Italy’s Serie A is back in business with some big questions to answer – are Juventus unstoppable, what’s Milan’s fate and who can be a surprise package?
1) Will the Champions League make Juventus drop points?
Juve will win the eighth consecutive Serie A title, almost certainly. The first with Cristiano Ronaldo. But of course, the Portuguese star was brought in to make a difference in Europe. The Champions League will be the main focus, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Bianconeri rotate before and after their European clashes.
They might drop some points, but with the current advantage in the league – nine points clear at the top – it seems almost impossible to see them fall behind in the table.
2) Who will grab the last Champions League spot?
The title race is over, but the fight for the Champions League is on fire. With Juventus miles ahead and the other 17 teams well behind, Inter and Napoli are almost certain to be playing in next year’s Champions League.
But the scrum for a top four finish is as epic as ever. Currently, it would be Lazio who would be in Europe’s top competition, but AC Milan and Roma are just one and two points away, and there’s a total of nine teams in a space of seven points who can dream.
With the loss of Gonzalo Higuain, the Rossoneri seem a step behind, and it will be down to the Roman sides. Roma can be really unpredictable and are capable of doing anything. The feeling is Lazio’s solidity will give them the consistency needed, and with a bit more luck than last year – when they missed out on Champions League football because of the loss to Inter in the dying moments of the season – they will manage it this year.
3) Will AC Milan find the right path?
Higuain is off, in comes Krzysztof Piątek. For what the Argentinian had done so far, not a big loss. But of course, it says a lot about the current state of the Rossoneri. Champions League football is absolutely fundamental to find consistency at the top level, and another season without the riches of the competition would be a disaster. Currently they’re not far from a top four finish, but they’ve not seemed sharp enough so far to be a real threat. The light at the end of the tunnel has yet to be seen for the Rossoneri.
4) Who can be the surprise team and grab a spot in Europe?
Sampdoria, Atalanta, Torino, Fiorentina, Sassuolo and Parma are all in the race for a Europa League spot, and maybe even a Champions League one with a bit of luck and ambition.
The biggest surprise out of these is Parma, but also Sassuolo which have shown a great deal of improvement out of this lot, and they have been playing some exquisite football. If they keep it up and combine it with more results, they could end up ahead of the likes of Atalanta and Sampdoria, returning to Europe after three years.
5) Will the bottom three change by the end of the season?
Bologna, Frosinone and Chievo are bottom of the table now, and if they don’t get results quickly they’ll be in Serie B next season. Chievo have been last since the very beginning, and having sold Lucas Castro and Roberto Inglese in the summer it was predictable.
Just when they started getting some points under coach Domenico Di Carlo, the club sold Valter Birsa, suggesting they have no hopes of avoiding relegation. Frosinone seem far too weak, with a team still largely the same that won promotion last year, whereas Bologna have been decent defensively, but lack any sort of spark up front.
Empoli could be caught in the relegation scrum, but so far would undoubtedly deserve to stay up, and if they carry on it will be Bologna, Frosinone and Chievo who will salute the Serie A come May.