October 21, 2020

Lynq Sports

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Serie A Preview and Predictions

Italy was one of the countries hit hardest and earliest by the pandemic, shutting the country down entirely. Interestingly enough, their football market was the most curiously affected by the same pandemic. Some of the smaller teams took advantage of lower prices to put on a begging face and snag deals while some of the bigger clubs simply couldn’t afford to move on players they needed.

Juventus have reigned supreme for about a decade, but unlike Bayern, their reign has been tested, and there are some cracks. Atalanta, Inter, and Lazio are gearing up for a run at the throne while AC, Napoli, and Roma have all made improvements to their squad. The fight for the Champions League positions will be a feeding frenzy. Italy’s best will be duking it out until the final day, so be ready for one of the most exciting, and equal, seasons in a long time.

Atalanta

2019 Finish: 3rd

2020 Title Odds: +1200

Arrivals: Mario Pašalić, Pos, €15M; Aleksey Miranchuk AM, €14.5M; Simone Muratore, CM, €7M; Christian Romero, CB, €2M; Simone Mazzocchi, CF, €300K, Cristiano Piccini, RB, Unknown

Departures: Timothy Castagne, RB, €24M; Gianluca Mancini, CB, €13M; Etrit Berisha, GK, €3.5M; Marco D’Alessandro, RM, €3M

Preferred Formation: 3-4-1-2

2020 Expectations: The Atalanta scoring montage wasn’t really out of the blue considering they were able to finish third in 2018/19 and score 77 goals on the season, most in Serie A, but jumping 21 goals in a single season is pretty shocking. I highlighted it in this season’s first European Power Rankings, but there’s just a ton of people who are capable of scoring in bunches on the roster.

You might think that a team who scores so much has to give up an exceptionally high number of goals, but that isn’t true. Their goal differential was 50, meaning they gave up just 48 goals which was tied with Fiorentina for 4th in Serie A. Of course, defending better is a desire for every team, but it’s certainly not a weakness for Atalanta. Some general player improvements and others around them becoming weaker is the only way I can see them rising in the table. Juve and Inter have objectively better rosters than the Bergamo club so maybe a bit of luck in the head-to-head matches could help too.

In terms of gambling, I don’t like the chances of Atalanta winning the league. They’ve been the third place team twice in a row and without something major happening, I don’t see them going jumping Inter or Juve. In terms of the Golden Boot, Zapata has the best chances of any player on the team at +1100. There’s just too many options to score for an Atalanta player to win the award.

Attacking Player to Watch: Duván Zapata, CF

The Colombian was one of the impact starters who decided to lose his mind and score 18 goals. What puts him above is 15+ counterparts are his six assists, ability to win aerial duels, and soak up minutes. At 29 he seems to be hitting his prime so a huge season should be expected again.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Ruslan Malinovskiy, AM

There’s really a lot of players who can fill this role, Papu Gómez, Mario Pašalić, de Roon, Freuler, you get the point. Malinovsky is intriguing to me because he’s such a spark plug off the bench. The Ukranian made most of his appearances off the sideline but still impacted a lot of games. He passed well, scored eight times with five assists, five yellow cards, and four MOTM awards. Those are good stats even for a super sub and it must be nice to see him coming in to support the team.

Defensive Player to Watch: Robin Gosens, LB

Gosens is the star left back and one of the younger regular players on the team at 26. Playing as a modern wing back, Gosens often supplies sumptuous crosses for the forwards to slam into the net, something he’s accustomed to himself. Gosens scored nine goals with eight assists and could be even better in those categories next season.

Benevento

2019 Finish: Serie B Champions

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Gianluca Lapadula, CF, €4M; Kamil Glik, CB, €3M; Gianluca Kaprari, CF, Loan; Artur Ionita, CM, €1M; Daam Foulon, LB, €500K, Federico Barba, CB, Unknown

Departures: Gianluca Di Chiara, LB, €500K

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: Benevento was last in Serie A in 2017/18, which also happened to be their first experience in Serie A. After being sent right back down, they’re back after winning Serie B. The specialty of Benevento was defending last season. Their 67 goals was best in the league, but only by four. On the other hand, they allowed just 27 goals in 38 matches, 11 better than any other team in the league. Their goal differential of 40 helped them run away with the title by 18 points.

A name that could ring a bell for some people is Filippo Inzaghi, a 2006 World Cup winner and now manager of Benevento. His 4-4-2 allows a pair of wingers to support the attack while the central midfielders generally lay back, only coming forward on sets or to rotate play. Some good loans and smart transfers have players who generally might not be at the smaller club joining, indicating that there’s a chance Benevento might be able to stick around.

Benevento are one of the favorites to be relegated along with their newly promoted partners. Benevento is actually a -222 favorite which makes 

Attacking Player to Watch: Gabriele Moncini, FW

There are some better attacking options after the window allowed some transfers, but Moncini is just 24 years old and made a decent impact last season. He scored four times with three assists and while those numbers may not rise this season for various reasons, Moncini will be an interesting asset to watch develop.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Roberto Insigne, RM

Insigne technically plays as a winger, but since he’s in the second bank of four, I’m calling him a midfielder. Insigne is a right midfielder who was very efficient on the wing, scoring eight goals and assisting on four more. He prefers to cut inside like the more modern wingers, so he fits nicely in Inzaghi’s formation.

