As we head into the Serie A Winter Break, the Scudetto race looks really interesting as the top five teams are separated by only four points. Sandro and Seb break down how each team has done so far and a brief outlook beyond January. The teams are in order of the current Serie A Standings.
1. Inter – Roberto Mancini finds his Inter side with a one-point lead at the top of the table heading into the winter break. While their attack is quite strong with Icardi, Jovetic, Perisic, and Ljajic, 9 of Inter’s 11 wins have come by a one goal margin, including eight 1-0 victories. On the flip side of that, Miranda and Jeison Murillo have slowly become a top class center back pairing and Inter boast the league’s best defense conceding only 11 goals. Defense wins championships and if Inter’s back line continues to perform they’ll be in the Scudetto race until May. Expect Inter to look and sign a midfielder in January. They’ve been linked to Andrea Pirlo (on loan), Mirko Valdifiori, Lucas Biglia and Antonio Candreva. Inter are also trying to close a deal for Boca Juniors youngster Jonathan Calleri and have been linked to PSG’s Ezequiel Lavezzi.
2. Fiorentina – Paulo Sousa has done a fantastic job since taking over for Vincenzo Montella in the summer. La Viola find themselves in 2nd place with 35 points. Sousa has the Florentine club playing attractive, fluid and attacking football. They lead in both average possession per match with 60.1% and pass success rate at 87.1%. Summer signing Nikola Kalinic has already scored 10 league goals. Along with Khouma Babcar and Josip Ilicic, Giuseppe Rossi has struggled to find playing time and he could possibly make a loan move in January. Fiorentina have drawn Tottenham for the Europa League Round of 32, the same exact matchup as last year, which saw La Viola advance. The big question for Fiorentina will be if they can successfully manage both Serie A and the Europa League. They have the talent to finish top 3 but if they go deep into the Europa League, it’ll be difficult to balance both competitions. Expect a few signings to be made as club President Mario Cogini recently has said: “As for the transfer market, we will continue the growth process and have clear ideas. January will be a very important month.”
3. Napoli - What a season it's been for Napoli and Sarri. One of the most entertaining teams to watch not just in Serie A, but in all of Europe. Currently sitting in 3rd just one point back off 1st, the Scudetto is more then just a dream for them, and with Higuian (16 goals in 17 matches) who's stopping them? Napoli are currently Scudetto favorites to some and are playing the best football in Italy in many people’s opinion. They average the 16.9 shots per game, the most in Serie A. Sarri has brought a great balance between the attack and defense, being one of the best in both categories. In January, Napoli will be looking for a midfielder to improve the depth in the midfield. A name coming out of recent reports is Markus Henriksen, who has an amazing 13 goals in 26 games this season for AZ Alkmaar. That's the best goal average for a midfielder in Europe this season. The deal is close to being completed at €7 million according to reports. Napoli are still trying to improve their defense as Juve rejected their €25 million offer for Daniele Rugani and are also pursuing Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic. Ciro Immobile could join his hometown side if Manolo Gabbiadini, with a €25 million price tag, gets sold. Brazilian defender Henrique is set to be sold to Fluminese for €2 million. Other then that, there isn't too much to add to this strong Napoli side.
4. Juventus – The Bianconeri had quite a difficult start to the season picking up only 5 points from their first 6 games and some people had already declared their Scudetto hopes dead. But Max Allegri’s side have won 7 straight Serie A matches and find themselves in 4th place, right in the mix of the Scudetto discussion. The summer signings have stepped up lately, mainly Paulo Dybala, Mario Manzukic and loanee Juan Cuadrado. The defending Serie A champions will have a difficult task on hand as they drew Bayern Munich in the Champions Leauge Round of 16. A return to the Champions League Final may be difficult but Juve certainly have the opportunity to win a 5th consecutive Scudetto. There has been talk of Daniele Rugani & Simone Zaza possibly leaving on loan in January. Juventus have been linked to numerous midfielders including, Ever Banega, Joao Moutinho, Adrien Rabiot, Stefano Sensi and Roberto Soriano but if Kwadwo Asamoah, Sami Khedira and Roberto Pereyra can stay healthy, the Bianconeri might not need a significant winter signing.
