As of this weekend football season is going into full throttle since the ball will kick off in Italy and Spain, alongside England the world's strongest league competitions. And here are my tips and opinions for both.
Let's start from World champion land. While Italy still basks in the glory of the summer 2006 their present is far from rosy. The "Calciopoli" match-fixing scandal as well as gross financial difficulties of the clubs has taken it's toll on Italian football. Not one major star arrived in Serie A this season, and the biggest transfers were between the Italian clubs. To make things even more converning some top players and most promising youngsters have opted for playing fields of England, Germany and ...udite, udite...Holland!
Inter has reinforced the atack and the defence but still need another midfielder, Milan stubbornly refuses to rejuvenate the defense, Juventus has built a decent team that could surprise and Roma is looking ever more dangerous. Fiorentina are the dark-horse this season. With the return Napoli and Genoa along with Lazio and Palermo the 2007/08 season promises to be much more exciting then the last one. As for predictions, here they are:
Scudetto: Inter - still quite above the rest
Runner-up: Roma - 2nd best but this time with less points beind
3rd and 4th Fiorentina and Milan - I believe in that order
UEFA cup spots: Lazio, Palermo and...well to be defined during the season
Relegations: Siena, Cagliari and one between Atalanta, Genoa, Catania and Empoli
Moving on from the Appenines to the Iberian peninsula things are getting brighter. Spanish Primera has been the most exciting league in Europe last season with 3 teams slugging it out until the very end. It shouldn't have been like that though, but Barcellona's suicide will go down in books. If there was ever a case of a team giving away the title, this was it. Real Madrid won the league just sitting back and doing nothing really and the coach who guided them to this success, Capello, was sacked immediately because the club wanted "something more". Whatever. Barca immediately responded by bringing Henry, the biggest name to come to Spain this summer. Valencia is also reinforced and in Zigic they finally have a strong, tall center-forward they were lacking so much. Atletico spent 80 milion euros on players, it's about time they get something out of it. I doubt that this season will be as thrilling as the last one but it will have it's great games, no doubt. As for predictions:
Champions: Barcellona - I believe even Rijkaard isn't so dumb as to play Henry, Ronaldinho, Messi and Eto'o together, it would be tactical suicide. Plus, there will be nobody to take advantage of their hiccups this time.
Runner-up: Valencia - slightly better then Sevilla
Third: Sevilla - although they murdered Real in the Supercup it seems all is not rosy in their dressing room.
Fourth: Real or Atletico - the two are actually opening the season tommorow. What can I say about them? Real was gifted the league last season but did they learn their lessons? Hell no! They are back to being that old circus under Florentino Peres, buying and selling players without any plan and sacking coaches as if there was no tommorow. As for Atletico, they seem to have faired much better then their crosstown rivals in the transfer market and look superb. But hey, this is Atletico. In 1999 they spent a ton of money and got relegated for their trouble. With them anything is possible.
UEFA cup: Saragosa, La Coruna and some surprise that always happens.
Relegations: Hardly ever straightforward in Spain but Getafe and Mallorca look likely candidates.
Summer is almost over and football is back in town until next may.