Defensive Player to Watch: Lorenzo Montipó, GK

Montipó is the highest rated player among goalkeepers and defenders on the team, and it makes sense giving up only 27 goals on the season. He’s a good candidate to get picked up by a bigger club if Benevento are sent back down, otherwise the 24 will be a valuable asset for the club.

Bologna

2019 Finish: 12th

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Luis Binks, CB, Unknown; Sebastian Breza, GK, Unknown

Departures: Ladislav Krejčí, LW, Free; Mattia Destro, CF, Free; Diego Falcinelli, CF, Loan; Tommaso Cassandro, RB, Unknown

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: A very poor close to the season had Bologna finishing 12th in the league, but if we assume they did a bit better to close things out and picked up just one more win they could have jumped up to ninth. It is a bit of a surprise that Bologna did end up in the position they did considering their goal totals weren’t standard for a team who would even be finishing 12th, yet alone 9th.

The bigger issue came on the defensive side of the ball where they gave up 65 goals. No team above them was worse and three teams above them were better. Luis Binks was picked up from the MLS and Sebastian Breza came out of Serie B, so they can’t be counted on to make a difference. I’m not sure there’s enough on this side to break into the top half of the table.

Attacking Player to Watch: Musa Barrow, CF

Barrow was the best player on the team by a bit of a margin, scoring nine goals with two assists. He only started ten games and made 14 appearances in total, but at 21 years old he seems to be an emerging prospect who can make a big difference in a season. He gets a lot of shots off and does a very good job passing considering his age and position.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Roberto Soriano, CM

The 29 year old Soriano was a talismanic fixture in the Bologna midfield. He wasn’t the best on the team in any particular category, but he did everything well. Five goals, five assists, 87% completion rate on passes, just really solid performances. He doesn’t get much recognition from the media or fans but he drives the team forward.

Defensive Player to Watch: Takehiro Tomiyasu, RB

Tomiyasu is working his way back from a hamstring injury so it’s fair to say that you might not be able to see him right away, but the right back is one of the best players on the team. He has a bit of a mix in terms of how he plays the position. While he’s a very good defender who can absolutely demolish wingers, he also gets upfield for goal contributions, scoring once and assisting three more times.

Cagliari

2019 Finish: 14th

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Marko Rog, CM, €13M; Giovanni Simeone, CF, €12M; Razvan Martin, CM, Unknown; Riccardo Sottil, LW, Unknown; Gabriele Zappa, RB, Unknown

Departures: Nicoló Barella, CM, €25M; Lucas Castro, CM, €3M; Artur Ionita, CM, €1M; Luca Cigarini, DM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-1-2

2020 Expectations: Cagliari finished the season with a pretty impressive goal differential, especially considering they were 14th. That -4 was mainly attributable to the attack which scored 52 goals, better than three teams who finished above them. The defense that allowed just 56 goals wasn’t bad by any stretch, but it could have been a bit better.

The management responded to the season by making really nice strides in improving the attack, probably assuming those improvements will be able to protect the defense some, and I actually like the strategy. Their 4-3-1-2 allows for only a few attackers, so upgrading the top of the formation and getting solid midfielders who can play box to box will help control the game a bit more.

Attacking Player to Watch: Giovanni Simeone, CF

Simeone was one of two South Americans who worked at the top of the formation scoring goals. He was the less impressive of the two last season, scoring only 12 goals with three assists and not passing as well as his counterpart Pedro, but he’s younger. More mentoring and another season of experience can make those two one of the more formidable pairings in the league.

Midfielder Player to Watch: João Pedro, AM

Again, I’m cheating, but that’s okay. Pedro splits time between the top of the formation and just below there at attacking midfield, but either way he’s very good. Last season he scored 18 goals with four assists while winning a lot of aerial balls. He’s a strong passer and could even reach 20 goals this season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Alessio Cragno, GK

Alessio Cragno split a lot of time with the older Swede Robin Olsen, but it’s part of a transition that’s seeing Cragno take over the job. At 26 he’s just entering his sweet seasons and could be between the sticks for a very long time on the island.

Crotone

2019 Finish: 2nd in Serie B

2020 Title Odds: +450000

Arrivals: Luis Rojas, AM, €2.4M; Luca Marrone, CB, €1M; Miloš Vulić, CM, €800K

Departures: Pasquale Giannotti, CM, Loan

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: Well they could certainly be a lot higher. The team were in Serie B last season and while they did finish second, it wasn’t very close. They did beat out third place by seven points, but not being close to Benevento makes me a bit nervous about the ceiling on this season.

The attack was… good, they did score the second most goals in the competition, but what does that mean in the second tier? The defenses are so much better in the top flight that there’s really no comparing the leagues. The defense was fine, too. It gave up 40 goals which wasn’t the best in the league, but it was in a three-way tie for fourth. I suppose the main message is that they’re going to have to be really good to stay up this season, and even with the new buys I don’t see it happening.

At -400 to be relegated, it really isn’t worth even laying money on the wager.

Attacking Player to Watch: Simy, CF

The 28 year old Nigerian is worth 2.5 million Euro which is tied for the highest in the club, so it should go without saying that he’s the most valuable attacker on the team. He scored a cool 20 goals and tacked on four assists at the top of the formation, his goal total being nearly three times the amount of the next closest player.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Ahmed Benali, CM

Benali is the other player worth those 2.5 million Euros and it’s for a good reason. He’s the next closest player to the goal total of Simy with seven and he assisted on a goal as well. It’s not very many goal contributions but Benali does so much more in terms of keeping the attack moving, hitting in crosses, tackling ball carriers, and so much more.