5. Roma - Currently sitting 5th, 4 points back of 1st. Roma have probably had the weirdest season in all of Europe. Roma have been up and down all season. With highs such as wins vs. Juve, Bayer Leverkusen, and a draw vs. Barcelona and at one point actually being in 1st place. But then, the lows; 6-1 loss vs. Barcelona, draw and a loss against BATE and a loss at home to Serie B side La Spezia. The low's have put coach Rudi Garcia on the hot seat with nearly all the fans wanting him out and now even the president James Pallotta doubting him. It's still unclear how his future will go. Luciano Spalletti or Antonio Conte after Euro 2016, are big names that could replace Garcia. Regarding the transfer market, €22 million flop Juan Iturbe is if off to EPL club Bournemouth, while Ashley Cole looks set to join the LA Galaxy in MLS. Roma have been linked to Diego Perotti, Jeremain Lens and Stephan El Shaarawy as they look for Iturbe’s replacement. There have been reports that Roma might waive the €11 million Inter would need to pay to purchase Adem Ljajic in exchange for Juan Jesus joining the Giallorossi. Another name for Roma is Alisson, a young Brazilian goalkeeper who could replace Szczesny next season.
6. Milan - One of the most inconsistent teams in Italy. Milan currently sit 6th place and it's very deserved. This team is not bad, but they're just not great. Milan have moments of brilliance where they look like true UCL contenders but then moments where they don't even look Europa League worthy. Another up and down season for Milan as finding stability is still a struggle. A bright spot would be the breakouts of Jack Bonaventura who has his took his game to another level and 16 year-old goalkeeper Donnarumma who is now the starter. This team without a doubt has potential to be good but consistency has held them back. Coach Sinsa Mihajlovic has slowly brought some improvements to the club but will need more time to help return to the Champions League. Going into the transfer market Milan have already brought back Kevin-Prince Boateng to improve the midfield and reports state they will go after Axel Witsel once again. Talks about a Pato return seem unlikely. But in 2016 Milan will get another important figure back and that's Mario Balotelli, who will return from injury. Before his injury Super Mario showed some good signs, which included a wonder goal vs. Udinese. He's been out since September and it's been reported that Balotelli is skipping Christmas holidays to stay at Milanello to work to return to action and we all know if Balotelli is concentrated and fit what he can do on the pitch. Suso is set to leave on loan to Genoa and there have been reports of Diego Lopez wanting out after becoming #2. It'll be interesting to see if Milan can improve and become more consistent in the second half of the season.
7. Sassuolo – Eusebio Di Francesco continues to have success during his fourth season at the club. 27 points from 16 matches and they have not lost consecutive games yet this season. Talented 21-year-old winger Domenico Berardi has only played 640 minutes this season due to both injury and his 3-match suspension. The Italian has received more cards than anyone else over the past 3 seasons and Di Francesco has admitted his disciplinary record is “becoming a problem.” This side has only been trailing for a total of 149 minutes all season, second only to Napoli. Sassuolo averages 18 tackles a game and have only given up 15 goals. If they can stay consistent Di Francesco could lead a gritty Sassuolo side to a surprise Europa League birth but it will be a difficult task. Expect them to finish this season between 7th-10th.
8. Empoli - No Sarri No Problem? That's what Empoli says. Currently Empoli are 8th with 27 points. This is actually an improvement from last season with Sarri. Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski has just as many clean sheets as Buffon. Empoli have played some of the most entertaining football this season and in large part thanks to guys such as Paredes, Maccacone, Tonelli and Saponara. Coach Marco Giampaolo has done fantastic work in replacing Sarri, in some ways, he's actually currently doing better. In January, Empoli won't do much and why should they? You don't need to fix something that's not broken. They will try to keep Saponara around who has been linked to some of the bigger teams in Italy, but it's likely he stays until June. Keep fighting and keep playing great football.
