, scoring six times and earning 10 assists in league play. He’ll need to keep performing at that level if Atalanta want to jump into the top six.

Outlook: Atalanta will hope to get back to their 2016/17 form and push for a top four finish, but it will likely be out of reach. Although the Orobici have some talent, the league’s top teams will prove too much of a challenge over the course of the season, leaving Atalanta with another mid-table finish.

Bologna

Transfers In: Diego Falcinelli, Lukasz Skorupski, Federico Santander, Mattias Svanberg, Arturo Calabresi, Caio Vinicius Pirana, Mitchell Dijks, Felipe Avenatti.

Transfers Out: Simone Verdi, Federico Di Francesco, Adam Masina, Antonio Mirante, Deian Boldor, Filippo Falco, Vasilios Torosidis, Bruno Petkovic (loan), Filippo Perucchini, Cesar Falletti (loan).

Player to Watch: Bologna lost their top scorer Simone Verdi to Napoli, which means goals will have to come from elsewhere. Blerim Dzemaili returns to Bologna from his loan with the Montreal Impact after a good showing for Switzerland in the World Cup, and the forward will need to feed Mattia Destro and Rodrigo Palacio to make up for Verdi’s lost goals.

Outlook: It’s going to be a long season for new manager Filippo Inzaghi. Bologna has finished just above relegation each of the past two seasons, and will once again be fighting for their spot in Serie A. They may narrowly avoid it again, but it won’t be easy.

Cagliari

Transfers In: Leonardo Pavoletti, Lucas Castro, Darijo Srna, Simone Aresti.

Transfers Out: Bartosz Salamon, Luka Krajnc, Federico Melchiorri, Federico Serra, Nicholas Pennington, Nicola Manca, Illia Briukhov, Andrea Cossu, Gabriel Montaperto.

Player to Watch: Leonardo Pavoletti spent last year on loan with Cagliari, but he made his move from Napoli permanent ahead of this year. The 29-year-old striker was the only double-digit scorer for Cagliari last year, and he’ll need to duplicate his effort in 2018/19 to help side avoid relegation.

Outlook: Entering their fourth year back in Serie A, Cagliari has a relegation battle in front of them once again. A 16th place finish last season was barely enough to keep them in the top flight as they finished just four points above relegation.

Chievo

Transfers In: Federico Barba, Nenad Tomovic, Mariusz Stepinski, Joel Obi, Strahinja Tanasijevic, Michael Fabbro, Emanuele Giaccherini, Filip Djordjevic, Adrian Semper (loan).

Transfers Out: Lucas Castro, Samuel Bastien, Radoslav Kirilov, Dario Dainelli, Alessio Sestu, Massimo Gobbi, Fabrizio Danese, Bostjan Cesar, Alessandro Gamberini, Antonio Floro Flores, Lamin Jallow (loan).

Player to Watch: Chievo’s top scorer last season Roberto Inglese is no longer with the team after his loan from Napoli ended, which means the young Mariusz Stepinski will have an opportunity to step into the starting lineup and replace Inglese’s team-leading 12 goals after joining Chievo on a permanent move following a successful loan spell. The only question is can the 23-year-old Polish striker make that leap?

Outlook: Chievo was comfortably above relegation, but that’s about all that can be said for the team’s success last year. After losing their top scorer with no obvious replacement, they may struggle to even replicate their 13th place finish from last season.

Empoli

Transfers In: Antonino La Gumina, Samuel Mraz, Jacob Rasmussen, Lorenzo Lollo, Joel Untersee, Michal Marcjanik, Massimiliano Benucci, Luca Antonelli.

Transfers Out: Riccardo Saponara, Alfredo Donnarumma, Vincent Laurini.

Player to Watch: Antonino La Gumina had a great year at Palermo, scoring 12 times across all competitions to go along with three assists. He’ll join Francesco Caputo, Empoli’s top striker who scored 27 goals across all competitions last year. The 22-year-old will be motivated to show he can perform at the top level of Italian football.