Defensive Player to Watch: Lisandro Magallán, CB

Magallán is a loanee to the club from Ajax who aims to be one of the best players on the pitch. The Argentine is 26 years old and comes from a country famous for its center backs around the world. Hc could be a very key cog in the back line.

Fiorentina

2019 Finish: 10th

2020 Title Odds: +25000

Arrivals: Alfred Duncan, CM, €15M; Christian Kouamé, CF, €11M; Pol Lirola, RB, €11M; Giacomo Bonaventura, CM, Free

Departures: Jordan Veretout, CM, €16M; Giovanni Simeone, CF, €12M; Amidu Salifu, CM, Free

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: Fiorentina made a nice run to finish the season and ended up right in the middle of the pack at 10th. The club finished with a positive goal differential at three which was really nice for the club. They only won 12 matches while drawing and losing 13, but scoring at the right time gave them a good finishing position. The 51 goals and 48 allowed were both fine numbers, but both could get better.

The sale of Veretout was very smart considering he wasn’t an integral player in the team and was able to fund the purchase of other players. Improving the team at all three levels just makes a lot of sense, especially when it gets this easy financially.

Attacking Player to Watch: Federico Chisea, RW

Chisea is often overlooked in Italy thanks to his team and the quality of the young players coming up, but Chisea is as good as any. He scored 10 goals with six assists last season, both highest on the team, and earned the highest rating on the team. He’s going to be in world football for a long time so you should get to know his name soon.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Erick Pulgar, DM

Pulgar played as a pivot in the right central midfield position. He’s a very talented defensive midfielder who, while defending well, contributes to goals, too. He’s one of the most stable passers on the team and his 13 goal contributions make him one of the most versatile as well.

Defensive Player to Watch: Nikola Milenković, CB

Outside of Chisea, Milenković is the highest valued player on the team and with good reason. At 22 years old he started 35 matches in Serie A and scored five goals from the center back position. He’s an extremely good passer and he crunches people on tackles. A very valuable asset moving forward.

Genoa

2019 Finish: 17th

2020 Title Odds: +250000

Arrivals: Andrea Pinamonti, CF, €19.5M; Francesco Cassata, CM, €7M; Gabriel Charpentier, CF, €1.5M; Mattia Destro, CF, Free; Lennart Czyborra, LB, Loan

Departures: Christian Kouamé, CF, €11M; Gianluca Capadula, CF, €4M; Koray Günter, CB, €2M

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: I went over this type of situation with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga Preview, and there’s still nothing like a brush with death to scare you into changing your ways. Genoa narrowly missed out on being relegated. Their attack was alright, certainly not bad considering some teams many places above them hit the same total, but the defense was abysmal. The only teams who allowed more goals were the teams relegated.

The concerning factor for me is that Genoa didn’t buy any help on the defense. Just about everything is staying the same in their back three and goalkeeping situation. The only real change defensively is that Czyborra joined on loan and there’s not a great spot for him unless the formation changes. That could be in the works, though, as Danny Rose is rumored to join the club, too.

Genoa are +400 to be relegated to Serie B next season, the fifth best odds in the league. Based on their lack of real defenders added to the squad I’m fine with laying a bet on them.

Attacking Player to Watch: Andrea Pinamonti, CF

Pinamonti was on the squad last season and started a good amount of games at the top of the formation alongside Antonio Sanabria. The pricetag to make him permanent from Milan might seem like a lot, but at 21 he has a chance to really improve on his five goals. He’s good in the air and passes well for a youngster at that position.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Francesco Cassata, CM

The former Juventus man is just 23 years old but has a lot of experience all over Europe. When he was just 19 he started 34 matches in Serie B and assisted on five goals. Last season he scored twice in 14 starts for Genoa, but also earned two red cards. He’s a good passer with a lot of football experience at a young age. If he gets his issues ironed out he’ll be a very nice piece for the team.

Defensive Player to Watch: Cristian Romero, CB

The 22 year old Argentine defender was a major fixture in the team last season, starting 30 matches and playing the most minutes on the team by a few hours. He earned a lot of yellow cards, but they didn’t often boil over too much. Romero scored and assisted once each, but his real impact came in the air and with his passes, where he was vital defensively and in distribution.

Hellas Verona

2019 Finish: 9th

2020 Title Odds: +150000

Arrivals: Adrian Taméze, DM, €3.5M; Kevin Rüegg, RB, €2M; Koray Günter, CB, €2M; Ivor Pandur, GK, €900K; Emmanuel Badu, CM, €800K

Departures: Luca Marrone, CB, €1M; Jure Balkovec, LB, Free

Preferred Formation: 3-4-2-1

2020 Expectations: An unorthodox formation paid off well for the big Verona club as they secured a top half position. That finish might not influence the big names to join the club, but the extra cash to keep things moving and running inside the organization is very useful. Having won a lot of games with their defense, Verona made some efforts to make sure they didn’t lose that touch.

A few players were made permanent and some others were brought in, but things will be stabilized nevertheless. Goals might be a problem, though, as they only scored 47. Only four teams in the league scored less than them and two were relegated. That defensive success might be able to help keep the team afloat but a lack of well-timed goals could make for a big drop-off.

