The Serie A season is finally here. All the drama and excitement and insanity of Italian football has returned, and oh how we have missed it. With the opening weekend upon us, it's time to take a look at what the season has in store for us, with a new-look and resurgent Serie A campaign on the horizon.
What will Napoli do?
It's really, really hard to predict what's going to happen to Napoli this season. They've looked good in the preseason, but that's just the preseason. Once points are on the line, anything and everything can happen. Maurizio Sarri's new system looks like it's working. Napoli look dangerous in attack and fairly solid in defense. Things could go incredibly well -- or everything can blow up in Napoli's face.
Maybe the new system doesn't work in big matches. Maybe big players playing in new roles just doesn't work. Maybe the attacking rotation leaves everyone mad and not playing at full form. Maybe the patches put into the defense don't hold up.
Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
But hey, maybe all of that does work out in Napoli's favor. If it does, or even just mostly does, this team could be absolutely incredible. There's so much potential, so much quality, so much fight, so much heart. If Napoli can channel that, can find that grinta and passion that seemed to be lacking so often the last couple of years, this is a team that can play with anyone.
Juvetus are probably going to run away with the title again, but if anyone can slow them down, it's Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne and Allan and all the rest. This is a team with incredible potential if things break right, and frankly, Napoli are due a couple positive breaks. It looks like we're going to be in for one hell of a ride this season.
Who will be the season's breakout star?
Lorenzo Insigne - We already know Insigne is good. Very good even. But during preseason, he seemed to be finding a new level after being moved to trequartista by Maurizio Sarri, away from the wide forward slash second striker role he's found success in over the last few years. That move a few yards behind a pair of strikers has given him a new ability to pick his space and time his runs without having to worry as much about a much bigger defender singling him out. That coupled with his explosive dribbling ability could be huge for both Insigne and Napoli, and we could see him legitimately explode as one of the biggest attacking stars in Serie A this season.
Who will surprise Serie A?
Sassuolo - It's easy to point at them because Napoli open their season against them, but Sassuolo quietly look like a team that could go on a run not at all unlike the one we saw Sampdoria go on last season. They took some losses, sure, but Domenico Berardi looks primed to explode, and Guy Defrel is a sneakily solid choice to replace the departed Simone Zaza. Alfred Duncan should be a solid piece for their midfield, so if they can just solidify their defense even a little, they could be a dangerous, dangerous team.
Champions: Juventus. Duh. They'll probably have a stronger challenge than they've gotten for awhile
Runner up: Napoli. Call it a fit of optimism, but with how poor a summer as Roma had, their squad is thin in too many places and despite getting Edin Dzeko up top, they probably aren't as good a team as a year ago overall. Napoli are a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect right now, but it feels like that, if things click, they could easily surpass a slipping Roma side.
Third place: AS Roma. Roma's lack of depth and another Champions League campaign look to be a poor match for the capital club. This is probably Francesco Totti's last gasp for a chance at adding another championship to his collection of accolades, but it doesn't look likely right now.
Europa League places: Inter Milan, Lazio, AC Milan. There's probably as many as nine teams that could finish in one of these three spots. Want to know how I picked these three? Random number generator. That's how close it looks right now. I do think the two Milan clubs are towards the bottom of the group, but it wouldn't be that shocking to see one or both in it.
Relegation: Frosinone, Carpi, Chievo Verona. Frosinone hasn't done enough to improve. Carpi might have, but that side could just as easily implode, and in Serie A it's easier to implode than succeed. Chievo? I'm just picking them to go down until it actually happens.