Atalanta had an excellent season and indeed they were real refreshment in the Serie A. They managed to squeeze into the Big 6, and it is important to add that they played the best in the finish of season when everyone expected that the team Bergamo team will lose steam. In the end they won the 3rd place, behind Juventus and Napoli, and ahead of Milan and two Rome teams. They won by 10 matches at home and away, and we should stress that Atalanta was the most efficient team in the league despite very strong competitions and as a reward came the first ever qualification for the Champions League. It needed just a bit to win a title last season as they played in the final of the Coppa Italia. They lost to Lazio and before that they eliminated Juventus. Manager Gasperini is creator of this small football miracle and of course he will continue to lead Atalanta, but it will be harder for him in the new season as everyone is aware of his team true capabilities.
It is very important for Gasperini that they managed to keep all the most important players and of course it helped that they will play in the Champions League. It will be a special challenge for everyone but nevertheless stopper Mancini and right side Mattiello have left, and Atalanta will definitely sell Kessie, Cristante and Petagna, who were anyway loaned. Two new stoppers are young Varnier and experienced Skrtel, but neither of them will be in foreground and they were brought to increase capacity for rotation. Malinovskyi from Belgian champion Genko should strengthen the midfield and they also retained Pasalic, who is borrowed. They kept great forward Zapata and added Muriel, who comes from Sevilla. Atalanta is stronger individually, although it has more obligations since it will play on three fronts this season.
Probable lineups Atalanta Bergamo: Gollini – Palomino, Djimsiti, Toloi – Castagne, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens – Ilicic – Muriel, Zapata
Forecast: We put Atalanta into the mid-table group only because we expect that the Champions League will drain their strength and that will leave a mark on their performances, at least in the first part of the season. If Atalanta continues competing in Europe next spring than it could have serious problems. Still, if there is a team in this group that is capable to surprise it is definitely Atalanta and perhaps they will do that again.
The second pleasant surprise last season was definitely Torino. It was forecasted last year that will finish around the middle of table at best but they made one step more and finished in the 7th place. It means that Torino messed a bit expectations of the Big 6, or more precisely Lazio, which was left behind. Lazio won the Coppa Italia so they didn’t have imperative to fight in the league, which Torino nicely used. Torino was even in the race for the Champions League, however, it would be too much. They played much better at home but only when it came to winning. They were defeated only twice outside their stadium as they managed to draw even 13 times, while, for example, they drew only two times at home. All in all, it was a good season and manager Mazzarri did a great job since Torino plays in the Europa League, admittedly in its qualifications.
Mazzari has a slightly different team at his disposal in the new season as they sold some players who were anyway loaned, like forward Niang and midfielder Ljajic. On the other hand they were able to keep players who are important to them and who were loaned to Torino. They bought contract for forward Zazu from Valencia as well as for midfielder Aina from Chelsea. Stopper Djidji was bought from Nantes and left back Ansaldi from Inter. Reinforcements could also be called several players who have returned from loans to other clubs, like stoppers Lyanca and Bonifazio. All this means that Torino didn’t buy new players, or at least those who could be called big reinforcements, but at the same time they didn’t lose a single important player. They start the new season with practically the same team and they wouldn’t mind repeating everything, including qualification for the Europa League.
Probable lineups FC Torino: Sirigu – Izzo, N'Kolou, Bonifazi – De Silvestri, Meite, Baselli, Ansaldi – Falque, Belotti, Zaza
Forecast: Prognosis is similar as for Atalanta; they have the same team and didn’t lose practically anyone, although Torino didn’t buy much. They need to focus on the Europa League and perhaps the Serie A will be on the back burner, at least in the beginning. Torino is a true example of team that is not strong enough to fight for top positions and that won’t slide into the bottom half of table either.
If Atalanta and Torino were the most pleasant surprises then Fiorentina was definitely the biggest disappointment. It was expected to fight for European competitions but it completely failed and instead it fought to survive. In the end, Fiorentina had only three points more than teams in the drop zone, although it occupied the 7th place around the middle of season. It sounds surreal that Fiorentina didn’t win in last 14 league matches, which is why they had such downfall. They could have saved the season by winning the Coppa Italia, however, Atalanta eliminated them in the semi-finals. Manager Piolia was sacked seven rounds before the end and Vincenzo Montella replaced him, but he also couldn’t make Fiorentina to win. However, he stayed on the bench and now has chance to lead the team from the start to a much better result.
