Friday, 24 August 2007

Serie A 2007-08: Season Preview

Add one of the best defenders in Europe - Cristian Chivu - and a striker who scored 36 goals in the last two campaigns - David Suazo - to a squad which dominated Serie A last season and it does not take much to realise who are favourites to win the Scudetto when the new Italian season starts this weekend.

Fortunately football does not always follow logic, as Inter learned to their cost when Roma defeated them in the Italian SuperCoppa last Sunday.

Last season Roberto Mancini's side won the title with an Italian-record total of 97 points, while also setting new highs for consecutive wins (17), most wins (30), most away wins (15), and consecutive away wins (11). Second-placed Roma finished 22 points behind.

The Giallorossi may have been the only side to beat Inter in the league, as well as getting the better of them in the Coppa Italia final, but they were never serious contenders for the Scudetto.

Roma's success in head-to-heads against their rivals proved their starting XI was more or less at the same level as Inter's, but the Nerazzurri's larger squad made the difference in the long run. Roma took note and look to have reduced the gap this summer with signings Cicinho, Juan, Mauro Esposito, Ahmed Barusso and Ludovic Giuly, coupled with the return to full fitness of players such as Mirko Vucinic and Alberto Aquilani, who struggled with injuries last season.

"Roma believe in the Scudetto" declared Corriere dello Sport after the Giallorossi's Super Cup triumph. "The wind has changed this season," Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said, adding that his players are "now able to face the best team in Italy away with no kind of fear".

Inter should have a more difficult task than last season. European champions AC Milan do not have an eight-point deduction this time and as well as being bolstered by the arrival of Emerson, they will also have Massimo Oddo and Ronaldo available from the start, both having joined the Rossoneri midway through last term.

Moreover, Juventus are back in the top flight following the purgatory of Serie B and new coach Claudio Ranieri has built a team capable of causing even the mighty Inter a few problems. He has signed a host of experienced internationals – Jorge Andrade, Tiago, Zdenek Grygera, Sergio Bernardo Almiron, Hasan Salihamidzic and Vincenzo Iaquinta – while also managing to keep hold of linchpins Gianluigi Buffon, Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. It is difficult to say, however, if the Bianconeri will be strong enough to challenge for the title.

"Other teams are already well-oiled, while we still have to get to know each other," Ranieri said. "Juventus are used to fighting for the title. I don't know if it will be this way this season, but my players have a lot of determination and a will to win, so I don't want to limit their enthusiasm."

The likes of Palermo, Fiorentina, Lazio and Sampdoria have also greatly reinforced their squads and are ready to spring a surprise, while the return of sleeping giants Genoa and Napoli from Serie B should help rejuvenate the league as a whole after a difficult year.

Inter may be favourites once again, but the Nerazzurri will surely face higher hurdles in their dash for the finishing line this time round.

Source: Magazine

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