Friday, August 21, 2009

Italy: 2009-10 Serie A Preview

In 2003 Italian club football reached its peak when AC Milan and Juventus met in the Champions League Final in Manchester. Six years later, that same Final was held in Rome, but Italian sides were nowhere to be found. All of them had left the competition following the Round of 16. The 2008-09 campaign was a step back for Serie A. A combination of bad economics and aging stars has lead many observers to predict more of the same this season.

Struggles in Europe don't rule out an entertaining league competition, though. Inter Milan are seeking their fourth-straight scudetto, but domestic honors won't be enough for Jose Mourinho in his second season in Italy. The Special One was brought in to succeed where his predecessors could not- in the Champions League. Another early European exit soured an otherwise successful campaign. After the Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto'o swap, the champs will adjust to a new style of play. (Odd photo choice for Jose in that Soccernet piece, no?)

If Inter is to be challenged, the threat will come from Juventus. A mix of veterans and newcomers have the Turin squad poised for success. Fabio Cannavaro is back in black and white and Juve have one of the world's best goaltenders in Gigi Buffon.

Inter's San Siro roommates, AC Milan, have captured only one league crown this decade, and would love to put a stop to their rival's run. But under new Brazilian manager Leonardo, the Rossoneri are a team in transition. Leaders both on the field (Kaka) and in the locker room (Paolo Maldini) are gone, and Milan are among the many teams exercising more fiscal responsibility this year, so it could be a rough go.

Fiorentina have made a habit of earning European berths, but have yet to put together a title run. AS Roma are traditional contenders, but a messy financial situation there undermines their hopes. Teams dead set on making a run in Europe often do so at the expense of the domestic campaign, and if Inter have all eyes on a May date in Madrid, that could open the door for Juventus to take back the scudetto.

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