The team underwent certain changes but it cannot be said that many new players came. It was more about trading with loaned players, or in other words returning some of them to Florence or departing those who were borrowed. Stoper Hugo returned to Brazil and midfielder Norgaard left. Another midfielder, Veretout, is now in Roma, while loans for Muriel, E. Fernandes and Gerson have expired. Since the midfield was the most weakened with departures they bought Pulgar from Bologna and returned tried and tested Badel. Loan for stopper Rasmussen was extended, while Lirola was borrowed from Sassuolo to strengthen the right flank. We should mention experienced forward K.P. Boateng here, although he'll probably be a reserve considering that Simeone and Chiesa have stayed in Florence.
Probable lineups AC Fiorentina: Dragowski – Rasmussen, Milenkovic, Pezzella – Benassi, Pulgar, Badelj, Dabo, Biraghi – Chiesa, Simeone
Forecast: They shouldn’t allow rerun of the previous season, or more precisely the second part of the it. It is unacceptable to not be able to win for so long and we believe that Fiorentina will do much better this season. It is hard to tell can they join the race for European positions but in the end they should be positioned around the middle of table or closer to the top.
It was a very modest season for Cagliari as well, although nothing spectacular was expected from this team. They were supposed to be positioned around the middle of table but throughout the whole season the team from Sardinia never reached the upper half of it and the best place it occupied was the tenth. Cagliari also didn’t enter the drop zone and in the end they moved down to the final 15th place thanks to five-game winless streak, where they had three points more than teams in the relegation zone. They played very poorly away, where they won only two matches or 11 points. They had several longer negative series but they didn’t changed manager Roland Maran and won't do that now. He will get another chance to improve the impression, and for that he got several interesting reinforcements.
The biggest loss is departure of midfielder Barella, while veteran Srna ended his career. Forward Farias also left, just as several borrowed players. They brought the biggest reinforcements to the midfield and we would single out Belgian Nainggolan, who comes from Inter in a sort of trade for Barella. Young Uruguayan Nandez comes from Boca Juniors, while Marko Rog is borrowed from Napoli. They bought forward Cerri from Juventus and besides him they brought Korean Kwang to attack, which is perhaps the weakest part of Cagliari. Right Back Mattiello was borrowed from Atalanta as a replacement for Srna, while Walukiewicz is the new stopper is. It will be interesting to see how manager Maran will set the midfield, where are the strongest.
Probable lineups Cagliari: Cragno – Mattiello, Romagna, Walukiewicz, Lykogiannis – Bradaric, Castro – Nandez, Nainggolan, J. Pedro – Pavoletti
Forecast: The previous season was bad, from beginning to end. Near the end there was a bit of panic about survival but everything ended well. They want more and better in the new season and it seems to have team that gives reason for optimism. We don’t know how much better but Cagliari should end up around middle of table or a bit better than that.
In several previous seasons Sampdoria was always positioned around the middle of table and after winning the 10h place three seasons ago it ended up in the 9th place in two previous championships. It can be said this is an objective position for them considering their individual quality, although, they would like to make a breakthrough and reach the Europa League. Sampdoria was nowhere near the objective last season as it results oscillated in the first part of season, and then they spent almost the entire second part in the ninth place where they ended up. Point differences were significant, both in regard to clubs positioned below and those above them. They played much better at home, and in the end they won 15 matches and lost 15, and drew eight. Marco Giampaolo had led the team in three previous seasons, however, they have changed the manager for the new season and now Eusebio Di Francesco is at the helm, with whom he will try to make the breakthrough. Sampdoria management made some changes in the team having that objective in mind.
They sold stopper Andersen to Lyon, and midfielder Praet was bought by Leicester, so they earned money on the two players. Loans for several important players have expired and the team left stopper Tonelli from Napoli, striker Defrel and left-back Tavares, while they bought several borrowed players. Goalkeeper Audero didn’t return to Juventus and stays at the goal, just like midfielder Jankto, who was bought from Udinese. Stopper Ferrari from Bologna also stays, while new players are Depaoli who will play at the right flank and stopper Chabot. Another significant reinforcement could be stopper Murillo, who is borrowed from Valencia. Out of newcomers we would single out young offensive midfielder Maroni, who comes from Boca Juniors. So, there were several changes and now it is just a matter whether this is sufficient to get them closer to European positions.