Outlook: Empoli ran away with the Serie B championship last year, finishing a solid 13 points above second place Parma, despite a sub-par defense. A successful year for the Azzurri will be avoiding relegation, which will be difficult unless they can fix their defense. They likely won’t score nearly the 88 goals they did in Italy’s second division, so it will may be a long year for Empoli.

Fiorentina

Transfers In: German Pezzella, Riccardo Saponara, Alban Lafont, David Hancko, Federico Ceccherini, Cristiano Biraghi, Vincent Laurini, Dusan Vlahovic, Edimilson Fernandes (loan).

Transfers Out: Nikola Kalinic, Khouma Babacar, Bruno Gaspar, Carlos Sanchez, Nenad Tomovic, Ante Rebic, Edoardo Sarri, Marco Berardi, Milan Badelj, Andres Schetino (loan), Jaime Baez (loan).

Player to Watch: 23-year-old striker Giovanni Simeone had the best season of his career last year, netting 14 times in all competitions for Fiorentina. He’ll look to improve upon an already impressive season to cement his place as a top striker.

Outlook: Mid-table is probably where Fiorentina will wind up once again, but if things go right and young players like Simeone can continue to improve, Fiorentina could be a dark horse contender for a top six spot and a trip to Europe.

Frosinone

Transfers In: Andrea Beghetto, Francesco Bardi, Luka Krajnc, Raman Chibsah, Nicola Citro, Cristian Molinaro, Bartosz Salamon (loan), Rai Vloet (loan).

Transfers Out: Massimo Zappino, Alessandro Frara, Roberto Crivello, Moussa Kone.

Player to Watch: Daniel Ciofani may be nearing the end of his career, but he’s approaching “legend” status if such a thing exists for Frosinone. He was around for the Canaries first ever Serie A campaign in 2015/16. His leadership will be crucial as he tries to help his team avoid relegation.

Outlook: Things don’t look good for Frosinone. There was significant controversy surrounding their Serie B playoff win over Palermo, and fans of other teams would like to see relegation as a form of justice. The defense will be a bit of a concern against Italy’s best teams. The Canaries better enjoy their time in Serie A, because it might not last beyond this year.

Genoa

Transfers In: Gianluca Lapadula, Federico Valietti, Christian Kouame, Krzysztof Piatek, Sandro, Ervin Zukanovic, Federico Marchetti, Koray Gunter, Domenico Criscito, Lorenzo Callegari, Ivan Lakicevic, Romulo, Rok Vodisek, Luigi Carillo, Marcos Curado, Fallou Njie, Andrea Favilli.

Transfers Out: Mattia Perin, Armando Izzo, Andrea Beghetto, Leonardo Morosini, Francesco Migliore, Francesco Renzetti, Eugenio Lamanna, David Milinkovic, Loick Landre, Luca Rigoni, Giuseppe Panico, Falou Samb, Andrea Gull, Marcos Curado (loan), Petar Brelk (loan), Thomas Rodriguez (loan), Federico Valietti (loan).

Player to Watch: Lorenzo Callegari
never really got a chance to show what he had for Paris Saint-German. He joined Genoa on a free transfer over the summer in an effort to jump-start his career, and he could be a good young midfielder for Genoa if he’s able to find consistent minutes.

Outlook: Davide Ballardini returned to Genoa last year for his third spell as manager after the sacking of Ivan Juric. Ballardini was able to pull Genoa up into the mid-table, and with all the summer signings he’ll expect a top half finish for his side in 2018/19.

Inter Milan

Transfers In: Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez, Federico Dimarco, Stefan de Vrij, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sime Vrsaljko (loan), Keita Balde (loan).

Transfers Out: Geoffrey Kondogbia, Davide Santon, Federico Valietti, Davide Bettella, Eder, Jens Odgaard, Marco Carraro, Nicolo Zaniolo, Yuto Nagatomo, Francesco Bardi, Tommaso Equizi, Davide Costa, Filippo Sgarbi, Mattia Bonetto, Ze Turbo.

