The Italian football system is one of the few in the world where a well-placed bribe might actually allow you to play the 4-5-2.
Between last week’s Milan loss in the Derby della Madonnina and this whole cruise ship fiasco, it’s kind of a drag to even talk about Italy right now. But as I’ll be doing it every week in this spot, best just to sally forth.
And I won’t make any jokes about the boat sinking. People died after all. But I did hear the captain is an Inter fan.
If it’s not clear by now I am indeed a Rossoneri fan through-and-through. As the resident Serie A guy around here I vow to do my best not to let this color my coverage too much. Although I did pick them to win last season. And I was right.
As a refresher, or for the budding new Serie A fan, here are my picks for this season from my UF preview:
Orr’s 2011-2012 Serie A Final Table
1 – Milan (2012–13 UEFA Champions League Group stage)
2 – Napoli (2012–13 UEFA Champions League Group stage)
3- Juventus (2012–13 UEFA Champions League Play-off round)
4 – Inter (2012–13 UEFA Europa League Play-off round)
5 – Roma (2012–13 UEFA Europa League Third qualifying round)
6 – Udinese
7 – Lazio
8 – Fiorentina
9 – Genoa
10 – Palermo
11 – Parma
12 – Chievo Verona
13 – Cesena
14 – Cagliari
15 – Catania
16 – Siena
17 – Bologna
18 – Atalanta (Relegation to Serie B)
19 – Lecce (Relegation to Serie B)
20 – Novara (Relegation to Serie B)
Not too shabby so far!
Atalanta have been much better than I thought, but starting 6 points behind due to match fixing is beginning to creep up on them as I predicted. At this point I can much more easily see them avoid the drop though.
Udinese and Lazio have also kept up their rock solid form from last year and are still challenging for a title I still don’t think either will win.
And the biggest disappointment, without a doubt, has been Napoli.
Napoli won a lot of fans over to Serie A last year with their exciting brand of attacking football, and their foray into the Champions League has been enjoyable.
But they’ll have to make it last because at this rate they won’t be back next season. Hamsik and Lavezzi (who I picked as my Golden Boot and Serie A Footballer of the Year award winners respectively) have largely been disappointing and Cavani, despite 11 goals, has been very inconsistent.
Milan and Juve are duking it out at the top right now, but there are at least 5 other good sides that can still be considered contenders for the crown who will be jostling for European positioning the rest of the way.
It’s matchday 18, marking the exact midpoint of the season. As good a time as any to begin your Serie A education. Let’s get to the matches!
Saturday, January 21
AS Roma v. Cesena – A match at home against a club in the relegation is one Roma should really be winning, which is exactly why Roma fans will be nervous.
One of the most maddening sides in Italy, Roma have a real youth movement in full force and if their vets can hit their stride too they have a real chance at getting back to Europe. They will be without De Rossi though, which softens their center.
Cesena seem to go as Mutu goes. And that is something no club wants .
It won’t be pretty, but Roma come out 2-1 victors.
Atalanta v. Juventus – Atalanta have claimed some big scalps this year. It’s the points gained in those matches keeping them afloat, but the 6 point deficit before a ball was kicked this campaign is starting to show.
Still they are a dangerous side, but Juventus have had the most time to prepare for them and surprise contender for the golden boot German Denis.
Juve top the league by one, but I’ll be an optimistic Milan fan here and say Atalanta manages to hold the Old Lady to yet another draw. 1-1 the final.
Sunday, January 22
Bologna v. Parma – I really thought Parma would be better this year, but a loss on Sunday would actually put them level on points with an often sorry Bologna side.
The home side have been better in recent weeks however, holding Milan and Napoli to draws and getting a rare victory over Catania. Di Vaio is wily and can always cause problems, and he’s been receiving help from Ramirez and Acquafresca lately.
I see another 1-1 draw.
Cagliari v. Fiorentina – Cagliari held Juventus in Turin this week while La Viola fell to then-bottom Lecce, at home no less. Momentum certainly suggests the Sardinians have a good handle on this one. But I don’t.
The side from Florence just have a better side in my eyes, and will find a way to come away with the full 3 points. 1-2 to the visitors.
Lecce v. Chievo Verona – The Apulians showed they have some fight by taking down Fiorentina away last week but Chievo are riding high after bouncing Udinese from the Coppa Italia and getting a deserved win against Palermo last week.
The fact that Chievo have the second worst offense in the league but still sit 10th is pretty mind-boggling, and they still need to find a consistent source of goals.
But I just have to think Lecce will have a letdown after last week. 0-1 to the Flying Donkeys.
Novara v. Milan – Milan needed extra time on Wednesday to bounce a plucky Novara side from the Coppa Italia. The sting of last week will still linger, and the Rossoneri still have a lot to prove. Midweek’s wake up call was key, and Novara find themselves the unfortunate first block in the rebuilding of a serious title defense. 0-3 to Milan.
Palermo v. Genoa – Which Genoa shows up this week? The one that got slammed in back-to-back weeks by Napoli and Cagliari, or the side which beat Udinese in last weekends most entertaining match?
Probably the first, as their home form is just woeful. And the Rosanero really need a rebound. Another wide-open one, ending 3-1 for the hosts.
Siena v. Napoli – Napoli must win this one? Right? Would have been much more comfortable calling this last year. But 0-2 for the visitors anyway, still lingering close enough to reward all the new fans they won last term with more European holidays.
Udinese v. Catania – Udinese is lucky Juve and Milan have dropped points or their back-to-back losses would really see them adrift of the leaders. They need a rebound in the worst wa, and will rely on Serie A top scorer Antonio Di Natale to provide it as always.
Catania are not joke, but they have much more success in Sicily.
3-1, Udinese back on track.
Internazionale v. Lazio – If ever there was a match to root for the meteor hitting the stadium, this is it. On second thought, I don’t want the San Siro to get destroyed, so I guess I’m just hoping Ranieri tinkers just a bit too much and lets Lazio sneak by.
Should be a hard-nosed match between 5th and 4th place respectively; entertaining if not high scoring. A draw seems about right. 1-1 at the whistle.
Well, I’ve gone on far too long . But if you can’t tell already I’m crazy enough to really love Serie A.
Join me here each week (or on Twitter @DaveLambComedy) and I bet some of you will too.
And if not, there’s always the WAGs.