Who Will Be This Season's Serie A Surprise Team?


Which Serie A club will be better than most expect this season? Today on the blog Adam Digby tells us that Inter Milan have what it takes to exceed expectations in 2013-2014.

Inter Milan Fans

The new Serie A season is now less than a week away, and as the twenty squads begin to take shape, talk inevitably turns to what we can expect in the forthcoming campaign.

Juventus Prepared For Title Defence

Many of the peninsula’s biggest sides have strengthened; most notably, champions Juventus addressing their biggest weakness by signing not one, but two big name strikers. Goal scoring had been the one weak spot of Antonio Conte’s back-to-back title winners, but with Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez on board – as well as the arrival of Angelo Ogbonna to bolster an already strong backline – the champions have all the tools to defend their crown.

Juventus Odds For 2013/2014

To Win Serie A 1.73 1.80 1.65 1.83 1.73
Top 3 Finish 1.06 1.05 1.05 1.06 1.05
To Win Champions League 17.00 15.00 18.00 17.00 17.00

Odds as at 17th August 2013.


What Are Napoli's Chances?

Challenging them as always will be the usual suspects, and while last year’s runner up Napoli may have lost the immense Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain, they have spent wisely to acquire Gonzalo Higuain, Raúl Albiol and Pepe Reina, while still holding on to a large portion of the fee received from PS-G. With Rafael Benitez sure to improve their defensive solidity, and Marek Hamsik’s contract extension, it is easy to see why the Southern club are viewed as a major threat to the Bianconeri.

Napoli Odds For 2013/2014

To Win Serie A 7.00 7.00 6.00 5.50 5.00
Top 3 Finish 1.73 1.67 1.60 1.67 1.57
To Win Champions League 41.00 41.00 50.00 41.00 51.00

Odds as at 17th August 2013.


Can Fiorentina Finish Top 3?

Joining them as perhaps the hipster team of choice are Fiorentina, led by the incredibly talented Vincenzo Montella. Again, like Napoli, the Viola have lost their biggest name player after selling Stevan Jovetic to Manchester City, but with the midfield – comprised of David Pizarro, Alberto Aquilani and Borja Valero – kept intact, they too have made some intelligent transfer moves. Spanish winger Joaquin will add a different dimension to their play with his pace and directness out wide, while former Milan captain, Massimo Ambrosini, will provide some veteran savvy and leadership. Adem Ljajić also seems set to remain and he, along with a now fit Giuseppe Rossi and Josip Ilicic – freshly signed from Palermo – should be enough to cover the loss of the talented Montenegrin striker.

Fiorentina Odds For 2013/2014

To Win Serie A 21.00 21.00 19.00 15.00 15.00
Top 3 Finish 3.20 3.25 3.20 3.00 3.00
To Win Europa League 21.00 17.00 21.00 21.00 21.00

Odds as at 17th August 2013.


Where Will AC Milan Finish?

Milan have been much quieter this summer, making very few changes to a team which rallied superbly in the latter half of 2012-13 to finish in third place behind Juventus and Napoli. A tough Champions League Playoff tie with PSV Eindhoven is far from ideal, but with January signing Mario Balotelli set to feature alongside Stephan El Shaarawy from the outset, the Rossoneri should be even better. Vice President Adriano Galliani has garnered a well-deserved reputation for making big signings as the window draws to a close and it is impossible to rule out a genuine challenge from Massimiliano Allegri’s men.

AC Milan Odds For 2013/2014

To Win Serie A 6.00 5.00 5.00 4.50 6.50
Top 3 Finish 1.57 1.44 1.30 1.57 1.62
To Win Champions League 51.00 29.00 60.00 34.00 51.00

Odds as at 17th August 2013.


Why Inter Will Be This Season's Surprise

Across town however, very little is expected from rivals Inter. The Nerazzurri finished last season in a lowly ninth place, and have ended the tenure of young coach Andrea Stramaccioni. The task of replacing the 37 year old has fallen to a much older hand in Walter Mazzarri, who chose to leave Napoli at the start of the summer. As goalkeeper Samir Handanovic noted last week, the club “are no longer the superpowers of the past” and will begin the season viewed as one of the sides battling for little more than a Europa League place.

Yet such pessimism is perhaps misplaced, and a closer look at their situation provides hope for some well-founded optimism among the club’s supporters. One need search no further than Juve for the benefit of missing out on a Europa League place, as the absence of midweek ties was a major factor in the Turin giant’s 2011-12 Scudetto. A title challenge may well be beyond their capabilities, but Inter could most certainly provide concern for those hoping for a place among the top three and the subsequent Champions League berth it brings. Mazzarri has proven time and again he is able to defy the odds and overcome adversity, from his promotion with Livorno, staving off relegation with a Reggina side penalised eleven points for their role in the Calciopoli scandal, and guiding Sampdoria to the 2009 Coppa Italia Final. From there he moved to Naples, twice recording qualification to the Champions League and lifting the Italian Cup by defeating Juventus in the 2012 Final.

He will relish the prospect of once more overcoming incredible hurdles, the first of which will be the on field absence of inspirational captain Javier Zanetti. The forty year old snapped his Achilles tendon back in April, and is not expected to return until at least October, marking easily his longest absence from the side since his arrival way back in 1995. With the prospect of a late cash injection from Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir as he continues his attempted buyout of owner Massimo Moratti, their threat could yet increase. Even without that – and Zanetti unavailable – the new coach already has a number of talented players to call upon, as the club look to provide him with a squad capable of improving on their poor recent performances.

Handanovič himself has been one of the league’s best stoppers over the past few seasons and the arrival of Hugo Campagnaro – who followed Mazzarri from Napoli – will undoubtedly strengthen their defensive record, while providing the coach with a player already familiar with his methods. Ahead of them, Ricky Alvarez has begun to develop into an exciting player, while Fredy Guarin, Mateo Kovačić and Zdravko Kuzmanović offer a variety of tactical options alongside Esteban Cambiasso.

In attack, the highly touted youngster Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio provide two genuine goal threats to partner the man who, perhaps, provides Inter and her fans with the most cause for optimism. Collateral and anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the same knee meant last season was basically a write-off for Diego Milito, but the striker expects to be fit in time for the opening day of the new season, and any side with his goal scoring prowess must be taken seriously.

The Argentinean has proven that, when fit, he is perhaps among the best of his generation, particularly in Italy, where he boasts a record of 117 goals in just 202 league games. He told the club’s in-house television channel last week that his “desire to return is immense” and with him and Mazzarri, Inter could well prove to be the surprise package of the Serie A season.

Inter Milan Odds For 2013/2014

To Win Serie A 13.00 13.00 13.00 15.00 17.00
Top 3 Finish 3.50 3.25 2.00 3.50 4.00

Odds as at 17th August 2013.




You can follow Adam on Twitter: @Adz77

And read more of his work at ESPN.com

Tags:  Football , Serie A

Italian Football Correspondent for ESPN also contributing to In Bed With Maradona, Sports Illustrated, The Independent, WhoScored.com whilst offering insight here at bettingexpert on both Serie A and NBA Basketball