Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Calcio midterm report

Serie A has delivered an exciting first half of the season thus far with AC Milan currently topping the table three points ahead of their nearest rivals Lazio and Napoli. Milan's first year manager Massimiliano Allegri has turned around an old squad and has gotten the best out of his high priced, big ego stars. None more so than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whom had a hard time getting into the Barcelona squad at he end of last season. Ibrahimovic has found his form and has been an indespensible component for Milan. Milan still have weaknesses and they showed in this past weekend's loss to Roma. The midfield is ancient and when Milan push forward they are capable of being caught on the break. The fullbacks have been a questions mark all season, and adding a stronger leftback could help to shore up the backline. Another question mark is the depth at centerback; Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva have been fantastic, but Silva was sorely missed last weekend while out due to injury.

On Milan's heels are both Lazio and Napoli. Most surprisingly is Lazio who barely fought off relegation last season. Lazio has been excellent and fully deserve their position. Lazio is a well put together team, and as they showed in Sundays 3-2 win over Udinese, they fight for each other. I believe Lazio can keep this form and be Milan's main challenge in the second half of the season. Napoli has also been good, but I don't feel they can keep this form up and will fall off slightly; but if they can obtain a Champions League spot that will be a great achievement. Juventus dropped points over the weekend, and were lucky to leave Chievo with a point. Juve has the talent and manager to gain that third spot, but the inconsistent form has hurt them. Milos Krasic has been in great on the right side of midfield, while Fabio Quagliarella's goals have kept the club in contention for the Scudetto. Juve will be in the market for a striker come January and rumors abound of Antonio Cassano, however, Cassano will most likely join Milan if they can make room for him; and make room on the wage bill. Milan could very well sell Ronaldinho to make that room as his playing time has been reduced with the re-emergence of Clarence Seedorf. Roma and Palermo should contend for a Champions League spot, but will only have a shot at the Scudetto if they can get a good run of form under their belts.

Inter Milan, what can I say. The best team in the world last season, and now a team reconstructed by Rafa Benitez to get out of Jose Mourinho's shadow. To be fair Inter have been rubbish this season. However, injuries must be taken into account as Benitez has changed the training regime of the club (much like at Liverpool) and it has shown with many of the first 11 in the physio's room. The news today is that Benitez maybe out of a job, but regardless Inter will have to improve all over the pitch if they want to make the top four. They won't win the Scudetto. I'm picking Lazio in a surprise upset of Serie A heavyweights. But don't rule out Milan if they can keep the old legs going.

At the bottom, Parma and Fiorentina should do just enough to stay up. But it'll be Serie B football next season for Bari, Lecce and Cesena.

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