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Serie A Staff Predictions

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Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

We made it! Give yourself a pat on the back for wading through the dog days of the preseason, the non-stop, nonsensical transfer rumours, and for returning to another season full of that intoxicating cocktail we call hope.

Here are our staff predictions for the upcoming Serie A season.

Champions:

Juventus -- Oliver Connolly

Juventus -- Luca Prisciandaro

Juventus -- Robbie Bowen

Napoli -- Shushruta Nandy

Napoli -- Joseph Colarusso

Champions League:

Juventus, Inter, Napoli, Lazio. OC.

Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Milan. LP.

Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Lazio. RB.

Napoli, Juventus, Inter, Milan. SN.

Napoli, Juventus, Inter, Roma. JC.

Europa League:

Roma, Milan. OC

Lazio, Atalanta. LP

Roma, Fiorentina. RB.

Atalanta, Fiorentina. SN.

Milan, Torino. JC.

For the drop:

Udinese, Lecce, Hellas Verona. OC

Lecce, Hellas Verona, Udinese. LP.

Brescia, Hellas Verona, Parma. RB.

Lecce, Hellas Verona, SPAL. SN.

Lecce, SPAL, Hellas Verona. JC.

FC Barcelona v SSC Napoli - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by SSC NAPOLI/SSC NAPOLI via Getty Images

This will be the year of…

A real title race. Juve still has far-and-away the most firepower. Napoli and Inter can compete one-through-eleven, but not as a squad over a long season. But there is hope. The Sarri experiment might not work. Juve’s squad is too inflated. Squabbles could ensure. A path could open for the pair from the next tier to mount a true challenge. OC.

Attacking play. Serie A is full of quality attackers. Over the summer, the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Hirving Lozano, Rafael Leao, Frank Ribery and Mario Balotelli have been added to an already stellar collection of forwards, who will continue to break the stereotype of Serie A being a defensive league. LP.

The same. Juventus will be champions by more than nine points. Napoli will be a step ahead of the rest. Everyone three-to-six will battle for top four and it will come down to the last day…. again. RB.

The Napoli defence. Napoli struggled defensively last season. They allowed too many chances at the wrong time. It didn’t help that unlike the top-four Serie A teams, they didn’t have a world-class goalkeeper. The new-look defence is anchored by one of the best centre-back pairings in Serie A: Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly. They will fix any defensive issues that existed. I also have a feeling Alex Meret will make significant improvements from last season. SN.

New champions in Italy. Napoli finished second in four of the last seven seasons, but expect them finally catch Juventus and win the team’s first Scudetto in almost 30 years. JC.

The transfer of the year will be

Kostas Manolas to Napoli. It has to be. Manolas is a real upgrade over Raul Albiol. Napoli might legitimately have the top centre back pairing in Europe. Manolas will lunge forward a little while Kalidou Koulibaly covers in-behind. Both can be dominant in the air. If Napoli are to might a title challenge, the back-two will be as important as their front-three. OC.

Kostas Manolas to Napoli. I fully expect Napoli to close the gap to Juventus, while also going deep in Europe. The addition of the Greek defender will have a lot to do with that; He’s the perfect partner for Kalidou Koulibaly, and a huge upgrade on Raul Albiol. LP.

Nicolo Barella to Inter. The guy is going to be an absolute menace in Antonio Conte’s XI.

He has an extra gear that most don’t and will be all over the field. It will be a joy to watch this kid grow. RB.

Erick Pulgar to Fiorentina. Fiorentina were a travesty last season, finishing 16th in the league. The team needed a transfer shake-up and they got that by adding Erick Pulgar and Frank Ribery. While it might be easy to go for Ribery, Fiorentina’s biggest issue is their midfield. Getting a versatile player like Pulgar who can connect the defence and midfield is a massive win for them. I even expect them to make the jump back to the Europa League spots. SN.

Kostas Manolas to Napoli. Kalidou Koulibaly was the best defender in Serie A last season, and now he has a legitimate partner in Manolas. Matthijs de Ligt may be the bigger name, but Manolas will have the bigger impact this season. JC.

Olympique de Marseille Training Session Photo by Guillaume Ruoppolo - OM/Olympique de Marseille via Getty Images

Is Mario Balotelli a disaster waiting to happen…

Fun fact: Mario once almost ran me over (well his friend was driving) outside of a 24/7 Spar (cheap 24/7 UK store) at 3 A.M. in the middle of Manchester. I clocked him. He clocked me. He knew I knew him. And I knew that he knew that I knew him. Will things like that get better now that he’s home? I doubt it. But I still think he’ll bag double-digit goals this year, which would be a big success. OC.

It’s the most romantic move of the summer. Mario will be a leader on the team, providing a heap of valuable experience in the top flight. It would be great to see him succeed, but it is hard to think that it will end in anything other than disaster. LP

He is a mess. but I absolutely love him. Him taking a selfie after scoring a goal last year was fantastic stuff. The good comes with the bad and he will get a red card in a game where Brescia need to win to stay up. They don’t and go down because of it. RB.