Player to Watch: Coming off a 29-goal performance, 25-year-old Argentinian forward Mauro Icardi is Inter’s marquee player. With all of the attacking talent around him, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Icardi to score more than 30 goals in all competitions.

Outlook: Inter returned to the top four in 2017/18, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they did it again. The 18-time Serie A champions are beginning to look like the Inter side of years past, and it would be disappointing if they didn’t secure a Champions League spot for the second year in a row.

Juventus

Transfers In: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo, Douglas Costa, Mattia Perin, Andrea Favilli, Giangiacomo Magnani, Emre Can, Leonardo Bonucci, Idrissa Toure (loan), Pablo Moreno, Simone Emmanuello.

Transfers Out: Tomas Rincon, Andres Tello, Nicola Leali, Joel Untersee, Kwadwo Asamoah, Gianluigi Buffon, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Pol Garcia, Vlad Marin, Timothy Nocchi, Nazzareno Belfasti, Alberto Gallinetta, Mattia Caldara, Gonzalo Higuain (loan), Stefano Beltrame (loan), Stefano Stauro (loan), Eric Lanini (loan), Andrea Favilli (loan), Oumar Toure (loan), Roger Tamba M’Pinda (loan), Laurentiu Branescu (loan).

Player to Watch: Yes, all eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo as he makes his debut for the Bianconeri. Ronaldo will perform at a high level as usual. The player under the most pressure may be Wojciech Szczesny, Juve’s new No. 1 keeper to replace legend Gianlugi Buffon, who spent 18 years between the sticks in Turin.

Outlook: Anything short of another Serie A title will be a disappointment without question. At this point it almost seems a lost cause to think any team aside from Juve will win the league, so the real question is can Ronaldo bring the club’s third Champions League trophy to Turin?

Lazio

Transfers In: Francesco Acerbi, Valon Berisha, Riza Durmisi, Mattia Sprocati, Silvio Proto.

Transfers Out: Felipe Anderson, Federico Marchetti, Stefan de Vrij, Francesco Orlando, Filip Djordjevic, Franjo Prce, Luca Borrell.

Player to Watch: Striker Ciro Immobile found the net 41 times across all competitions last season, 29 of which were during Serie A play, which tied for most in the league. The 28-year-old Italian will once again be a force to be reckoned with at the top of Lazio’s XI.

Outlook: Lazio finished level on points with Inter last season but finished just outside the top four in fifth place. If they can improve their defense even just a bit, the league’s top scoring team last year will be in good place to finish in the top four and earn a Champions League spot.

AC Milan

Transfers In: Mattia Caldara, Fabio Borini, Ivan Strinic, Pepe Reina, Alen Halilovic, Gonzalo Higuain (loan), Tiemoue Bakayoko.

Transfers Out: M’Baye Niang, Gianluca Lapadula, Gianmarco Zigoni, Niccolo Zanellato, Hachim Mastour, Marco Storari, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva (loan), Luca Antonelli, Nikola Kalinic, Manuel Locatelli.

Player to Watch: Gonzalo Higuain joins Milan on loan as a result of Ronaldo joining Juve. Higuain brings 16 goals and six assists along with him from last season’s league play, and he may be out to prove that he’s still got goals in him after being replaced by the reigning Ballon d’Or winner.

Outlook: Milan barely made it into the top four last year and will want to secure their Champions League place without question. The addition of a proven goalscorer like Higuain to go alongside 20-year-old Patrick Cutrone will make Milan’s attack one to be feared, which may be enough to solidify a top four finish.

Napoli

Transfers In: Fabian Ruiz, Simone Verdi, Alex Meret, Vinicius Morais, Orestis Karnezis, Amin Younes, Amato Ciciretti.

