Football Italiano interview – Gab Marcotti gives his verdict on new Serie A season

Football Italiano catches up with Gabriele Marcotti, the highly regarded football journalist who writes for numerous publications including Calcio Italia magazine and The Times newspaper.
What do you think of Udinese’s chances this season considering they have sold Sanchez, Inler, Zapata etc?
Obviously a top four finish is going to be very difficult, especially since Juventus and Roma look stronger than last season and the top three are still a notch above. But I think they can be comfortable in mid-table. Badu looks impressive, Asamoah could be the next big star to come out of the Udinese assembly line (as well as, of course, Armero). I also think Danilo is a very good signing who can seamlessly replace Zapata.
What chances do you think Novara have of staying in the division?
Losing Bertani and Gonzalez is a massive blow. They scored 32 between them last year. I like Morimoto, but he has yet to prove he can score regularly in Serie A. Much has been made of what a wonderful place Novara is and how well run the club is and how there’s no pressure so everybody is relaxed and gives their best. That’s fine, but you still need quality. And, top to bottom, I just don’t see it. I think they’re going down.
What chance have Juventus got of qualifying for the Champions League this year?
Juve will definitely be in the mix, they were one of the five biggest spenders in Europe in the summer. That said, I’m not sure how all the pieces fit together. If Conte who, lest we forget, is still a gamble, plays his version of 4-2-4 (or 4-4-2 with the hyper aggressive wingers) I ask myself where Vidal fits in. He’s a great player, but he’s not a holding midfielder (if he lines up alongside Pirlo they risk being overrun). I’m also not sure Elia and Krasic can do the kind of defensive work out wide that’s required. And can Matri score as regularly as he did last year? Will he simply rotate him and Vucinic? What happens when Quagliarella is at full fitness? And Del Piero? It’s way too early to judge Juve I think. This is a transition year, in my opinion. The good news is that the back four will be much better (I really like Lichtsteiner, I’m confident Bonucci will bounce back and Buffon fully fit all season long is a big plus).
Do you think Sampdoria will bounce back from Serie B? Who would be your tips for promotion?
Sampdoria bought players who are proven in Serie B (Bertani, Piovaccari) and they hung on to Palombo, which is important. They are definitely in pole position. I’d love it if Pescara (just because of Zeman) could come up and Verona too (I’m a bit of a romantic that way I guess). However, realistically, I think the other two will come out of Padova, Brescia and Torino.
How do you think Fiorentina will fair this year with their current squad?
I think they’ll be OK. It was all doom and gloom, but in the end they hung on to Gilardino and Montolivo and added Cassani – a very good fullback. If Jovetic proves his fitness, man for man, this is a pretty good side. Not sure Mihajlovic is the right guy, he’ll really be tested but you can easily see them challenging for a UEFA Cup spot.
Who do you think has strengthened the most since last year?
Juventus made the biggest leap in terms of personnel, but, as I said, I’m not sure how it all fits together. Roma are much better too I think.
Do you think that the Scudetto will be decided between Inter and Milan again or can you see anybody else competing for it this year?
Actually, I think Milan are clearly ahead of Inter right now. But I think it will be a real scrap for second and third.
What do you think Napoli’s chances are in the Champions League this year, especially after they were thrashed by Barcelona recently?
Until recently I would have said they’re pretty good, especially with Inler on board but De Laurentiis’ recent behaviour worries me. Naples is an unusual place, you need to stay in control and insulate the team from controversy. He’s been a great president, but some of his recent statements could be very damaging. I just hope he knows what he’s doing.
What chances do you think ‘New Roma’ have this year, are they expecting too much too quickly?
Rome always expects. The key is whether Thomas Di Benedetto expects or is willing to be patient. Having Sabatini and Baldini on board at club level makes a huge difference. I’m not sure about Luis Enrique, but I love some of the signings – Kjaer and Angel have huge upsides, Gago and Pjanic are looking to bounce back after a difficult season and Stekelenburg is an upgrade in goal. Lamela and Bojan are gambles, of course and I’m not convinced by Osvaldo but at least Roma are trying to do something different and that is important. In the end, as ever, I suspect it will be down to Totti, for better or worse.
This is a question everybody would like answered. Will James Richardson and Gabriele Marcotti be hosting anymore Season reviews on ESPN?
Can’t speak for James, but, for my part, I’d love to do it if asked! Welcome Bonus Offer Betway

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