Serie Aaaaargh's 2009/10 predictions

The start to the new season is warming up nicely, with Jose Mourinho jumping on Marcello Lippi’s belief that Juventus will win the title like an Italian tourist sighting a free sun lounger.

Generally, when faced with such a question an Italy coach will diplomatically sidestep the issue by naming three or four of the frontrunners.

But Lippi went for his old club to end the Nerazzurri’s domestic dominance.

Obviously, Jose has been pacing the villa in Como plotting a way to get under Juve’s skin ahead of the campaign.

With old nemesis Claudio Ranieri no longer around and Ciro Ferrara’s lack of experience protecting him from any attack, he had to grab at something to raise his ire and get the fires burning ahead of the real action this weekend.  

Predictions are there to be shot down, and in keeping with Mr Lippi’s honest appraisal of what is in store, Serie Aaaaargh! will follow suit. So here we go:

League champions

Juventus – only kidding Jose – no, it’s got to be Inter.

Juve will push their old enemy close but when you look through both squads, it’s the defending champions who have the greater strength in depth, especially in defence and through the midfield area where the Bianconeri may pay for allowing Cristiano Zanetti to leave for Fiorentina.

Inter have lifted the last four titles and that winning feeling is an important factor.

The top four

InterJuventusFiorentinaNapoli

Yes, Napoli to oust Milan, Roma and Genoa from the final Champions League spot.

Owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has answered his coach Roberto Donadoni’s calls to invest in some big-name signings and the light blues look like genuine contenders.

There is a new goalkeeper in Italy international Morgan De Sanctis, two South American defenders Hugo Campagnaro and Juan Camilo Zuniga, and the star of the Italy U21 side Luca Cigarini.

But the real eye-catching arrival has been striker Fabio Quagliarella from Udinese, whose goals could well fire Napoli to glory after the disappointment of last year.

Flops

It has to be Milan and Roma who have failed to find the spark in the transfer market.

It was always going to be a period of transition for the Rossoneri under new coach Leonardo, who needs to win over his experienced players or risk a dressing room revolt if the team makes a poor start to the campaign.

The Giallorossi, for their part, are always going to be reliant on Francesco Totti, and if the talismanic figure breaks down who do they turn to?

After losing Diego Milito and Thiago Motta, Genoa may end up doing an Udinese and pay at home for their European exploits.

Surprise of the year

Apart from Napoli, look out for Palermo forcing themselves into contention for a top-six finish.

The Sicilians ended last season in fine form and Maurizio Zamperini may have met his match in the cantankerous stakes in Walter Zenga.

If the owner and coach can channel all that aggression into team affairs, then who knows what delights the season will bring.

Going down

The three promoted sides are usually everyone’s favourites to be relegated, but Bari, Parma and Livorno have spent wisely with the former two well-equipped to stay up.

No doubt all three will struggle, but it is not too encouraging for Bologna who dodged the drop on the last day, while Siena have lost the heart of the side that claimed a mid-table spot.

Player of the year

It was Zlatan Ibrahimovic last year and two Inter players in Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito will be vying for the honour this time around.

However, Amauri could well be the man to spoil the party.

The Juventus striker has plenty to prove this year, not only at club level but internationally where he has the pick of either Italy or his homeland Brazil.

Plenty of service from Diego could well see the big striker finish the season as the league’s top scorer as well.

Breakthrough player of the year

In a World Cup year it would be great to see a young Italian catch the eye, and Luca Cigarini has what it takes to win over Marcello Lippi.

Having cut his teeth at Parma and Atalanta, the 23-year-old will be in the spotlight at Napoli and if he is allowed to command the middle of the pitch then Italy have a ready-made replacement for Andrea Pirlo heading towards South Africa.

There you have it, and if you are in Jose Mourinho mood, feel free to air your disproval.

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