– Arvind Balasubramanian
Internazionale won an unprecedented treble last season. Title rivals Milan and Juventus struggled to provide any sort of resistance to the Nerazzuri juggernaut; Roma put up a fight, but it was not enough. Inter still look the strongest team on paper.
Position Last season: 1st – 82 Points
Expectations from the Season: Scudetto
In: Jonathan Biabiany (Parma), Luca Castellazzi (Sampdoria), Phillippe Coutinho (Vasco da Gama), Nicolas Burdisso (Roma)
Out: Marko Arnautovic (Werder Bremen), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Francesco Toldo (retired), Rene Krhin (Bologna), Mario Balotelli (Man City)
Strong rumours: Giuseppe Sculli (Genoa), Cristian Ledesma (Lazio)
Inter have concluded their most successful season in history by winning the treble. This season, including the supercups, Inter will be playing for six trophies. In spite of other challengers strengthening themselves, the squad remains the strongest in Italy by a comfortable margin. Treble winning coach Jose Mourinho broke quite a few hearts by announcing his departure to Real Madrid, and his successor Rafael Benitez will have huge boots to fill. The expectations of the fans are nothing less than the nineteenth Scudetto, plus a decent run in Europe.
The core of the team which won the Scudetto has been retained. For Rafael Benitez, the task is even tougher. A failure to win the Scudetto will most likely mean that he will no longer be counted among the list of elite European coaches, not to mention a very likely sacking that will follow.
Coutinho is a highly rated youngster
The squad will retain its first XI in entirety, with the talented problem child Mario Balotelli being banished to Manchester City. The real challenge for Rafa will be to retain the hunger for trophies in a squad which has now won everything.
Position last season: Second 80 Points
Expectations from the season: Scudetto
Ins: Adriano (Flamengo), Fabio Simplicio (Palermo), Gullerimo Burdisso (Rosario Central), Ahmed Barusso (Rimini)
Outs: Marco Motta (Juventus), Luca Toni (Genoa), Nicolas Burdisso (Inter)
Strong Rumours: Nicolas Burdisso
Roma are the only team in the Top-4 which has retained the coach from last season. At one point Roma did look like winning the Scudetto, before a home loss to Sampdoria handed back Inter the initiative. This season fans expect the club to go one better.
Despite positivity on the field, off-field issues are dominating the headlines. The Sensi family which owned the club lost ownership when the creditors took possession, and are now in the process of finding buyers for the club. This has a big impact on any major transfer plans; all three transfers have been either free ones or loan deals.
Claudio Ranieri has managed to keep most of his squad intact with the exception of Nicolas Burdisso, for whom they haven’t been able to agree a fee with Inter. This season, however, Roma has the added pressure of competing in the Champions league. Unlike the poor cousin UEFA cup, Champions league is a money spinner for a cash strapped club. Given their squad depth, the progress in Champions League is likely to be at the cost of their league campaign.
Adriano poses with Roma owner Rosella Sensi
Among new transfers, Adriano comes back to Europe a bit overweight, but with a lot to prove. On paper he can form a devastating combination with Francesco Totti. But then for that, to happen he will have to keep himself out of Roman nightclubs. If he can regain his 2004-06 form, he has the abilities to carry Roma to the Scudetto.
Position last season: 7th 55 Points
Expectations from the season: Scudetto
Ins: Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), Jorge Martinez (Catania), Marco Motta (Udinese), Simone Pepe (Udinese), Marco Storari (Milan), Milos Krasic (CSKA Moscow), Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool)
Outs: Fabio Cannavaro (Al Ahli), Martin Caceres (Barcelona), Claudio Immobile (Siena), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Christian Poulsen (Liverpool), Christian Molinaro (Stuttgart), Tiago (Atletico Madrid)
Strong Rumours: Salvatore Bocchetti/Benoit Tremoulinas
Season Synopsis: Last season the Old Lady had the worst season in over two decades. So bad was the performance, that game after game the team was booed by their own fans.
The management acted very swiftly and lured Coach Luigi Del Nieri and director Giuseppe Marrotta from Sampdoria. They have decided to go for a complete overhaul of the playing squad, and brought in Leonardo Bonucci and David Lanzafame, two of the most exciting talents in Italy. In addition they have signed full back Marco Motta from Roma and Simone Pepe from Udinese. There is a lot of speculation about a swap between Edin Dzeko and Diego. If that happens, a new midfielder is also likely to arrive. A lot of old heads have been let go, with Fabio Cannavaro leading the procession out.
Krasic has been likened to Pavel Nedved
For the fans of a club like Juventus, their team not fighting for scudetto is sacrilege. Juventus also face the disadvantage of competing in the not so glamourous UEFA Cup. This season, with the race for coefficients between Bundesliga and Serie-A, even UEFA cup performance carries a premium for the league.
Expectations will be high. However, question marks remains on the ability of Luigi Del Nieri. In short, a Scudetto might be a bit too high a mountain to climb for a young and newly assembled Juventus squad, especially this season. Expect the Old Lady to closely follow Inter/Roma in the race for the Scudetto.
Position last season: Third 70Points
Expectations from the season: Champions league Qualification
Ins: Marco Amelia (Genoa), Mario Yepes (Chievo), S Papastathopoulos (Genoa), Kevin-Prince Boetang (Genoa)
Outs: Matteo Darmian (Palermo), Giuseppe Favalli (out of contract), Marco Storari (Juventus)
Strong Rumours: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The Rossoneri were in the race for Scudetto for three quarters of last season, before spectacularly collapsing at the end. In an ideal world, the fans would expect the club to do one better and challenge for the title. However the Powers to be at Milan are holding on to their purse strings tighter than ever. This means that for the second season in a row, the ageing squad is not getting refreshed.
Coach Leonardo was sacked at the end of last season, and new coach Massimilano Allegri, who had done very well at Cagliari, has been roped in as his replacement.
Berlusconi & Galliani pose with Milan’s new signings
Milan’s success last season was built on two foundations. One an increasingly injury prone Alessando Nesta managing to keep himself fit for majority of the season, and secondly Ronaldinho rediscovering his abilities with a view to secure his place in World Cup 2010. While Nesta staying fit cannot be guaranteed, Ronaldinho surely has lost the biggest motivation he had.
Mario Yepes has been signed up to shore up the defence, but it might be a case of too little. Massimilano Allegri has his task cut out in working with a squad with so many identified gaps. Officially the club has adopted a stance of bravado announcing that they will fight for the Scudetto; however, pessimism prevails among the fans. The realistic expectation for most of them is to finish in the top four, which will enable the club to play Champions league next season.