Attacking Player to Watch: Samuel De Carmine, FW

De Carmine worked as the lone striker at the top of the formation for a decent portion of the matches, though the 31 year old did share the spot with a lot of others. He scored eight goals from the position last season and that number led the team.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Darko Lazović, LM

Lazović played the largest total of minutes on the team last season by starting 36 matches, and he was also one of the most effective. Playing on the far left of the second back, Lazovićscored three times with seven assists. He put in a lot of crosses to be put home and will continue to be a major factor in the offense this season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Giangiacomo Magnani, CB

Magnani is joining the club from Sassuolo for a season, and at 24 years old he has the potential to be the best player in the back. He hasn’t played too many minutes but with Kumbulla on loan, he ought to step into the right side of the formation. He’s flush with potential.

Internazionale

2019 Finish: 2nd

2020 Title Odds: +200

Arrivals: Achraf Hakimi, RM, €40M; Nicoló Barella, CM, €25M; Stefano Sensi, CM, €20M; Aleksandar Kolarov, LB, €1.5M; Alexis Sánchez, CF, Free

Departures: Mauro Icardi, CF, €50M; Andrea Pinamonti, CF, €19.5M; Yann Karamoh, RW, €8M; Andrea Palazzi, CM, €2M; Valentino Lazaro, RM, €1.2M; Felice D’Amico, LW, €400K; Matteo Rover, RW, €100K; Lorenzo Gavioli, CM, Free

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: It was a seriously wild ride this past season with Inter, and they might actually be thankful the market has tanked due to the pandemic because it means that they’re keeping their major players, especially Lautaro. Inter finished the season with a big push to move up to second place and actually only missed out on the title by a single point. That’s as close as Juve have been to being dethroned in a while, and it wasn’t a fluke.

The goal scoring and defense on this side are both phenomenal as there’s pure class all over the roster. To make things even better, they spent big and smart on some seriously good players in Hakimi, Barella, and Sensi. While Juventus haven’t been able to do much, Inter have done a lot and look ready to end the reign of the Turin side.

+200 is a great bet to take for Inter winning the league. There’s a real chance they can take down Juventus for the crown. As for the Golden Boot, there’s two players who could win it. Lukaku is +350 and Lautaro is +1600, but the fact that there’s so many options on the team makes me think that none of them will be able to pull it off.

Attacking Player to Watch: Alexis Sánchez, CF

Yeah, I could tell you to watch Lukaku or Lautaro, but what’s the point? You’re going to see them score goals anyway. Depth is a key factor on a lot of teams and if Alexis can find his old form from his Arsenal days then he could be a huge player for them, whether it’s filling in on rest days or coming in on the hour mark.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Achraf Hakimi, RM

If you’re not sure who Hakimi is yet, watch his footage from Dortmund. I know Madrid are keen on balancing the books and getting rid of extra salary, but selling Hakimi was a shocking move. He’s a player of the future in that he can fit in anywhere on the right side, but he’s still a very good defender. The Moroccan had five goals and ten assists with Dortmund last season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Milan Škriniar, CB

It can feel like Škriniar is an old man at this point from how much we’ve been hearing about him, his up and down play, and where he could be headed, but he probably hasn’t even hit his prime yet. He’s only 25 years old and while generally considered one of the best players in the world, will need to be better this season. His passing is unbelievably good and he’s a top three defender in the world on his day, but he needs to iron out the kinks.

Juventus

2019 Finish: Champions

2020 Title Odds: -111

Arrivals: Arthur, CM, €72M; Félix Correia, RW, €10.5M; Weston McKennie, CM, Loan

Departures: Miralem Pjanić, DM, €60M; Emre Can, DM, €25M; Simone Muratore, CM, €7M; Cristian Romero, CB, €2M; Matteo Stoppa, ST, €1M; Blaise Matuidi, DM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: Of course Juventus won the trophy again, they’re always supposed to. But, it wasn’t supposed to be that close. Blame whoever you’d like, but there should have been no way that Juventus let it slip to just a single point at the end of the season. Whether you want to point at Sarri, Ronaldo, injuries, defense, whatever, there were some issues.

Now, of course they’re the favorites. They’re the biggest club in the country, they have Ronaldo, tons of cash, incredible players, all of it. They earned the deal of the season by swapping Arthur for Pjanić, but they didn’t do much more than that. A lot of the star Italians are getting old, especially in the defense. There wasn’t nearly enough done in this window to keep up with Inter, so I think there’s going to be a legitimate competition, and one that Juve might be outgunned in.

-111 isn’t too bad of a bet for Juve to take the crown yet again, but I don’t have them able to keep up with Inter. I would avoid the bet for my opinion, but if you think Juve are still better then -111 is worth the risk. I also like the +220 for Ronaldo to win the Golden Boot. He scored 31 times last season which would normally be enough to take the trophy. Another 30+ season should be able to take it this season.

Attacking Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, LW

Duh.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Arthur, CM

Arthur should be taking the starting job that Pjanić vacated on his way to Barcelona, so we’ll be blessed to watch him in that position. Surrounded by great talent, Arthur will thrive with enough playing time to help him find a rhythm. He’s a very good passer and defender and can contribute to goal, too.

Defensive Player to Watch: Merih Demiral, CB

There’s a lot of good central defenders on this team. de Ligt, Bonucci, Rugiani, Chiellini. All brilliant. Demiral is going to be better than all of them. He’s just 22 years old but showed better form than any of them last season. With more playing time alongside de Ligt, his future partner, he could become elite. Soak him in while he’s young so you can say you were on to him before everyone else.

