Serie A returns this week, so Get Italian Football News gives you five things to watch out for in the second half of the season.
Juventus ended 2022 strongly, with wins against Inter and Lazio before the World Cup break. After an awful start of the season, which also saw the Bianconeri crash out of the Champions League group stage, Juventus gained back some ground. They finished the year as third, only two points behind Milan and ten behind leaders Napoli.
In addition to that strong finish, Juventus’ big stars are slowly returning to the pitch. Federico Chiesa is almost fully recovered from his ACL injury and ready to go, while Paul Pogba and Dušan Vlahović are also on the way back. Juve might be ten points behind Napoli, but they still get to play the Partenopei twice in the second half of the season.
Juventus are definitely a team to watch if they can regain their form from before the World Cup and reintegrate their stars well.
Pioli’s injury troubles
Winning the Scudetto again will be a tough task for Milan. Although the Rossoneri are in second place, injuries could potentially cause coach Stefano Pioli troubles. Mike Maignan, Alessandro Florenzi, Ballo-Touré, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Divock Origi, Junior Messias and Ante Rebić are all injured, so at certain positions Pioli might have to get very creative if more players are out.
Especially the goalkeeper position is one that causes lots of worries at the moment. Maignan is out for longer than expected and back-ups Tatarusanu and Mirante are far from convincing. Tatarusanu initially replaced Maignan, but during last weeks friendly against PSV Eindhoven, Mirante got the chance to prove himself. He performed badly, so a league start for him can almost certainly be ruled out. Whichever of the two will be in goal before Maignan returns, it could cost Milan some points.
Milan did sign a Colombian goalkeeper Devis Vasquez from the Paraguayan league, but his quality is still a big question mark at the moment. The Rossoneri are now trying to move the arrival of Atalanta goalie Sportiello forward from June to January, which is definitely needed.
Victor Osimhen is currently Serie A’s top goal scorer, with 9 goals in only 11 appearances. He’s one of the reasons for Napoli amazing start of the season and it will be vital for the Partenopei’ Scudetto charge that the Nigerian keeps scoring.
Osimhen’s best season in Serie A goal scoring wise was last year, when he scored 14 goals. If the Napoli striker continues like he did before the World Cup, he’ll comfortably break his own record. However, there’s something else that could deny him from doing that. Osimhen is quite injury prone and already missed six matches this season because of a muscle injury.
Osimhen’s quality is undeniable, which is also the reason why he always attracts interest from other clubs, so it’ll be exciting to see if he can do it for a full season.
Big Boys at the Bottom
Enough talk about what’s going on at the top of the table. Sampdoria and Hellas Verona, two former Serie A champions, are respectively 19th and 20th in the league. Both teams already made managerial changes, but still haven’t managed more than one win this season and are quite far away from the safe zone (a spot which is occupied by Spezia with 13 points).
Sampdoria sent Marco Giampaolo away in October and replaced him with Inter legend Dejan Stanković. They are currently on 6 points. Last season, neighbours Genoa went down to Serie B, and this season the other team from the city could also be relegated. This wouldn’t necessarily mean that we won’t have a team from the port city, as Genoa find themselves in a promotion battle in Serie B.
Hellas Verona sold a lot of big names last summer, Antonín Barák and Giovanni Simeone to name two. It was always going to be a tough challenge for Gabriele Cioffi, who was just fresh of a solid 12th place finish with Udinese. In October, the club had seen enough and fired Cioffi. Salvatore Bocchetti was caretaker, but he didn’t have the correct UEFA license, so Marco Zaffaroni will be the person who has to lead the Gialloblu, who are on 5 points, out of the danger zone.
Milinkovic-Savic on the move?
It seems almost inevitable that Sergej Milinković-Savić will make a move away from Lazio this year. The Biancocelesti are doing well in Serie A this season with the 4th position in the league. Milinković-Savić has played a big role in that, with 3 goals and 7 assists.
The Serbian’s quality is evident and big clubs have always been interested. Names of Manchester United and Juventus keep getting linked to him year in year out, but a move never comes off the ground. However, this time around, it could be different.
Milinković-Savić’s contract expires in June 2024, so if Lazio owner Lotito and sporting director Tare want to earn some money from the midfielder, the current and next summer’s transfer windows might be the last chances.
GIFN | Jurre van Wanrooij