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2017-18 Serie A Preview - Part 2: Europe And Relegation Races

Thursday 17th August 2017
Juventus and its closest Scudetto rivals were discussed in the first part of our preview . IRAIW's Serie A Preview, Pt 2, examines squads fighting for Europe or to avoid relegation.  

Because gravity is our friend, let's start higher up, then flutter lightly like a feather towards the drop zone.

Tight Race for European Spots

UEFA's Europa League will be something worth analysing this season in Italy. There are four slots available from league play for the Champions League. The next two join the Coppa Italia winner in Europe's secondary competition.

Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli, and AS Roma are favourites to secure the Champions League places. Nothing is ever certain, however. There are a few teams that could steal a window seat if the big boys don't keep an eye.

Who Can Sneak Into The UEFA Europa League?

As noted in IRAIW's Serie A Preview, Part 1, Lazio are most likely in that regard. After finishing fifth last season, nothing suggests they should hit a substantial drop off. Expect them to be in on the elite's coattails, a la Everton, once again.

Ciro Immobile is the Eagles most recognisable name. Keita Balde and Felipe Anderson will provide some width. Young Sergej Malinkovic-Savic is making a name for himself and will patrol the middle with veteran Marco Parolo. Ex-Liverpool defensive mid Lucas Leiva has come to Rome to provide them cover. At the back, Stefan de Vrij will be dealing with Lukaku on a daily basis. Not Romelu. Rather his younger brother, left back Jordan.

Simone Inzaghi has a fairly anonymous squad. The question is whether he can motivate them to make names for themselves?
Surprisingly, Atalanta ranked among the top teams, last season, finishing fourth. However, they lost two important players, Andrea Conti and Franck Kessie. Both signed with AC Milan.

Alejandro "Papu" Gomez should still lead the way but repeating seems complicated with the Rossoneri's bold intent. At best, they should be in contention for an EL berth if things go their way.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Bergamo side is always positive, though. They may still hold a surprise or two for more rated sides.
Torino are another team on which to keep an eye.  While strong in 2016-17, they've lost two key players already and stand to lose a third.

Il Toro won't have Joe Hart. The Manchester City keeper hasn't won a reprieve from Pep Guardiola despite Claudio Bravo's misadventures. Instead, he's on a second loan to West Ham.

Rangy 22-year-old midfielder Marco Benassi has also moved on to Fiorentina.

As though that wasn't painful enough for Sinisa Mihajlovic, the Serb boss might lose Andrea Belotti, as well. Among the top scorers in the Serie A last season, Milan want him. That's hardly a surprise. Of concern is that the Rossoneri have largely been getting what they want, including Leonardo Bonucci from champion Juventus. If the Maroons can keep their star striker, they should be fine. On the other hand, losing Belotti late in the window would transform Torino into a middle-of-the-pack squad.
Fiorentina, Inter Milan, and Sampdoria are three squads to also monitor this season. The trio's respective clubhouses each featured revolving doors in the summer. Yet,  all three should remain good enough to contend for a European berth.

Fiorentina seem best equipped to creep nearer the top. Despite losing Federico Bernardeschi to Juve, they acquired Torino's Marco Benassi. Otherwise, Stefano Pioli's side remains largely unchanged.

Inter need time to coalesce under new boss Luciano Spaletti, who has spent much of his summer fending off interest in winger Ivan Perisic, most notably from Manchester United.

Conversely, Sampdoria's inconsistency makes them a difficult nut to crack. They have the talent to press teams above them but lack the organisation to be a constant threat. Manager Marco Giampaolo faces a tough task. When you feature a player named Dodo, it's difficult to be optimistic regarding your future.

Relegation Race

It shouldn't be a secret but we'll say it anyway. Remaining in any top flight competition after being promoted is quite the challenge. Therefore, it should not be a surprise to see SPAL, Benevento and Hellas Verona listed as the bottom candidates to return to Serie B. Nevertheless, most years, at least one new side survives. Other clubs will find themselves compromised, as well.
Bologna, Genoa, Chievo Verona, and Crotone need to be on their toes. All finished above the relegation mark last season but struggled to compete with top teams, miring them near the bottom of the pack. That does not seem likely to change.

When you stick your head in the lion's mouth repeatedly, it eventually snaps shut.
In slightly better shape are Cagliari, Udinese, and Sassuolo. The trio finished in the bottom half last season. Nor have any seen significant improvement. There isn't any evidence to say they could make a push towards Europe. Neither do they seem in great danger.

Sassuolo are the most intriguing. They lost Lorenzo Pellegrini and Gregoire Defrel, both to Roma. Domenico Berardi remains. Whether he stays into September is a huge question mark. The forward is just too good for Christian Bucci's Neroverdi.

However matters sort themselves out, Serie A, as always, will be fascinating both at the top and bottom.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.

Total articles: 190

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