Probable lineups Sampdoria: Audero – Bereszynski, Murillo, Colley, Murru – Ekdal, Linetty, Jankto – Ramirez – Quagliarella, Caprari
Forecast: It seems that Sampdoria is again predestined for the middle of table. Its individual quality is neither for the Europa League nor for the drop zone. They accustomed us to be in the middle of standings, and we will forecast a similar positioning in the new season regardless of new manager and several new players.
A weak season is behind Udinese; they were positioned in the upper half of the table only at the beginning after which they moved to the bottom half and practically lived in fear of relegation till the very end. Interestingly, they spent only one round in the drop zone and were placed just above the zone for the larger part of season. They definitely saved themselves only in the finish when they had three-game winning streak that allowed them to have five points more than teams in the relegation zone. They played very weakly away matches and have won only three times outside their stadium, two times in last three rounds when it was the most needed. It should be said that Udinese won two out of those three wins against teams positioned in the relegation zone, Chievo and Frosinone. They also won Cagliari and in the end they ended up in the 12th place, which was continuation of tradition of positioning in the bottom half of table as they always ended below the 12th place in six previous seasons. Cagliari changed the manager when relegation threatened them last season and Igor Tudor took over in March, who will now lead the team from the beginning in hope that they can do better.
They sold goalkeeper Meretto to Napoli, where he defended as a loaned player, and midfielder Jankto was sold to Sampdoria. Machis left as well and interestingly goalkeeper Karnezis also ended up in Napoli. Departure of players whose loans expired was also a loss and out of them we would single out forward Okaku, who returned to Watford, just like Wilmot and Zeegelaar who returned to the same club. Defensive midfielder Sandro left as well and as a replacement they brought Walace from Hanover. New stopper is Becao, and they bought contract for De Maio who plays at the same position. Nestorovski from Palermo is new forward and he will replace Okaku. Left back Pezzell is also worth mentioning, who hasn’t returned to Genoa from which was borrowed. It cannot be said that Udinese has brought excellent reinforcements compared to what they have lost.
Probable lineups Udinese: Musso – Stryger Larsen, Samir, Becao, Pezzella – Mandragora, Walace, Pussetto, de Paul – Lasagna, Teodorczyk
Forecast: Udinese was very close to the drop zone for practically the entire previous season, which they want to avoid now. They would be quite satisfied if they end up around the middle of table but it wouldn’t be surprising if they again finish in the bottom half of table. Realistically, Udinese is not that bad to be afraid of relegation.
This will be the seventh consecutive season for Sassuolo in the Serie A, and once they even managed to qualify for the Europa League. In three seasons after that they ended up around the middle of table and each season seemed like a copy of the previous one. They firstly won the 12th place, and then in two previous seasons they finished in the 11th place and this was an objective position for this team, which never went below the 14th position, while at the beginning they were positioned quite high, in the zone that leads to Europe. The most important thing for them was that their place in the Serie A hadn’t been seriously endangered. Sassuolo mostly drew last season, even 16 times. In two previous seasons they changed the manager but now they won’t and Roberto De Zerbi will continue to lead the team that underwent certain changes.
Midfielder Politano anyway played for Inter last season and he was definitely sold now. Departure of stopper Demiral to Juventus was definitely a loss. Right back Lirola moved to Fiorentina, and several borrowed players left as well. They bought midfielder Locatelli from Milan and that was a good deal, just like bringing of midfielder Obiang from West Ham. New forward is Caputo from Empoli, while left back Rogeri was bought from Juventus. Sala from Inter will play alongside him at the same position, and we also need to mention arrival of young midfielder J. Traore from Empoli and Toljan from Borussia Dortmund, who can cover the right flank. It seems that Sassuolo is a bit stronger now than it was last season, although they will mostly rely on tried and tested players.
Probable lineups Sassuolo: Consigli – Adjapong, Ferrari, Marlon, Rogerio – Magnanelli, Duncan, Obiang – Locatelli – Berardi, Babacar
Forecast: Sassuolo ends around middle of table for years and all that should repeat in the new season. They did make certain changes in the team but very few newcomers will be starters, meaning they will rely on tested players and can hardly expect to reach European positions. At the same time their first-division status should be never questioned.