Transfers Out: Jorginho, Duvan Zapata, Jacopo Dezi, Pepe Reina, Christian Maggio, Emanuele Giaccherini, Antonio Granata, Rafael, Hrvoje Milic, Roberto Inglese, Alberto Grassi.

Player to Watch: Dries Mertens may be the leading goalscorer for Napoli now, but it’s Marek Hamsik who is the key to Napoli’s attack. The club’s all-time leading scorer is the link to the frontline and will be the one assisting the three-headed attack of Mertens, Callejon, and Insigne.

Outlook: Napoli will look to challenge Juventus in their first year under Carlo Ancelotti. The goal is a lofty one, but the Blues finished only four points off Juve last year and will hope to finally overtake them in 2018/19. A second place finish will once again leave a bitter taste in their mouths.

Parma

Transfers In: Jacopo Dezi, Fabio Ceravolo, Leo Stulac, Riccardo Gagliolo, Bruno Alves, Cristian Cauz, Matteo Brunori Sandri, Emmanuele Matino, Francesco Golfo, Massimo Gobbi, Luca Rigoni, Giuseppe Carriero, Roberto Inglese (loan), Alberto Grassi (loan).

Transfers Out: Pasquale Mazzocchi, Alessandro Lucarelli, Kristaps Zommers (loan), Manuel Nocciolini (loan), Stefano Scognamillo (loan), Andrea Dini (loan), Marco Frediani (loan).

Player to Watch: With leading goalscorer Emanuele Calaio banned from soccer until January due to a match-fixing scandal, 21-year-old striker Alessio Da Cruz may have a chance to step into the lineup and show his worth.

Outlook: Parma steadily worked its way back up to Serie A since it’s “rebirth” in Serie D in 2015, so now the tough part will be staying there. It’s certainly doable for Parma, who could find themselves somewhere in the lower-mid table come the season’s end.

Roma

Transfers In: Steven Nzonzi, Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert (Ajax, 17.25m euros), Gregoire Defrel, Davide Santon, Patrik Schick, Robin Olsen, William Bianda, Ante Coric, Nicolo Zaniolo, Antonio Mirante, Daniel Fuzato , Ivan Marcano.

Transfers Out: Radja Nainggolan, Lukasz Skorupski, Juan Iturbe, Marco Tumminello, Ervin Zukanovic, Jose Machin, Arturo Calabresi, Nicola Falasco, Giammario Piscitella, Kevin Mendez, Bogdan Lobont, Ismail H’Maidat, Norbert Gyomber.

Player to Watch: The biggest loss for Roma was the departure of Nainggolan to Inter, leaving a gaping hole in Roma’s midfield. New signing Javier Pastore has a chance to step in and be a true playmaker in Nainggolan’s place. The former PSG man comes to Rome after eight years with the Ligue 1 giants, and he’ll immediately step into the starting XI for Roma.

Outlook: It’s probably a bit too much to ask for Roma to challenge Juventus, but they’ll certainly look to close last season’s 14-point gap between them and second place Napoli. Best case scenario is a second place finish and a spot in the Champions League.

Sampdoria

Transfers In: Duvan Zapata  Omar Colley, Vid Belec, Daouda Peeters, Ronado Viera, Gregoire Defrel ( loan), Albin Ekdal.

Transfers Out: Lucas Torreira, Patrik Schick, Emiliano Viviano, Ante Budimir, Ivan Strinic, Filip Djuricic, Ricardo Alvarez, Stanley Amuzie, Bambo Diaby, Leonardo Serinelli.

Player to Watch: How long can 35-year-old Fabio Quagliarella keep up his goal scoring form? The

Outlook: Best case scenario is probably challenging for Europe, although that will be quite the long shot. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them improve a bit on their 10th place finish from last year, but they may still be 2-3 years away from a top six finish.

Sassuolo

Transfers In: Federico Di Francesco, Khouma Babacar, Jens Odgaard, Mehdi Bourabia, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Filip Djuricic, Jeremie Boga, Manuel Locatelli.

