Series A predictions

I’ve put off possibly writing this article for some time as Series A is quite possibly the most difficult league to predict in Europe these days. Any one of seven sides could realistically be predicted to finish in the Champions League places, with the ever-present threat of an outsider team making a run to finish in the top four always a viable possibility. We have seen Udinese begin to do just that in the early weeks of this season with wins over Juventus and Roma a clear indication of the Friulani’s intentions. At present, Juventus, once champions of Italy nine times in a row only a few seasons ago, sit in eighth while Atalanta, who finished in eighth last season, now sit second. 2020-21 champions and 2021-22 runners up Inter Milan. But in the name of fun, I’m going to have a stab at attempting to predict the top six placers (the European qualifying spots) in the Italian top flight, Serie A. 

My 6th place prediction is Lazio. Once again, Lazio will miss out on the Champions League by a single league placing. This decision was tough, as the Biancocelesti possess a number of quality weapons and a top manager in Maurizio Sarri. However, I think they just lack that last bit of consistency and defensive solidity to win key matches against bigger sides. I may live to eat my words considering they have already beaten Inter Milan this season, but Lazio never fail to disappoint in the long run. 

On one side of the equation, captain Ciro Immobile looks set to hit his customary 25+ league goal tally, while Luis Alberto is once again up to his dazzling best. Pedro scores key goals off the bench, and Felipe Anderson looks to be quite a pacy weapon cutting in off the right wing. But on the other side of things, goalkeeper Ivan Provedel has looked shaky in the early part of the season, while new signing Alessio Romagnoli is still adjusting to life in Rome. Elsewhere in defense, Stefan Radu doesn’t look up to Champions League level as we found out in the 5-1 Europa League collapse the Roman side suffered against Danish minnows FC Midtjylland. For these reasons, I think Lazio fall short of the top four and finish sixth. 

My 5th place prediction is Roma. Jose Mourinho seems to have Lazio’s city rivals ticking again for the first time in half a decade, but not without issue. The squad revamp this summer seems to indicate that some classic, outdated Mourinho tactics are at play once again. In came 33 year old Nemanja Matic, who is well past his best, as well as the aging Georgino Wijnaldum. However, there are signs of progression as well, with some more flamboyant players that Mourinho would not have gotten on well with in the past coming in. Paulo Dybala joined on a free trasnsfer and immediately became the key man for the Romans, running the attack from the center of the park. Tammy Abraham is now in his second season in Italy and looks ready to truly explode as a goal scorer. Nicolo Zaniolo is healthy again and looks to be bringing his brilliant form from the end of last season, which saw him score the winner in the Europa Conference League final, into the new season as well. And of course, captain Lorenzo Pellegrini is as integral and brilliant as ever. 

However, the scars of last season’s inconsistency still linger with early season masterclass performances against Monza and Juventus intermixed with heavy losses to high-flying Udinese and title rivals Atalanta. Roma just seem to be far too capable of mentally checking out of matches to be genuine title contenders, which leads me to believe they’ll miss out on a Scudetto this season. Still, with so much individual quality, a fourth place finish is very doable, but I think Mourinho’s side will just miss out. 

My 4th place prediction is Atalanta. They may be sitting pretty in fourth at the time of writing, but like Lazio, Atalanta have a bad habit of choking in games when it matters most. They lost a number of crucial matches last season, including 3-2 in the final match of their Champions League group, condemning them to the Europa League, and key losses to Verona and AC Milan in the Serie A run in at the tail end of 2021-22. That being said, they look to be refreshed this season with no European football to worry about, and have taken Serie A by storm thus far, not losing to date this season. The squad still doesn’t seem to have many holes either. Key midfielder Remo Freuler left for Nottingham Forest, but Teun Koopmeiners has stepped up big time with a hat trick already this season. Young defender Giorgio Scalvini looks the real deal and has support from the underrated Merih Demiral, while Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata always guarantee goals. And of course, the team’s key player Ruslan Malinovski is still around and in top tier form. A return to the Champions League is on the cards for La Dea. 

My 3rd place prediction is Inter Milan. Inter look set to slide one place further down the table this season after just narrowly missing out on the title on the final day of last season. The squad seems a little unbalanced after the summer transfer business conducted. Romelu Lukaku returned, but was almost immediately injured and has been out since. This has left Lautauro Martinez to play alongside Edin Dzeko, who is now 36 and even less mobile than before. Other weapons like Alexis Sanchez have left, while those who have stuck around such as Joaquin Correa still seem to be struggling to adjust to life in Milan. 

There is still plenty to be excited about for Inter fans, don’t get me wrong. Denzel Dumfries is still a massive threat down the right wing, while De Vrij and Skriniar are still arguably the best central defensive pairing in the league and Alessandro Bastoni is clearly among the best defensive prospects in the world. And of course, Nicolo Barella is world class in the center of midfield. But just something about watching the Bianconeri looks to be just off kilter. Perhaps the squad is simply tired after a recent return to regular European football, or perhaps trouble is brewing in the locker room. There is still plenty of quality for a comfortable top four finish, but not quite a title challenge this time around. 

My 2nd place prediction is AC Milan. Pipping their city rivals to second while just missing out on a repeat as champions, I have AC Milan. Their title win last season was quite a surprise given how many more goals Inter scored across the duration of the season. The thing with AC is that they always manage to stay in games they seemingly shouldn’t and take points from games that they don’t deserve. That’s the mark of a good team: winning when they shouldn’t, as well as when they should. The Rossoneri have improved as well, even if only marginally, adding Charles de Ketelaere from FC Brugge to the front line and American right back Sergino Dest from Barcelona. Midfield stalwart Franck Kessie has gone the other way to Barcelona, but doesn’t seem to be missed too heavily. 

The real strength of the team seems to lie in the manager, Stefano Pioli. He has an uncanny ability to get every last drop of production out of all of his players. Pioli has managed to turn Rafael Leao from a very average wide striker into the key man at the San Siro, as he was directly involved in 19 goals in the league last season. He has continued that form this season as well with 6 goal contribution in 6 games. Similar could be said for old man Olivier Giroud, who everyone thought was well past his best by the time he arrived in Italy. He managed 11 goals last season at age 34 including key strikes against Inter Milan and Napoli and has another 3 already this year. The only issue with AC is their lack of a star player, which is almost always necessary to dig any good team out of an occasional hole. The next team, however, does. 

My 1st place prediction is Napoli. I never thought I’d be making this prediction based on the summer transfer window, but here we are. I think Napoli will win Serie A this season. 

At the end of last season, the Neapolitans looked to be a complete mess. They collapsed in the title race, finishing a distant third, and lost key players this summer. Out went captain Lorenzo Insigne as well as star defender Kalidou Koulibaly and key midfielder Fabian Ruiz. In their place came the unfancied trio of Kvicha Kvaratshkelia, Tanguy NDombele, and Min-Jae Kim. The first has turned out to be a world beater in the making and a definite upgrade on Insigne, the second is a very useful rotation option in midfield despite his turbulent time at Tottenham, and the third is now the club’s best defender. Kvaratshkelia in particular has been phenomenal, scoring a brace on his debut and being by far the club’s best player since his arrival from Dinamo Batumi in Georgia. The result is that after seven matches, Napoli are top of the table and have recorded a historic 4-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League. I expect Napoli to continue this form and win Serie A.