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  22/08/2011: 2011-12 Serie A Preview: Part I
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AC MILAN

2010-11 League Position: 1st

The reigning Serie A champions made some quality signings in the form of defenders Philippe Mexes (Roma) and Taye Taiwo (Olympique Marseille) to rejuvenate and add more depth to their defense, which was their most powerful department last season. In particular, the arrival of the Frenchman from AS Roma is expected to have a double effect: to form a defensive duo with the already stunning Thiago Silva but and to provide restbite for the aging Alessandro Nesta, who no longer has the legs to play a full season. The permanent signings of both Kevin Prince Boateng and Mark Van Bommel will consolidate their midfield but another signing is expected to be made before the close of the transfer window to bolster this department. With Robinho, Cassano, Ibrahimovic and Pato up front and with a more experienced coach in Massimiliano Allegri, they are the safest bet to repeat the success from last season.

The biggest obstacle in the repeat of last season's success from could again be their city archrivals, but with the imminent departure of Sammy Eto`o and possibly Wesley Snejder, Inter look less and less likely to pose a serious challenge to Milan. You never know though. Meanwhile, although Juventus, Napoli and ourselves have all made some important signings, they will surely prove to be insufficient in unsettling AC Milan and preventing them from claiming their second Serie A title in a row. The  upcoming Serie A season appears to be more competitive but nevertheless Milan should somehow manage to win the league again.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 1st


AS ROMA

2010-11 League Position: 6th

The second team from the Italian capital has a new owner/management and their fans were happy in the hope that expensive players would arrive and their team would be capable of fighting for the Serie A title again. But, little did they know that the previous management left some serious debt and the arrivals of important players would have to wait for some time.

Their fans and Serie A in general were left stunned when the new management, headed by noneother than former Lazio DS Walter Sabatini, opted to appoint Luis Enrique as their coach. The latter left the Barcelona B team to grab this chance that came to him out of the blue. Roma have taken a serious gamble by appointing a rookie manager who claims he wants his team to play Barcelona style and indicated that he would use a 4-3-3 system. Serie A is a different cup of tea compared to all other European leagues and Luis Enrique should realize this soon before long. Particularly, if Lazio does better than his team once again come May 2012.

In the interim, Roma have lost some key components from their roster such are Philippe Mexes (AC Milan) and Jeremy Menez (PSG) and Mirko Vucinic (Juventus). They have signed Maarten Stekelenburg, Erik Lamela, Gabriel Heinze, Jose Angel and Bojan Krkic to replace the casualties.

Roma are likely to struggle with the change of men on all levels of management as well as the roster and the ‘new philosophy’ brought from Spain will be lucky to go as planned.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 7th

ATALANTA

2010-11 League Position: 1st (Serie B)

You could say Atalanta's season has started before it has even begun. For their part in Calcioscommese, they have been slapped with a six point deduction and while harsher penalties have been dished out in the past, the stakes are arguably higher for La Dea. They waltzed through Serie B in the end last year and looked the best placed of the new boys to stay up for most of the summer but they are being written off by most now and understandably so.

While the penalty is obviously a significant disadvantage, Atalanta's survival will depend as much on their attitude as it will on their playing ability. The points deduction will focus their attention on getting back into positive figures and from then on, it will be a case of playing catch up. Stefano Colantuono is tasked with this responsibility and considering he has now brought Atalanta to Serie A twice in his managerial career, it takes a brave man to bet against him. Especially as the last time he achieved the feat, the Nerazzurri finished an impressive eighth in the following Serie A season. On that occasion, however, Atalanta were beneficiaries of the Calciopoli fallout.

The tables have turned and Atalanta will be relying heavily on Lazio youth product, Simone Tiribocchi to flip them back over. At 33, he's not getting any younger and it is difficult to see who else within their ranks could possibly fill his boots. The midfield looks good though with the South American trio of Ezequiel Schelotto, Carlos Carmona and Edgar Barreto capable of causing anyone problems on their day. They will have to be in stellar form to drag their team from the bottom of the table, never mind saving them from relegation. Atalanta need a good start, otherwise, they might not even bother playing catch up.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 20th

BOLOGNA

2010-11 League Position: 16th

Well, Bologna managed to save themselves from relegation last season despite being docked three points by Lega Calcio for their failure to pay player`s wages. As usual, had it not been for the veteran Marco Di Vaio who scored 19 goals last term, Bologna might have actually played in Serie B this season. Luckily for them the likes of Bari and Samporia had terrible campaigns and went down at their expense. In the  end, the Rossoblu finished five points clear of relegation zone.

During the summer, Bologna have been pretty active with their mercato campaign by signing the likes of Jean-Francois Gillet, Dejan Stojanovic, Alessandro Diamanti, Nico Pulzetti, Federico Agliardi and Robert Acquafresca. By imagining a front line with Diamanti as trequartista and Acquafresca and Di Vaio in front, you can see that Bologna might in fact have deadly firepower, capable of troubling any and every Serie A defense.

On the departures front, worth noting are the names of a fantastic goalkeeper in Emiliano Viviano, Juventus' Albin Ekdal, Cristiano Lupatelli and Miguel Britos. The case of Viviano is of particular interest here as Bologna management lost him due to an administrative error when submitting the envelope in a blind auction with Inter. That was a massive blow for the Rossoblu who were hoping to retain Viviano`s services for more time or cashing in on him at a later date to make a profit. Once they lost him, they signed a decent goalie in former Bari`s Gillet.

What should we expect from Bologna in the coming season? I am pretty sure Bologna are not relegation material. Indeed with a bit of luck, they might clinch a mid-table finish, in particular if they sort out the defensive issues which were so obvious last term (conceded 53 goals last season). On the other hand, given the stiff competition of mid-table Serie A teams and Bologna`s lack of depth, a position or two just below the mid-table is more realistic.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 12th

CAGLIARI

2010-11 League Position: 14th

Cagliari is one of those teams that have a magnificent run at least once throughout the season during which they beat or give a hard time to all Serie A teams. This situation occurred last season when they were on a splendid run around the Christmas period but then came the January transfer window and they sold their best player Alessandro Matri to Juventus. Things started to look not so good. They finished the season with only two points out of the last six matches and had the season lasted a few weeks longer, they may well have found themselves relegated.

And while Cagliari often makes a smart mercato campaign, this summer seems to resemble the opposite. Their controversial president and owner Massimo Cellino has already fired former Italian National Team manager Roberto Donadoni. The reasons are not known but reportedly they did not agree about the return of David Suazo.

They appear to be a weaker side in comparison to the one from a year ago having lost goalkeeper Federico Marchetti (Lazio), prolific goal scorer Robert Acquafresca (Bologna), and Andrea Lazzari (Fiorentina). Meanwhile, they have managed to sign some, more or less, unknown players with unknown qualities such as Moestafa El Kabir (Mjallby), Victor Ibarbo (Atletico National) and Vlada Avramov (Fiorentina).

Taking into consideration what has been said above we can conlude that unless they make several quality signings, Cagliari is bound to have a tough ride this season but they should just about stay up.

2011-12 LazioLand League Prediction: 16th

 
 
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