Transfers Out: Gregoire Defrel, Matteo Politano (loan), Francesco Acerbi, Diego Falcinelli, Pietro Iemmello, Luca Antei, Jonathan Rossini, Andrea Mandelli, Davide Biondini.

Player to Watch: He’s been the star man for a while, but Domenico Berardi has the opportunity to cement himself as a true No. 1 who deserves the hype that’s been heaped on him in years past. With Politano and Acerbi’s departure, the young Italian will be the prime attacking man for Sassuolo and push for a look with the Italian National Team.

Outlook: Sassuolo will be a comfortable mid-table team. If everything breaks right, they might be able to crack the top 10, but the most likely out come is another middle-of-the-road season that sees them avoid relegation but still a ways off from Europe.

SPAL

Transfers In: Jasmin Kurtic, Alberto Paloschi, Federico Viviani, Andrea Petagna (loan), Bartosz Salamon, Alfred Gomis, Aron Katuma, Maurice Gomis, Salvatore Esposito, Ricardo Farcas.

Transfers Out: Michele Castagnetti, Boukary Drame, Gabriele Marchegiani, Marco Borriello, Bartosz Salamon, Michele Cremonesi.

Player to Watch: Mirco Antenucci may be the captain and top scorer for SPAL, but Andrea Petagna has an opportunity to step in and be a key contributer for SPAL. He joined on loan from Atalanta after lacking consistent minutes, and the 23-year-old will look to take the next step in his career and establish himself as a viable No. 1 striker.

Outlook: It’ll be another relegation battle in Ferrara. Simply surviving to live another year in Serie A will be a success for SPAL. Manager Leonardo Semplici has done a good job keeping them in Italy’s top flight for a few years in a row, and he’ll look to pull off a bit of magic once again this year.

Torino

Transfers In: Soualiho Meite, M’Baye Niang, Armando Izzo, Tomas Rincon, Bremer, Nicolas N’Koulou, Erick Ferigra, Antonio Rosati, Ola Aina.

Transfers Out: Antonio Barreca, Alfred Gomis, Alessio Benedetti, Cristian Molinaro, Federico Zenuni, Ador Gjuci, Giovanni Graziano, Matteo Tobaldo, Abou Diop, Nicolas Burdisso, Joel Obi, Andrea Zaccagno (loan).

Player to Watch: Star forward Andrea Belotti had a sub-par year for him, scoring only 10 goals in 2017/18. An early injury may have been part of the reason for his down year, but 2018/19 will look to be a bounce back year for the 24-year-old Italian.

Outlook: A top six finish would be the dream, but it seems a bit out of reach for this Torino side. They’ve been stuck in the mid-table for the past few years, and while last season saw a slight improvement over years past, it wasn’t enough to indicate Toro could push for a spot in Europe.

Udinese

Transfers In: Ignacio Pussetto, Felipe Vizeu, Juan Musso, Nicholas Opoku, Petar Micin, Hidde ter Avest, Darwin Machis, Rolando Mandragora.

Transfers Out: Alex Meret, Silvan Widmer, Orestis Karnezis, Albano Bizzarri, Igor Bubnjic, Maxi Lopez, Edenilson, Alexandre Coeff.

Player to Watch: 26-year-old Kevin Lasagna had a breakout year last year, scoring 14 goals in all competitions for Udinese. He’ll look to return to that form this year and once again be his team’s top scorer.

Outlook: Julio Velazquez takes the reigns as Udinese’s manager, and the 36-year-old Spaniard will hope to lead his team to push for a top ten finish. Last year was a disappointment as Udinese finished in 14th. Top ten may be ambitious, but the young coach may be able to inspire his team to overachieve just a bit.

Who’s your favorite to win Serie A this season? Which player are you most excited to watch? Which teams will be relegated to the second-tier? Can anyone stand in the way of Ronaldo and Juventus?

Share your thoughts below.

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