This season will probably see the best of Serie A with all the top teams back in the top league of Italy. The Italians do not play boring football at all, be it the World Cup or how their clubs play in the domestic league or the European leagues. It is again one of those countries where the top footballers of the country play the trade in their own country. So when the whistle blows in Italy this weekend announcing the start of the Serie A, there will be more than one team looking for honours.
Unlike last year, AC Milan will be starting the season on a clean slate without any point docked. That should give them some confidence and peace of mind. Juventus who were demoted are back and have been able to retain some of their stars. Inter would want to show that their win last season was not because there weren’t any quality in the opposition but because they played some good football. Roma would want to establish their top billing by again fighting for the top honours in Serie A.
This season is a very special season for one of the greatest Italian players of all time, Paolo Maldini. He is retiring at the end of this season after starting and ending his career with AC Milan. He joined the club as a 17 year old and retires at 40 yrs, a ripe age for a footballer. It will be no surprise if Milan retire their No.3 Jersey after his retirement in May. He has made 846 appearances for Milan and record 600 appearances in Serie A!!!
Inter Milan will once again be starting as the favourites. They had just one loss in the entire campaign last year. That might change this year. Their pre-season has not been all that great with losses to Valencia, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Roma in the season opener Italian Super Cup. They could beat Man Utd which doesnt speak much about them looking at how Man Utd has started the season. Having said that a team which has a strike force which reads Ibrahmovic, Crespo & Adriano and midfield maestros Figo (who has agreed on 1 more year) & Viera bolstered their defence by buying Chivu from Barca.
Juventus, happy to back in Serie A have had some loyalists in Nedved, Trezeguet, Buffon who did not leave theclub unlike some of their other stars. Their preseason has been quite eventful in the sense that though they lost to Inter and Milan they beat Roma in their best preseason match 5-2, a match in which they had to dig deep as they had to come from behind. They are dependant on Trezeguet to deliver the goals and Del Piero and Nedved to play injury-free for a long part of the season to finish on a Champions League placing by the end of the season. So I think this year they would be happy to finish anywhere in the top four.
Roma had a decent season last year. They finished second in the league and did pretty well in Europe till they got hammered by Man Utd away. Now that was a one-off game according to me as Roma played well before and after that match. This is an year for them to match big three in Italy. They are dependent on Totti too often to provide the brilliance.
AC Milan, the team everyone likes in Italy. All matches in Europe are their home matches. Its difficult to match their competence and pedigree in Europe. They are the team of veterans with a lot to prove. Maldini, Nesta, Seedor, Cafu etc are all on the wrong side of 30s. Emerson joined the team this year and will wear the no.5, which was worn by Alessandro Costacurta for hold your breath 20 years!!! Well that is the way they play in Milan. Loyal, committed and longevity, all these go hand in hand. Ronaldo joined at the end of last season and has been scoring some goals, but I saw him on TV and he looks bloated than ever before. This team will go far in Europe, how far we will wait and see. With Kaka still there, you should not have much doubts.