Lazio

2019 Finish: 4th

2020 Title Odds: +2000

Arrivals: Vedat Muriqui, CF, €18M; Gonzalo Escalante, CM, Free; Pepe Reina, GK, Free; Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro, CM, Unknown

Departures: Valon Berisha, CM, €4.3M; Ricardo Kishna, LW, Free; Alessandro Rossi, CF, Loan; Ivan Vargic, GK, Free

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: Rome finally felt validated again when Lazio were pushing for a title down the stretch and were really making Juventus sweat, even taking the lead late in the season. But when the pandemic hit, any momentum the team had just hit a wall. The upset wins went away, the overperformances, all of it just went out the window. Lazio finished the season five points off the lead, tied for fourth place, losing to Atalanta on goal differential.

Saying Lazio choked isn’t fair in my eyes. Had the season continued I’m confident they could have won the title. Momentum is real in sports and you could tell that Lazio were almost like a hive mind, playing in unison at the peak of their abilities. This season they have to refind that. They’re clearly capable of challenging for the title, and even though they didn’t make many big strides in improving the squad, they still have the starpower to compete.

Immobile is +650 to repeat as the Golden Boot winner, and considering Muriqui shouldn’t be that much of a hindrance, I like that number. It’s worth a bet on him because the payoff is beautiful. As for winning the title, Lazio are +2000. Again, I think that’s worth a flier because they really came so close last season. I’m not sure they can beat out Inter but what they did last season didn’t look like a fluke.

Attacking Player to Watch: Ciro Immobile, ST

Immobile led the country in goals last season with 36, over one per 90 minutes. He also added on nine assists, earning him one of the highest ratings in Europe. He’s incredible.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Sergej Milinković-Savić, CM

It’s tough to split between Alberto and SMS, but the Serbian takes the spot here. Alberto had 15 assists last season, but SMS was the heart of the midfield. He’s a hulk, winning possession from dribblers, winning aerials, passing well, getting shots on goal, all of it. He does everything for the team and there’s a reason the biggest clubs in the world want him.

Defensive Player to Watch: Luiz Filipe, CB

The Brazilian is just 23 years old but still fits the bill to be one of the best defenders in the country. Felipe played on the right of the back three. He’s a really strong passer and defends better than most players around him. He has a lot of time to grow, but is currently on an ankle injury and could miss the start of the season.

Milan

2019 Finish: 6th

2020 Title Odds: +2200

Arrivals: Sandro Tonali, DM, Loan; Alexis Saelemakers, RW, €3.5M; Simon Kjaer, CB, €3.5M; Cipiran Tatarusanu, GK, €500K; Pierre Kalulu, RB, €480K; Brahim Díaz, AM, Free

Departures: Suso, RW, €24M; André Silva, CF, €9M; Ricardo Rodriguez, LB, €3M; Gustavo Gómez, CB, €2M; Giacomo Bonaventura, CM, Free; Pepe Reina, GK, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: AC is a storied club, having been one of the best in the world for a very long time, but they’ve fallen off of that precipice recently, plateauing somewhere around the title of “pretty good.” That’s flatly not acceptable for one of the most recognizable brands in the sport, and I think everyone at the club is over that. The push to get better is real and refreshing.

The signing of Sandro Tonali signifies something that the team hasn’t done for years which is signing a young player with a future. It’s only a loan but chances are they buy him after the season and that means a lot to this team. The defense was already very strong so adding the wonderkid should turn the goal into something of a fortress. The attack does need some work and signing some older players will help for now, but saving up to buy Tonali is the correct thing to do right now.

Attacking Player to Watch: Zlatan Ibrahimović, CF

Because Zlatan.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Sandro Tonali, DM

I already went over him a bit earlier, but Tonali is one of the hottest young commodities in Europe and Milan did well to snag him. He’s displayed a great knack for passing the ball at Brescia, getting seven assists last season, but he’s a true defender. Think of Casemiro for the position. He’s a true Italian central defender who has a bit more range.

Defensive Player to Watch: Theo Hernández, LB

At 22 years old the Frenchman has already won a World Cup and turned into one of the best left backs on the world stage. Hernández is a modern wingback who burns up the pitch and can cross the ball, but also sends a through ball to the corner and cuts inside to nod home the cross for his own goal. Six goals and three assists prove his attacking in the 4-2-3-1.

Napoli

2019 Finish: 7th

2020 Title Odds: +1100

Arrivals: Victor Osimhen, CF, €70M

Departures: Allan, CM, €25M; Simone Verdi, RW, €20M; Roberto Inglese, CF, €18M; Marko Rog, CM, €13M; Vlad Chiriches, CB, €9M; Alberto Grassi, CM, €6.9M; Orestis Karnezis, GK, €5M; Ciro Palmieri, ST, €5M; Luigi Liguori, RW, €5M; Claudio Manzi, CB, €5M; Luigi Sepi, GK, €4.58M; Lorenzo Tonelli, CB, €2.5M

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: Napoli were one of my favorites to win an assortment of different trophies last season but things just went wrong. They weren’t a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, they just struggled to figure out who they were as a team or where they slotted in. It’s fair to accuse them of playing as individuals instead of a team as there are a lot of independent personalities on that team, but it’s not an excuse for them.

