Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
While Italy’s national side sat on the sidelines this summer, Serie A has been in the middle of the biggest transfer action. While we saw some high profile departures trading Italy for England, Juventus made a huge move as they brought Cristiano Ronaldo to Turin. With one of the best players in the world on board, both Juventus and Italian football are a major force in Europe again.
La Liga may still house world class players, but Italy was the go-to league for goals last season. The reputation that isn’t a defensive league is no longer relevant, with the 2017/18 campaign giving us Europe’s best title race last season.
Europe’s most open top league is even stronger this year. There’s a clear Premier League influence on Serie A this time around. We have a really strong top six aiming for the top four, some clinical forwards chasing the golden boot and even Boxing Day football this term. We’re out to make the case for Serie A as the up and coming European league. On top of that, we have gone through the markets and picked out some betting tips and predictions ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
Serie A Winner – Juventus
This is hardly the most surprising prediction, but few teams in Europe could catch this Juve side. In fact, that’s been the point of their summer business. There have probably been very few conversations in the Juve boardroom about what they need to fend off Napoli and Roma. Instead, they see Barcelona and Bayern Munich as their rivals. As far as the champions are concerned, the title is theirs, and that’s not over-confidence. Overall, their fantastic transfer business puts them ahead of the crowd, and they sit as joint favourites for the Champions League.
Juve have boosted their defence by bringing back Leonardo Bonucci, who should slot straight back in. His year in Milan was poor, but he should feel at home again in Turin. Beside him, they have right-back Joao Cancelo. He adapted to Serie A after a season with Inter. He impressed so much in Milan that he earned a £35million move to the champions. Emre Can moved from Liverpool to add some energy in midfield, while Mattia Perin has bags of experience, and is a solid number 2 goalkeeper. Juventus look far stronger than last season, and they are easy picks for the title.
Winner Without Juventus – Inter Milan
It may take time for Napoli to adjust after Maurizio Sarri’s departure. Repeating last season’s form will be tough, and they’re not the main challengers. If you’re looking for the next best side after Juve, then it’s got to be Inter Milan. They’re now back in the Champions League, with income that has eased any financial issues. They’re also in the second year under Luciano Spalletti, who has proven himself time and time again in Serie A.
Inter have eased the pressure on lethal frontman Mauro Icardi, by signing Lautaro Martinez. The forward should pitch in with goals, while last season Inter saw close to half of their goals come from Icardi. Meanwhile, they conceded 30 goals, a tally which they should lower this time around. Adding Stefan de Vrij from Lazio and Sime Vrsaljko looks like an inspired move. Finally, Inter added Roma’s cult hero midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who they’re hoping to pair with Luca Modric.
Spalletti’s Inter were title challengers in the first half of last season. They even led the way, until a crisis of confidence saw them topple down the standings. They’ll be much better prepared this year. It’s hard to see a match for them from the other five sides who trail Juve. They’re our pick to finish second, and we’re backing them in the Winner Without Juventus market.
Total Ronaldo Goals – 25 to 29
Juve have proved they don’t need signings to win Serie A. The move for Ronaldo was inspired by their desire for Champions League success, as was the Higuain move in 2016. With Ronaldo in to his 30s, it makes sense that he’ll be saved for the European games, something Max Allegri has already been doing with top stars in recent seasons. Early on he’ll be wary of overworking their new signing, and later in the campaign he’ll be rested before major European knock-out games. If Juve have their way, then he’ll miss a lot of league minutes.
This isn’t a revolutionary approach, Zinedine Zidane has been doing it for years, and that worked out okay for him. Ronaldo missed 20 matches for Real over the last two seasons. He scored 25 league goals in 29 starts in 2016/17, followed by 26 in 27 last term. The 33-year-old will still have chances to score – we can’t see him hitting less than 25. Instead of backing under 30, you can get great value by predicting Ronaldo will score between 25 and 29 goals for his new club.
Having put a slight dampener on the expectations on Ronaldo, we’re also going to oppose him in the race for the Capocannoniere. The golden boot race in Italy went all the way last year, and it was ultimately shared by Ciro Immobile and Mauro Icardi, who hit 29 goals each. With Ronaldo’s focus elsewhere, we can’t back him at odds on. That’s why we’ve picked out two Serie A stalwarts who can top the scoring charts, and offer value in their odds.
Ronaldo’s arrival was great news for everyone, bar Gonzalo Higuain. Juventus forced him out of Turin, to avoid having an expensive bench-warmer. After a link with Chelsea, the Argentine has stayed in Serie A, landing in Milan. This move has really boosted the Rossoneri, as they’re getting a forward who is out for revenge. Higuain is never more motivated than when he has a point to prove. He loves hitting back at critics, and he took joy scoring against former club Napoli. Aurelio De Laurentiis frequently criticised Higuain, and the forward made a point of coming back to hurt the San Paolo side.
It’s hard to imagine a more driven Higuain than one who is being constantly compared with Ronaldo. The Portugal captain will dominate headlines with every move in Italy, something which will drive Higuain to match him. The striker has moved to a club who had basically everything bar a proven goalscorer. We’ll look at how that helps Milan in a minute, but Higuain has everything he needs to succeed. He was at his best when Sarri laid down the law with him in 2015/16, setting a record for Serie A goals. Of all the managers in Italy, Gennaro Gattuso is most likely to crack the whip with him. All of that makes him huge value to light up the scoring charts this season.
Top Four Finish – AC Milan
Gattuso looked close to getting it right last season. Adding a little bit more quality is the right answer, and they have a striker who can produce for them up front. After a horrendous start, Milan finished just eight points shy of the top four. Two of those four look vulnerable, and as a result we fancy Milan to get back in the big time this season. We’ve picked them to join Juventus and Inter in the 2019/20 Champions League.
Season Match Bet – Napoli to Finish Above Roma
One final market to look at compares two of last season’s top four. Napoli and Roma have seen huge changes, after Sarri and Alisson packed up for the Premier League. Looking at Roma, they also lost Nainggolan and signed questionable replacements. Their signings have been future talents, or some cast offs. Davide Santon, Javier Pastore and Robin Olsen aren’t exactly inspiring additions. This is certainly going to be a trying season for the Giallorossi.
The Milan clubs look strong, so Roma should be worried. They need to fear Napoli, too. The Partenopei have their own problems, given that they’re trying to stretch limited resources in to to a title push. Sarri coached more from his squad than was thought possible, and that leaves a huge job for Ancelotti. However, the experienced coach is among the best in the division, and he has a reputation for evolution over revolution. He’ll stick with Sarri’s style for the most part, and the signings of Fabian Ruiz from Betis and Simone Verdi from Bologna hint at that.
With a set style, a good manager and a stronger squad than last season, Napoli should be comfortably top four. We expect them to finish ahead of Roma, and their odds to do that are fantastic value in our eyes. In the Season Match Bet market, our pick is Napoli to come out on top against Roma for the second year running.
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