The 2013/14 Italian Serie A season promises to be one of the most exciting and competitive in recent memory. Two-time defending champions Juventus has bolstered their squad with the additions of strikers Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez while last season’s runners-up Napoli have had one of the most active summer transfer windows in Europe. They sold star striker Edinson Cavani to PSG for over $84 million and used that money to bring in former Real Madrid stars Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon. Napoli will also have a new manager coming into the new season with ex-boss Walter Mazzarri moving on to Serie A rivals Inter. Napoli brought in Rafael Benitez who led Chelsea to the Europa League title last season.
In my opinion, as the teams stand right now, Juventus and Napoli are once again the clear favorites to finish in the top 2 spots and battle each other for the Scudetto. The next group of teams (Milan, Fiorentina, Roma, Lazio and Inter) are all teams that have been successful in the past but are currently trying to rebuild their squads in an attempt to once again be able to compete for the Scudetto. As a life-time “Interisti” I am obviously bias towards Inter when it comes to anything related to Serie A. Once again this season, Inters president has made it a known fact that he is looking to scale down his spending in an attempt to lower the clubs enormous debts. But this is taking a clear toll on the product Inter puts on the field week in and week out. The rest of the teams around them, who Inter will directly be challenging for a spot in Europe next season, have all made somewhat significant upgrades to their squads while Inter has been relatively quiet while only bringing in players who will not have a significant impact on the team. This season will be the first season since the 1992-93 season that Inter will not be participating in a European competition. Inter is one of the premier teams in Serie A and for the league to be successful, Inter needs to get back to the status they were at during Jose Mourinho’s reign at the club.
THE 2013/14 SERIE A SCHEDULE
Year in and year out the Italian Serie A provides fans with some of the most intense rivalries in sports. From the “Derby della Madonnina” between Inter and Milan to the Rome Derby between Roma and Lazio, fans are bound to catch some amazing soccer. This years Serie A schedule offers these monumental rivalries along with some upstart ones. Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Livorno replace Palermo, Siena and Pescara in Serie A this season and all are sure to provide some exciting play.
With such an even playing field in the Serie A every team is bound to go through a stretch with a series of tough matchups. For example, Lazio opens the season at home against Udinese and then travel to Juventus in week 2. Both Udinese and Juventus both finished in the top 5 last season, with Juventus obviously finishing as champions. But, in my opinion, the toughest stretch of games for the season has been handed to Inter. Inter plays Napoli, Milan and Lazio in 3 of their last 4 games of the season. Napoli and Milan will surely be contending for the Scudetto this season while Lazio has aspirations of returning to European competition.
My Top Matchups to Watch This Season
Picking a “top 5” matchups in Serie A is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Every team in Serie A has at least 1 rival where you know that every season there will be 2 hard fought, tension filled games. The top teams are always battling for European places while the bottom teams are always fighting to avoid relegation.
My first matchup to watch this season will be Juventus and Napoli. Last season these 2 teams finished 1st and 2nd in the league standings and Rafa Benitez’s men will surely come into this season looking to make the next step and overtake the Bianconeri as the kings of Italy. Juventus come into the season with practically the same squad as last year with a couple of key additions both in attack and on defense. Many people few Juventus as a serious contender in the Champions League this season so there is always the chance that they might take their foot off the gas a bit in the league to concentrate on trying to win their first Champions League title since they defeated Ajax in 1996. Napoli, on the other hand, were once the class of Serie A before going through an extended period of rebuilding. Their head man Walter Mazzarri has moved on which means it remains to be seen how new manager Rafael Benitez will try and take Napoli to the next level. Napoli sure boasts the talent and capacity to overtake Juventus this season and it would not surprise me one beat if Napoli is hoisting the Serie A trophy come May for the first time since 1990. The games between Juventus and Napoli will be played on November 10th and March 30.
My second matchup to watch this season will be Inter and Juventus. In October of 2012, Inter became the first time to defeat Juventus in their new stadium when they came from behind to beat them 3-1. The “Derby d’Italia” ,as this matchup has come to be known, is one of the fiercest rivalries in European soccer. Many Juventus fans believe that the only reason Inter went through their gold period from 2005-2010 was because Juventus was wrongfully relegated to Serie B as a result of the first match-fixing scandal in Italy. Although the Scudetto might now be a realistic goal for Inter this season, knocking Juventus off its perch will surely satisfy Interisti around the world. The games between Juventus and Inter will be played on September 13 and February 2.
My third matchuo to watch this season will be the Rome Derby between Roma and Lazio. The rivalry between Roma and Lazio is one that has its fair share of history. Just last season, these two teams were battling seemingly all season for the final Europa League spot with Roma eventually finishing 1 point ahead of Lazio in the final standings. These two teams also battled in the final of the Coppa Italia with Lazio coming out on top and earning the right to play Juventus in the Italian Super Cup later this month. There is no love lost between these teams and we will be sure to be in for a treat when they meet each other this season. The games between Lazio and Roma will take place on September 22 and February 9.
I’ve left the best for last when it comes to my must watch matchups of the season. The Derby della Madonnina is one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. These two teams have battled each other since Inter was founded all the way back in 1908. They have battled each other in every competition imaginable and have always provided the fans with spectacular play and unexpected tension. The height of this rivalry was arguably back in 2003-04 Champions League when the teams met in the quarterfinal stage. After Milan took a 1-0 lead on a very controversial goal in the 2nd leg (Milan one the first leg 2-0), Inter fans began throwing debree and flares onto the field. One of these flares ended up hitting Milan goalkeeper Nelson Dida in the shoulder. This forced UEFA to suspend the match and award Milan a 3-0 win and a 5-0 aggregate victory of Inter. Year in and year out, the matchups between Milan and Inter show some of the best soccer in the world, along with some of the best fans in the world. These will be two matches you surely will not want to miss out on this season. The games between Inter and Milan will be played on December 22 and May 4.
Juventus and Napoli finished 1-2 in Serie A last season and I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t do the same this season. Both teams have brought in strong reinforcements to attempt to separate themselves from the rest of the Serie A pack. My belief is that there is really no other teams in Serie A that could realistically challenge these two clubs atop the standings. Teams like Fiorentina and Milan would think they are contenders but I do not think these teams did enough in the summer to fix the holes in their team in order for them to really challenge for the Scudetto. At this point, as much as it pains me to say, my prediction is that Juventus will win their 3rd consecutive Scudetto.
There are several teams that could be battling to stay in Serie A come May of next year. In most seasons, the battle for Serie A survival is more exciting than the battle for European places. This season I would look for Sassuolo, Hellas Verona, Torino, Sampdoria, Livorno and Chievo to all be battling to stay in Serie A. Teams like Sassuolo and Hellas, who have not played in Serie A for so long, are often surprised by the incredible jump in quality from Serie B to Serie A so they struggle to adapt and pick up points. Regardless, the battle for safety in Serie A promises to be very exciting and go down to the very end of the season.