Despite owning one of the best defenses in the world they still gave up 50 goals. Sure, Italy always scores a lot of league goals, but 50 is way too many. Another issue is that they only scored 61 goals on the season. Napoli cannot be outscored by Sassuolo. The addition of Osimhen is a huge one that ought to bring that total way up, but it’s going to take a collective effort to get back to where the team should be finishing. Not being in Europe this season gives them no excuse not to focus on getting back into the Champions League.

Attacking Player to Watch: Victor Osimhen, CF

Osimhen was alluded to briefly above, but the work done by the Nigerian forward at Lille speaks for itself. There were three regular forwards for Napoli last season who all did good things, but Milik was the best in terms of goals with 11. Osimhen should be able to top those numbers this season. At just 21 he’s certainly the striker of the future for Napoli.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Fabián Ruiz, CM

Ruiz played on the right in the middle tier of the 4-3-3 that Gattuso employs. He’s extremely valuable at 24 years old and was one of the best players for the team last season. His passing nearly hit 90% and his chance creation was critical. He scored three times with six assists and getting work in with Osimhen should make the two even better players.

Defensive Player to Watch: Kalidou Koulibaly, CB

It’s pretty obvious as to why, but Koulibaly is one of the best defenders in the world. He was injured a bit last season and wasn’t able to reach his best form, but the towering Senegalese defender can take on any player in the world, Messi included, and beat them when he’s playing well.

Parma

2019 Finish: 11th

2020 Title Odds: +150000

Arrivals: Roberto Inglese, CF, €18M; Yann Karamoh, RW, €8M; Alberto Grassi, CM, €6.9M; Giuseppe Pezzella, LB, €6.45M; Luigi Sepe, GK, €4.58M; Hernani, DM, €4.48M; Jasmin Kurtić, CM, €3.5M

Departures: José Machín, CM, €4M; Luca Zamparo, CF, €300K

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: Parma were a surprise to stay up when they were promoted a few seasons ago, but since then they’ve shown they’re absolutely deserving to be in the position. Parma are using Napoli rejects and the best of Serie B to build their club into one that’s capable of being in Europe and it’s actually progressing very well. Finishing 11th is a nice accomplishment and they’re gunning to finish high based on their window spending.

Both the attack and the defense could have done better last season, but the attack was the unit that needed to be better to match the teams above them. 56 goals won’t get you far into the top half of the table so spending on Inglese and Karamoh to score more often should be a good strategy. Spending a bit less to help make the defense deeper is a good move to keep things stable for now.

Attacking Player to Watch: Roberto Inglese, CF

Inglese has joined Parma permanently after a could of seasons loaned to the team. Injuries hindered him last season but he’s more than capable of scoring double digit goals and should be entering his best years soon.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Alberto Grassi, CM

Grassi is another player who was a Napoli loanee for a couple seasons before being brought on permanently. He’s a really nice pivot who completes a lot of passes and at just 24 he’s going to get better. We should see him become more of a regular fixture this season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Giuseppe Pezzella, LB

Pezzella is another younger player who wasn’t a regular fixture last season but did play enough to make his mark on some matches. He’s a strong left back who’s more true to the older version of the position. He doesn’t get forward too often but defends and passes very well.

Roma

2019 Finish: 5th

2020 Title Odds: +4000

Arrivals: Jordan Veretout, CM, €16M; Gianluca Mancini, CB, €13M; Carles Pérez, RW, €11M; Henrikh, Mkhitaryan, AM, Free; Pedro, RW, Free; Marash Kumbulla, CB, Loan

Departures: Patrik Schick, CF, €26.5M; Grégorie Defrel, CF, €9M; Maxime Gonalons, DM, €4M; Aleksandar Kolarov, LB, €1.5M; Alessandro Florenzi, RB, €1M

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: Roma finished just below their city counterparts Lazio, eight points below and securely in the 5th place position. Like AC, those around the club are likely sick of not being the best anymore, so they made a serious effort to change that. Roma scored one more than the 76 goals of Juventus so the attack wasn’t necessarily the biggest issue, but it’s what needs to get better for Roma to move up the ladder. The defense allowed 51 goals which was easily the most of the top six teams.

The transfers that Roma made won’t win them the league, but it can be enough to put them into the Champions League. While club legend Aleksandar Kolarov is gone and Patrik Schick has been sold for a nice profit, the additions were very intelligent. Veretout and Mancini were brought on permanently to solidify the defense, as was Carles Pérez for the attack. Mkhitaryan was dealt for free from Arsenal after a delightful loan, Pedro joined from Chelsea, and Kumbulla is loaned to further reinforce the wall in back.

Attacking Player to Watch: Cengiz Ünder, RW

Ünder didn’t have the biggest role last season, playing in ten matches while only starting in two of them, but his impact on the team is undeniable. His three goals on the wing clearly aren’t the most, but at 23 years old the Turkish winger is becoming an important part of the team. He bombards the goal and has a good passing percentage for a winger. Another season under the veteran tutelage of the wise Roma wingers will do him very well.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Nicoló Zaniolo, AM

Zaniolo is another young Italian player whose future in the national team is bright. The attacking midfielder has an eye for goal and scored six times from the position with two assists. His creative side still needs some developing but he’ll do well behind Lorenzo Pellegrini for another season.