9. Atalanta – Edy Reja has done well this season despite losing Zappacosta and Baselli to Torino. 23-year-old goalkeeper Marco Sportiello has had another stellar season in net, while this team has some interesting attacking options. German Denis and Mauricio Pinilla are solid striker options, while Alejandro Gomez and Maximiliano Moralez are both nice creative midfielders. Already out of the Coppa Italia, Atalanta can focus solely on Serie A and will look to finish mid-table in the 10th-12th region. Goalkeeper Sportiello has caught the interest of Roma and EPL side Bournemouth. 24-year-old midfielder Marten De Roon has been linked to Milan but has shut down rumors by saying, “Milan? I’m not moving from here.”
10. Lazio - A disappointing season considering where they were last season. Lazio are currently sitting 10th place coming off some horrible results in the past couple months. They ended off on a high note though with a 2-1 win against Inter at the San Siro, which sees coach Stefano Pioli keep his job. This team on paper has what it takes to make top 5 but injures and loss of form has seen this team completely drop. It'll be interesting to see if in 2016 when Serie A restarts if this team could regain the form they had last season. In January the team wants to fix the backline, which has been a problem all season. Some names we've seen of recent are former Liverpool defender Daniel Agger and Dinpro defender Douglas. Another defender is Chelsea's Kurt Zouma but they don't want to match his wages. It's also reported Monaco are 'very' interested in Lazio winger Keita and are willing to offer €15 million. Youngster Onazi also looks set to leave as he's upset with his playing time.
11. Chievo Verona – The Flying Donkeys got off to a flying start grabbing 7 points from their first 3 matches but have cooled off a bit since. Alberto Paloschi, Riccardo Meggorini and Roberto Inglese have been rotating up top well, combining for 13 goals and 9 assists. This is not the traditional Chievo side we usually see, Roberto Maran has this side being somewhat creative going forward. A study done by the CIES Football Conservatory (http://www.football-italia.net/75864/chievo-europes-oldest-serie-second) shows that Chievo Verona has the oldest squad among Europe’s top leagues with an average age of 30.6 years, so hopefully they can keep their legs fresh going into the 2nd half of the season. Expect this Chievo team to finish midtable around 12th place.
12. Torino – 10 points from the first 4 matches saw Giampiero Ventura’s side get off to a nice start but a 6 game winless streak brought them down to the middle of the table. Torino has a very nice core of young Italian players consisting of Daniele Baselli, Davide Zappacosta, Marco Benassi and Andrea Belotti. The Granata’s strongest defenders, Nikola Maksimovic, Kamil Gilk and Bruno Peres, all extended their contracts until 2020. Inter and Roma remain interested in right back Bruno Peres, while Torino have set a €20 million price tag. Head coach Ventura also extended his contract until 2018. They have a game in hand as their match against Sassuolo, which has been rescheduled to January 20th after being postponed. This Torino side has the potential to finish in the top 10 of the table.
13. Udinese – Stefano Colantuono was named the new manager this past summer, replacing Andrea Stramaccioni. The Zebrete kicked off the season with a shock 1-0 victory over Juventus but then lost 4 straight matches. They’ve struggled to find goals, scoring only 15 but Cyril Théréau leads the way with 5 goals and 2 assists. There is also speculation that club legend Antonio Di Natale could retire at the end of the season. 40% of their attack goes down their left flank which may be due to left back Ali Adnan, the first Iraqi player in Serie A, who has looked very impressive. Udinese’s executive President Franco Soldati insists right back Silvan Widmer will stay “for a few years”. Udinese will look to finish mid-table.
14. Sampdoria - A horrible season for the team from Genoa. Going into this season Sampdoria had a lot of hope after making Europa League last season. It has turned out just horrible. Not making it past the qualifying round of Europa and needing to fire coach Walter Zenga for Vincenzo Montella who has only won 1 game since taking over. A season of failures so far with only one bright spot; Eder with 10 goals. He's been one of the best players in Italy this season. This Sampdoria team clearly has potential and a coach who once he settles in could do well. The second half of the season could see Sampdoria fighting back and proving their worth. For the transfer market they've already signed Ricky Alvarez and have been linked with a loan move for Giuseppe Rossi. They have also recently been linked with a triple move for 3 Leicester City players: defender Benalouane, former Napoli midfielder Inler and striker Karmaric. Expect midfielder Roberto Soriano to be linked with a move away from the club for the whole month of January.
