August 28, 2010

It Begins!

Serie A 2010/11: Week One Predictions

Serie A is back and so is our coverage of the teams representing the south of Italy. In addition to Napoli, Palermo, Bari and Catania we welcome newly promoted Lecce to our ranks. As the season starts to develop I will expand on the coverage, but for now I will keep the introductions short and sweet.

Palermo v Cagliari:
Palermo will host the Sardinians this Sunday in an all-island affair at the raucous Stadio Barbera. The Sicilians have been highly competitive over the last several seasons and will be looking to improve on last year's fifth-place finish. Obviously, this means nothing short of fourth will be acceptable. The off-season acquisitions of Massimo Maccarone, Mauricio Pinilla, Armin Bacinovic and Josip Ilicic should more than make up for the loss of Edison Cavani (to Napoli) and proves that the club is still committed to winning. Unfortunately, they will temporarily be without the services of captain and prolific goal scorer Fabrizio Miccoli, due to injury. Palermo are also coming off a mid-week Europa League defeat against Maribor. Despite the loss the Sicilians move past the Slovenians on aggregate (5-3) to face CSKA Moscow. I fully expect the Rosanero to edge out their insular opponent.

Bari v Juventus:
Bari were one of the biggest surprises of the season last year (perhaps second only to Sampdoria), finishing in tenth place. They more than held their own against Serie A's top clubs and were a force to be reckoned with at home. They impressively conceded only 49 goals all season. The team however lost two of its biggest stars—Andrea Ranocchia and Leonard Bonucci—in the off-season. They will be sorely missed. The Galletti begin the 2010/11 campaign at "fortress" San Nicola against the dreaded Old Lady, Juventus. The giants from Turin will be looking to put last years embarrassing campaign behind them, including a loss to the Apulians. Last season Bari were "giant-killers;" we'll find out this Sunday how they measure up against the big-boys with the Bianconeri in town. I predict a draw.

Lecce v Milan:
Newly promoted Lecce have a tough task this week. Not only will they play Milan, one of Serie A's preeminent clubs, they will have to do it in hostile territory. The Salentini will journey north to Lombardy's San Siro stadium (Stadio Meazza), one of Italian football's most prestigious temples. If the Giallorossi wish to prove the pundits wrong about being a relegation favorite they could begin with a positive result against the Rossoneri. In my opinion, not losing against a quality side like Milan would be a good start. I predict a draw.

Catania v Chievo:
The Elefantini definitely want to avoid another slow start to their campaign. It took a Herculean effort to climb out of the relegation zone last year. In fact, they had one of the best records in the second half of the season and still ended with only 45 points. However, if they continue where they left off, Catania could be considered a legitimate contender for a top-ten finish, if not a Europa League spot. This week the Elefantini take the show on the road to face Chievo Verona at the Stadio Bentegodi in the Veneto. Perhaps Europe is a little too ambitious for them, but I do predict a Sicilian victory over the Gialloblu this weekend.

Napoli v Fiorentina:
As a Napoli fan, 2010/11 has a bittersweet beginning. My beloved Partenopei are coming off a mid-week victory (3-0 on aggregate) against Swedish outfit, Elfsborg, in a Europa League clash. This means Napoli get a shot at English powerhouse, Liverpool, Steaua Bucharest and Utrecht next round. My jubilation turned to disbelief, as the rumors circulating about the sale of Neapolitan striker, and fan favorite, Fabio Quagliarella to Juventus have been confirmed. I still don't know what to make of it, but the signing of Edison Cavani (from Palermo) and Hassan Yebda (from Benfica) will soften the blow.

The Vesuviani march into Tuscany this weekend looking to conquer the Viola at the Stadio Franchi. Fiorentina are always tough, especially at home. Napoli will have to improve their away record if they hope to finish in the top four this season. The victory in Sweden was a good start. It should come as no surprise that I predict a Napoli victory. Forza Napoli!

Avanti Sud!!!

By New York Scugnizzo

Round 1 results (added September 4, 2010)

Bari 1—0 Juventus
Chievo 2 — 1 Catania
Palermo 0 — 0 Cagliari
Fiorentina 1 — 1 Napoli