Defensive Player to Watch: Gianluca Mancini, CB

There’s two young center backs who could fill this spot but the nod goes to Mancini. Kumbulla is on loan from Hellas and he’s going to be a very good player for Roma, but Mancini is already a regular in the team. In 30 starts last season he and Chris Smalling were a wrecking crew at the back, but he has room to improve. He’s a really good passer but sometimes a bit too much passion carries into his tackles and he gets carded quite a bit.

Sampdoria

2019 Finish: 15th

2020 Title Odds: +150000

Arrivals: Mikkel Damsgaard, LW, €6.5M; Lorenzo Tonelli, CB, €2.5M; Kristoffer Askilden, CM; €2.5M; Nicoló Francofonte, CM, €1.7M; Tommaso Aguello, LB, €1.5M; Erik Gerbi, CF, €1.3M; Matteo Stoppa, ST, €1M; Felice D’Amico, LW, €400K; Maya Yoshida, CB, Free

Departures: Karol Linetty, CM, €7.5M; Gianluca Caprari, ST, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Expectations: 2019 was a rough season for Sampdoria as they finished close to the relegation zone by earning just a single point from their final four matches along with playing poorly for most of the season. The attack, led by the aging legend Fabio Quagliarella, scored a respectable 48 goals, but the defending was wince-inducing, allowing 65.

It’s clear that the team identified an issue and are deciding to attack it through the transfer window. Karol Linetty was sold at a high point to fund some of the fixes which included a center back and some central midfielders to help control the pitch. Patching up the defense is integral but doing it by controlling the ball more often and implementing your style on the match can often do a better job than buying a single pricier defender.

Attacking Player to Watch: Manolo Gabbiadini, CF

While not quite the player that could separate the club from the pack on his own, Gabbiadini is a very nice player who does well playing with Quagliarella. They both scored 11 goals apiece last season and Gabbiadini is doing a good job at developing his passing. He wins about an aerial duel a game and gets plenty of shots off.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Ronaldo Vieira, DM

Is it possible to have a better name for a footballer? Especially a defensive midfielder? While he might not live up to the name completely, Vieira does play a crunching style of football that Patrick did as well. This version is a very good passer and fits in well as a pivot. He had a bit of a down season last year but his fiery play and the way he attacks the ball does make you think of the elder.

Defensive Player to Watch: Julian Chabot, CB

Chabot is a German central defender who only started six matches last season but did make a lasting impression on the team. The 22 year old is being groomed to replace Maya Yoshida down the line and he’s a nice choice to do so. His passing ability and style of play are very similar to Yoshida’s while both players nearly always sit back and never aid the attack. He’s a true defender with a lot of development ahead of him.

Sassuolo

2019 Finish: 8th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Grégorie Defrel, CF, €9M; Vlad Chiriches, CB, €9M; Kaan Ayhan, CB, €2.5M; Lukas Haraslin, LW, €1.5M; Gregorios Kyriakopoulos, LB, €1.2M

Departures: Stefano Sensi, CM, €20M; Alfred Duncan, CM, €15M; Pol Lirola, RB, €11M; Francesco Cassata, CM, €7M

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Expectations: Sassuolo finished close to the European spots in the table but weren’t really close at all in the points column. Sussuolo were eleven points behind Napoli’s 62 for various reasons, but the biggest was the lack of defending. The team scored 69 goals which was a great number, but the allowed 63 which is terrible for a team in the top half of the table.

Ownership were forced to make a decision this offseason to either make some money off wanted players or try to keep everyone around and make a run at European football. With all the good players joining the bigger clubs, they made a smart decision to sell some of the desired players and make smart buys to mitigate the possible bad results to come. So while they sold 53 million worth of good players, the team might not suffer as much as one would think. They’ll probably drop to the lower half of the table but stay close to 10th.

Attacking Player to Watch: Domenico Berardi, RW

Barardi, while not the best goal scorer on the team, is the most confident and best overall attacker for Sassuolo. Last season he put home 14 goals with 10 assists while hitting 78% passing. That’s pretty impressive for a younger player to be putting up double digits in both columns while having the awareness to not constantly turn the ball over.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Hamed Junior Traoré, AM

Traoré can play in any attacking midfield position, but he does his best work centrally. He is a bit unproven as he’s just 20 years old, but the Ivorian started in nine matches, played in 20, and scored four goals. He also passed for 83% which is wildly impressive for a younger player. If he keeps moving in the right direction he’s going to be sold for a massive fee.

Defensive Player to Watch: Mert Müldür, RB

The Austrian-Truk right back is a name that most people don’t know thanks to his youth and club, be he’s a rising star. He’s probably the right back of the future for Turkey and really impressed last season with his passing and ability to work the ball up the pitch. It’s likely that he starts to get more time and starts this season.

Spezia

2019 Finish: 3rd in Serie B

2020 Title Odds: +450000

Arrivals: Jeroen Zoet, GK, €1.5M; Jacopo Sala, RB, Free; Lorenzo Colombini, LB, Free; Gregorio Morachioli, LW, Free

Departures: Tommaso Aguello, LB, €1.5M; Delano Burgzorg, LW, €290K

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Expectations: SPezia were one of the few third-place second-tier teams to actually make it to the top flight in their countries this season as many underdogs were winning the play-in tournaments. They key to Spezia’s success last season came in the form of defense; the Spezia unit allowed just 40 goals on the 38 match season. The attack needs help and that’s why  I think stayin up this season might not be possible for the club.

