We’ve already covered the Premier League, but on your weekend mornings you may also run across random Italian soccer games. Serie A is on ESPN but mostly the network’s app, so I guess you Luddites out there may not see it. But if you do, here’s a crash course on what you’re watching. We’ll move north-to-south down the peninsula (no, that’s not a euphemism):
Juventus: The league’s best and most likely to win the season. Juve is the best team in Serie A and will probably win it. Again. They’ve won the championship (called the “Scudetto”) eight times in a row. They’re like the Patriots and Yankees rolled into one and yes you should hate them passionately.
But unfortunately they’re legitimately good. Convicted-tax-cheat-and-accused-rapist Ronaldo wins games at will when they need to be bailed out, but they also have scoring depth in Mario Mandzukic and Paolo Dybala, the latter of whom is still young and talented despite having had a tough previous season. Their backfield was aging and slow, so they took care of that by adding Matthijs de Ligt, one of the best defenders in the world. New coach Maurizio Sarri, who won the Europa League with Chelsea last year will likely play a 4-4-3, and the Scudetto is theirs to lose.
Torino: The Mets to Juve’s Yankees, or the White Sox to Juve’s Cubs, if you wanna be a dick about it. Torino is a mid-table team with one decent striker. And his nickname in Italian is “The Cock.” Not even making that up.
Internazionale: One of the best teams but continually falling short of expectations. Known as “Inter,” they’re making a credible run at Juve’s dominance. They have a new coach, Antonio Conte, who is one of the most successful Italian coaches of recent years, and they landed Romelu Lukaku, who should more than make up for their drama-filled albatross Mauro Icardi, who they’re still trying to unload. They’ll be competitive like they always are…and lose to Juve like they always do.
AC Milan: Been underperforming and will likely be better. Milan should be good this year—they seemed to have found their striker in Krzysztof Piatek, they added a bunch of midfielders to make up for the injury-depleted group last year, and they’re sitting out of Europa League (financial shenanigans), which means they’ll be rested and focused on getting back into a Champion’s League spot.
Atalanta: Last year’s Cinderella story, doomed to not repeat it. Atalanta squeaked into the fourth Champion’s League spot and yes you should root for them because come on, you’re not that dead inside. But truth be told, they have no depth and are likely to be mid-table this year.
Brescia: Recently promoted but surprisingly interesting. So Brescia just got promoted, which generally means they’re going to suck, but they just signed native son Mario Balotelli, one of the most infamous Italian players who’s legit a top-flight guy, although also a nutjob and on the downswing. This club also has the league’s version of Crash Davis, the leading scorer in the B league, Alfredo Donnarumma, who will be paired with Balotelli as the scoring attack. So it might be interesting at times, but with no defense they’ll still be kind of a trainwreck.
Hellas Verona: Don’t even worry about it. They were relegated, now are back, and will certainly be relegated again.
Udinese: Again, don’t worry about it.
Genoa: Attempting to suck less. This team brought in a bunch of new players after barely avoiding relegation. Lasse Schone helps their midfield, their backfield is also strong on paper, and they may have some competition amongst their strikers between Christian Kouamé, Andrea Pinamonti and some other dudes you’ve never heard of. Could be a sleeper pick?
Sampdoria: Perennial shit show. This team’s best player is nearly my age. And their new coach got his ass fired from Roma midway through the season last year for general awfulness. Expect to be underwhelmed.
Parma: Will be fortunate to not get relegated.
Sassuolo: Lots of turnover in the lineup, will probably steal a few untimely wins. Sassuolo is by no means a good team, but with the lineup going through the blender, they’ll probably make life difficult for a couple teams at inopportune times.
Bologna: High drama, will be a mid-table finish. This club was rescued mid-season by Sinisa Mihijlovic, who somehow lit a fire under their asses to get from the relegation zone to a solid 10th place. He was recently diagnosed with leukemia and intends to keep coaching, but obviously a terrible development.
SPAL: Dull and will stay that way.
Fiorentina: In rebuilding mode. Fiorentina was awful last year but they have new management and a whole fresh lease on life. We’ll see.
Lazio: Hanging around the top of the league, but they’re fascists. Seriously, Lazio is the team for fascists in Italy. Even IN ITALY people are like oh yeah, they’re fascists. So you can’t root for them. Their fans do all sorts of anti-Semitic shit all the time—fuck this team.
Roma: Full on re-building. Roma was a reliable Champion’s League team and it sucks, but they’re going through a necessary rebuild. They have good young players in Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Cengiz Under and a few more, although they lost their best defender to Napoli. Paolo Fonseca is untested in Serie A but had success with Shakhtar Donetsk, and his 4-2-3-1 may actually work quite well with their personnel if Edin Dzeko is in the striker position. It may be a long road back to the top but this could actually be a decent rebuild.
Napoli: Should FINALLY FUCKING BEAT JUVE WHY CAN THEY NOT DAMN IT ALL. Guess which one is my team? In all honesty, they underperformed last year and were still second in the league. Anything less than beating Juve for the Scudetto will be a disappointment, and it’d be nice if they could get past the fucking group stage of Champion’s League. Napoli strengthened their backfield with Roma’s Kostas Manolas who joins Kalidou Koulibaly, legit one of the best defenders in the world. They also hit the cheap-young-talented trifecta with midfielder Elif Elmas. And as of this writing, they were on the verge of signing Hirving Lozana from PSV, who will absolutely help their lack of scoring, since Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne, love them as I do, are getting older and not faster. So it’s been a solid transfer season. Their coach, Carlo Ancelotti, won’t hesitate to move from a 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 and can be trusted to make relatively decent decisions, except for playing Mario Rui, who should be fired into the sun and maybe can be now that we have Manolas.
Cagliari: Could be decent, and at least they’re woke. Their midfield should get some help with Radja Nainggolan from Inter, who now has something to prove since he was kinda dumped unceremoniously. They’ve got other randos who are alright but nothing special. However, last year when local farmers were protesting shitty prices, some of the players took part in the protests so at least they’re standing against corporate exploitation.
Lecce: Prediction—we hardly knew ye. Again, don’t’ worry about it.