15. Bologna – The Rossoblu collected only 3 points in their first 8 matches and Delio Rossi was sacked on October 28th and replaced by Roberto Donadoni. In his 7 games in charge, Bologna has earned 13 points, including a 3-2 victory over Napoli. Since the coaching change, this team has been both more organized and dangerous going forward as Mattia Destro has netted 5 goals under Donadoni. 21-year-old left back Adam Masina is a great young talent who will probably move to a bigger club in the near future. With Donadoni as the man in charge, this team is a lock to avoid relegation.
16. Palermo - Currently sitting 16th in Serie A, Palermo have been very disappointing this season as they are close to potentially making the drop if they don't improve. They definitely miss Dybala! But, the main Palermo problem comes from upstairs. Crazy president Zamparini does and says whatever he wants, but maybe this year it's effecting his team as it has created a horrible negative atmosphere around the club. After firing coach Beppe Iachini, which saw Palermo players take to social media to show their frustration instantly showed you new coach Davide Balladrini wouldn't work out. Only 1 league win and a loss against Serie C side Alessandria in the Coppa Italia show you that. Zamparini as also got into it with his players (regarding the Iachini situation). In January expect Palermo to remain quiet. They haven't been linked with too many moves with the only most recent is a swap for Genoa striker Pandev, seeing Palermo midfielder Rigoni going the other way. Palermo have signed striker Manuel Arteaga from Zulia FC.
17. Genoa - Genoa, just like Roma are in some sort of crisis as we speak. They are currently sitting 17th and are very close to the relegation zone (2 points back). It's been mainly a tough season, which not many expected considering how good they were last year. Some injures and loss of players last summer is apart of that. The losses of Bertolacci, Iago Falque, Borriello & Niang are being felt. Gasperini has a lot of work to do in the second half of the season to save his side from the drop. But, if this form goes on, does Gasperini even last the season? For the market this Genoa team should be looking desperately for a striker. Midfielder Luca Rigoni has already joined from Palermo. A striker who will score is what they need most and they have been one of the teams linked with a famous loan move for Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi. They will also be welcoming in talented Milan midfielder Suso, who will be a huge boast to the side.
18. Frosinone – Newly promoted Frosinone earned their first point ever in Serie A on September 23rd when they tied Juventus 1-1 in Torino. As expected, they have struggled in the top flight and have the league’s worst defense conceding 34 goals. Federico Dionsi is the main man going forward, leading the team with 5 goals and 3 assists. Surviving relegation will be a battle but the Canaries will certainly need to improve their defense.
19. Carpi - The Serie A new boys won't be too sad about this season but also won't be happy. All in all it hasn't been the best but anything is still currently possible. Carpi are currently sitting 19th in Serie A with 10 points but with a half a season still left to play there is still hope for Carpi and it's what keeps coach Fabrizo Castori around still. Also, they're Coppa Italia run is pretty impressive as they are in the last 8 after beating Fiorentina away from home. In January don't expect this team to do much, maybe a couple additions but nothing big. A couple loans at most with Carpi have admitted interest in Napoli youngsters Chalobah, Dezi and Rafael. It's very likely we see Carpi back in Serie B for the 2016/17 season.
20. Hellas Verona – The only team in Serie A without a win sit at the bottom of the table. Luigi Del Neri took over the reins from Andrea Mandorlini on December 1st and has picked up 2 points in his first four matches. 38-year-old legendary striker Luca Toni has 3 goals so far, but has announced his retirement at the end of the season. Hellas have the lowest amount of goals scored with 12, only 2 of those have come from open play. Urby Emanuelson is set to sign with the club after undergoing a medical. This team has looked very poor and while it is possible to avoid relegation, it will be a challenging task.