Spezia scored just 54 goals, and while that is 3rd most in the league, it’s well behind what Benevento and Crotone put up last season. To make matters worse, they didn’t sign a player who’s capable of changing that. I suppose making the defense a bit better with a goalkeeper and depth at fullback could help in the odd match, but there isn’t a player on the roster who’s going to score enough in the top flight to save the season.

At -400, it really isn’t worth laying down the money for Spezia to be relegated.

Attacking Player to Watch: Emanuel Gyasi, LW

Gyasi is the highest rated player in the attack for Spezia side and he plays on the left wing. In 29 matches he scored eight goals and three assists. He gets carded a lot, but he has a good xG and pretty decent xA number, especially for a 26 year old forward.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Guilio Maggiore, CM

Maggiore is only 22 years old, so running a team in Italy’s top flight is a big ask for that player, but after 25 starts in Serie B he should be ready for the challenge. He’s a really smart passer with six assists last season. He continues the attitude tradition of the Italian midfielder with two reds last season, but he’s ready for the challenge and will be interesting to watch.

Defensive Player to Watch: Jeroen Zoet, GK

Zoet was a really cheap purchase out of PSV to really make an upgrade at the goalkeeper position. The players that were in goal last season are 19 and 20 years old, so bringing real top flight experiences in for a cheap price was an opportunity Spezia could not pass up.

Torino

2019 Finish: 16th

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Simone Verdi, RW, €20M; Karol Linetty, CM, €7.5M; Mërgim Vojvoda, RB, €5.5M; Ricardo Rodríguez, LB, €3M

Departures: Kevin Bonifazi, CB, €11M; Tommaso Cucchietti, GK, Free; Ola Aina, RB, Loan; Luca Gemello, GK, Loan

Preferred Formation: 3-4-2-1

2020 Expectations: Another close brush with the threat of being sent down, another team who spends big to stay the hell away from it. Torino don’t see too much media attention thanks to sharing a city with Juventus and Ronaldo, but having the fear of god struck into you will clean up your act no matter who you are. The attack only scored 46 goals and the defense allowed 68, so it doesn’t really matter where they start, they just need to get better.

After a long stint at SPAL Bonifazi is going back permanently. The money from the player was able to help fund the big window to bring players to help control the match better. Verdi is the biggest get and should be able to help with the goal scoring while Linetty, Vojvoda, and Rodríguez can all help improve the overall play of the team.

Attacking Player to Watch: Andrea Belotti, ST

Belotti is a name known well by more hardcore footballers but might not be known outside of the country to others. Belotti is one of Italy’s strikers who, like most strikers, has a really nice eye for goal. He topped the team’s rating last season with 16 goals, he pours shots onto the net, and he does really well in the air.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Karol Linetty, CM

Linetty is coming over from Sampdoria and should be a really nice addition to the midfield. He’s a veteran at controlling the ball and midfield in general and passes very well. The Pole also scored four goals with three assists last season and should help the attack get closer to a healthy level.

Defensive Player to Watch: Bremer, CB

Bremer probably won’t be the most used center back of the season, but he and his national compatriot in Lyanco are Torino’s future at center back. The pair of Brazilians are both just 23 years old and have really good experience in the back three. Bremer started the third most matches in the back line last season scoring three goals with an assist and two red cards.

Udinese

2019 Finish: 13th

2020 Title Odds: +250000

Arrivals: Fernando Forestieri, ST, Free; Nahuel Molina, RB, Free; Thomas Ouwejan, LB, Loan

Departures: Seko Fofana, CM, €8.5M; Giuseppe Pezzella, LB, €6.45M; Emmanuel Badu, CM, €800K

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Expectations: Udinese was middle of the pack last season and that’s about where they’re always counted on to be. Luca Gotti’s team plays in a fairly unorthodox formation, but it works for them. Last season the defense was good, allowing only 51 goals which was a really good number for a team in the bottom half. How are they in the bottom half then? The attack. Outside of Brescia and SPAL, Udinese scored the least number of goals out of any team in the league.

So let’s see what they’ve done to address those issues. Signed a 30 year old striker from Wednesday on a free? Right, then. Nothing. This is a really concerning window for a team that got luck often. The lack of investment from ownership makes this season a really scary one. I wouldn’t be relying on this attack if I were in charge.

Udinese are +250 to be relegated and I think that’s a really good value. The system that some of the promoted teams are bringing to the team makes me really concerned that Udinese won’t be able to score enough goals to keep up.

Attacking Player to Watch: Stefano Okaka, FW

Okaka is one of the two players that makes up the pairing at the front of the formation for Udinese. Last season he scored eight goals with a pair of assists and acted as a bit of an enforcer. He earned a bunch of cards but played a vital role in the attack regardless.

Midfielder Player to Watch: Rodrigo de Paul, AM

de Paul is probably the best player on roster for Udinese in the attacking midfield thanks to his ability to do everything. He soaks up quality minutes, he passes really intelligently, he scored seven goals with two assists, and he controls the tempo of the team. Vital.

Defensive Player to Watch: Juan Musso, GK

Finishing up with another keeper, Musso started and finished 38 matches last season and was the second highest rated player on the team. If you don’t know much about ratings, it’s nearly impossible for a keeper to finish that high, especially on a team in the bottom half of the table. Musso is the real deal and should be very exciting to watch this season.