No. Unless you have massive unwarranted expectations from him. Balotelli is never going to become that player we all thought he would be during his Manchester City days. To expect him to deliver those numbers would leave you disappointed. I expect Balotelli to be the top-scorer for a struggling team, finishing the season with 10-15 goals in all competitions. I even think he could save Brescia from relegation and be as impactful as Gervinho at Parma this season. SN.

I actually think Balotelli is a great fit for Brescia. He genuinely looks excited to play for his hometown club. He’ll do enough this year to keep Brescia out of the relegation zone. JC.

SC Paderborn 07 v SS Lazio - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images

This year’s Player of the Year will be…

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. I have Lazio making the top-four this year. If they’re to do that, I think Milinkovic-Savic needs to go to another level, fulfilling the potential he showed a couple of seasons ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo. The man is a phenom, and was huge successful last year despite Allegri’s stifling tactics. We’ve seen attackers thrive under Sarri before. Expect the same from CR7. A strong Scudetto race will likely motivate him more. LP.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Though I am not a fan, the guy scores every time he is on the pitch. It is truly incredible. He will tear the league apart in his second year getting over 30-plus goals. RB.

Marcelo Brozovic. was really tempted to choose Lukaku for this position. However, I went for a player who was in the contention for Player of the Year last season. Brozovic was our best midfielder last season. With Conte, I only expect him to improve. Brozovic’s ability to affect the game goes beyond stats. SN.

Kalidou Koulibaly. Koulibaly isn’t only the best defender in Serie A; he may be the best defender in the world. His combination of strength and pace allows him to dominate games from the backend. He’ll team up Manolas to push Napoli over the top. JC.

This year’s Young player of the Year will be...

Simone Lo Faso. Lo Faso didn’t get to showcase his talent at Fiorentina last year. He was relegated to the bench, then sustained a broken leg. Lecce will give him a pressure-free environment in which he can thrive. He will get plenty of opportunities to play, and will be the heartbeat of Lecce’s attack. If he doesn’t fulfil his promise this year, he might never. OC.

Hamed Junior Traore. He was excellent for Empoli last year, bullying Inter on both occasions. In Sassuolo, he’s found a team playing at the next level without the pressure that may accompany his former teammates Bennacer and Krunic at Milan. He’s still only 19, so should continue to improve physically. LP.

Nicolo Barella. He will put the world on notice with how well he plays. Everyone will forget about giving up Zaniolo and focus on how high this kids ceiling is. RB.

Matthijs de Ligt. There is no debating this. De Ligt played a key role for his club and country reaching a Champions League Semi-Final and a Uefa Nations League Final at just 19. There is no defensive player at his age any in world football who can affect the game in the way he does. De Ligt just turned 20 and is easily my pick for the young player of the year. SN.

Elif Elmas. If you can’t tell by now, I’m all in on Napoli this season. Napoli does such a great job developing young midfielders—Fabian Ruiz and Jorginho come to mind—so there’s no reason to think Elmas will turn out any different. JC.

Atletico Madrid v Juventus - International Champions Cup Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Give us a bold prediction…

Maurizio Sarri doesn’t see out the season. Let’s discount Sarri’s recent health issues. I’m talking on-pitch here. I’m dreaming up a scenario in which Juve are sluggish out of the gate. The squad is too fat. Players start moaning. Sarri’s particular style takes time to get rolling. Ronaldo starts complaining. Veteran leaders decide this whole Sarriball thing isn’t quite for them. Juve ditch Sarri around Christmas and insert Big Manager On The Market X… and go on to win the title. OC.

It goes against my title pick, but I would not be too surprised to see Juve drop to 3rd. Sarri’s playing style will take time and their pre-season has been interrupted by his unfortunate illness. Secondly, they have plenty of deadwood in their side which (at the time of writing) they are struggling to sell. Extra players either sit on the bench and hurt morale, or play in a system/position that doesn’t suit them. Finally, early elimination from the CL could derail them – and this time there are teams who can capitalize. It’s unlikely, but not impossible. LP.

Lautaro Martinez will score more goals in Serie A than Krzysztof Piatek. Piatek scored 22 last season. Milan as a whole should struggle to adjust to the new coach and too much pressure will be placed on Piatek. Meanwhile, all the attention on the other side of Milan will be on Romelu Lukaku. All that attention will mean Lautaro can just focus on football. He will score 15 or more goals this campaign and have a breakout year. RB.

Napoli will win the league. And it’s not just because of the really smart moves made by the Napoli board. It’s also because of team chemistry. Carlo Ancelotti has slowly been integrating key players into this team and Napoli have been playing great football of late. Juventus, on the other hand, have completely ripped apart their team and have changed their manager as well. I have a feeling that Juventus are desperately trying to win the Champions League now and might be moving a little too fast for their own good. It is stupid to write off a team with Cristiano Ronaldo. But I have a strong feeling Napoli (or even Inter) might win the league this season. SN.

Balotelli finishes as the capocannoniere. He flew under the radar his last three seasons in Ligue 1, but Balotelli did average double-digit goals. With the right attitude this season, his goal total will push 30. JC.