Italian league season preview; strikes, change and Barceroma

In this case Atalanta have been docked six points for their role with a betting ring who were looking to make money from football.

Chievo Verona could have been docked points too, but admitted their guilt and cooperated with investigators looking into the allegations against them.

At least it didn’t involve last season’s champions, AC Milan, who will go into the new season invigorated after making some new signings to strengthen the team over the summer. Massimiliano Allegri has brought in French centre back Philippe Mexes from Roma and powerful left back Taye Taiwo from Marseille to bolster the back line, and going forward the club is still looking to add another forward before the season starts. With a perpetually ageing midfield, it will be interesting to see how competitive Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf can be in their final years on the football field. Another, Andrea Pirlo, has left for Juventus.

Talking of Juventus, they have turned to a favourite sun to try and prise them from their struggles of recent years. After disposing of the services of Gigi del Neri, they have brought back Antonio Conte as manager, who did very well with both Siena and Bari in Serie B. With Pirlo added to the ranks, and the permanent signings of Allessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella, as well as Mirko Vucinic the Old Lady will be optimistic that they can overcome the striking problems they suffered from last term. Juve have also signed Arturo Vidal, the Chilean from Bayer Leverkusen, who will strengthen the midfield and given them real power in the centre.

But a team who certainly can’t be discounted are Inter Milan, who some will have as favourites after last year’s barren campaign. Under new coach Gianpiero Gasperini, the Nerrazzuri have been busy strengthening where they can this summer. In have come defender Yuto Nagotomo, Ricky Alvarez, and Brazilian Jonathan from Copa Libertadores winners Santos.

Gasperini is expected to field a 3-4-3 system, and with Samuel Eto’o now departed, must pressure will rest on the shoulders of Giampaolo Pazzini. The club will be relying on Alvarez and Jonathan making swift transitions to the new side, and will be looking to sign new players if they can offload Wesley Sneijder, but this season may be another transitional one for an Inter Milan side trying to balance their budget.

Perhaps more interesting will be seeing how the likes of Napoli and Udinese can challenge this season. Udinese had a superb campaign last year, but have lost Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, as well as Gokhlan Inler and Cristian Zapata. Inler was signed by Napoli, who qualified for the Champions League last season. With Edinson Cavani leading the line Napoli will be competitive again this year, though Europe could drain their resources. Lazio had a good campaign last time and have brought in German forward Miroslav Klose and Frenchman Djibril cisse. They could still lose Mauro Zarate, and another season challenging for Europa League qualification seems most likely for the Biancoceleste.

It is their city rivals Roma who could be the most intriguing side this season, having been taken over by an American businessman, Thomas DiBenedetto. Bringing in Barcelona B coach Luis Enrique as the manager is an intriguing move for a club dubbed ‘Barceroma’ in Italy. Having added the likes of Argentine ace Eric Lamela, set to be one of the next big South American stars, as well as Bojan Krcic, Marco Borriello and Jose Angel. Gabby Heinze has also joined though Mexes has left, and it will be intriguing to see how the Giallarossi adapt to the new Spanish style regime.

Yet first a strike has to be overcome. It seems likely that Italian players will follow their Spanish counterparts in striking this weekend. They have warned that no football will be played unless an agreement is made on a new collective agreement for player rights. Whatever the delay, it is likely to be another fascinating season in Italy.