OUR man in Rome and resident Serie A expert Marco Di Cosmo (@scioltz) looks ahead to the new season, picking out his favourite ante-post punts ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | Serie A
The Italian league has been lacking in quality since about 2006, but it is slowly on its way back to the top of world football. Last season we had an intense, high quality title-race, with Napoli running Juventus close.
This season, the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Juventus means they're set to hit new heights. However, there are multiple factors we must consider, aside from the obvious goals CR7 will bring.
Juventus to be the highest scoring team (17/20 Unibet)
Juventus are understandably the clear favorites for the 2018/19 Scudetto, but there's no fun in touching those odds. Obviously it's the most likely outcome.
In Cristiano, Juve now have arguably the best player on the planet, so their attention will no doubt be focused on the Champions League, a competition that has evaded the Bianconeri for over 20 years. Nonetheless, as we've already mentioned, they're a shoe-in for the title, but perhaps we can scrape some value but eyeing the goal markets.
I'm keen to back Juventus to be the Highest Scoring Team at 17/20 (Unibet). Yes, it's only happened in one of four seasons under Massimiliano Allegri, but I think we're about to see Juventus adopt a more offensive style.
Aside from the obvious striking options, they have extremely forward-thinking full-backs in Alex Sandro and Joao Cancelo, while whoever of Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can anchors will give the likes of Ronaldo, Paolo Dybala, and Miralem Pjanic license to affect the game.
Chievo to be relegated (9/4 Sky Bet)
Chievo have consolidated Serie A status for 10 years now, and have been relegated just one in 17 years. However, I reckon this season could be a miracle too far.
For a start, they sacked Rolando Maran – a manager I rate highly. He overachieved massively with Chievo over the last four seasons. The Gialloblu have some very average players within their ranks, and I have them in the division's worst three sides.
Furthermore, Chievo have been involved in a ‘capital gain' scandal which means it's very possible they're banned from Serie A. A decision has been postponed until mid-September by the Italian court, but as I say, a severe punishment is very possible
I'm happy to use this to reinforce my edge, as with a poor start things could turn toxic. Chievo are 9/4 (Sky Bet) to go down.
Gonzalo Higuain to be Top Goalscorer (12/1 Betfred)
As is the case with Juventus for the title, CR7 is odds-on in the Top Goalscorer market. However, backing such odds-on shots is not my style, so I'm going to chance an outsider.
You may have heard of him – Gonazlo Higuain. You know…the guy who departed Juventus to allow Ronaldo to lead the line.
Well, Higuain will now spearhead AC Milan's attack and needs little introduction. The Argentine could well carry the Rossoneri to the next level, alongside some other impressive business.
Given the likes of Ronaldo, Mauro Icardo, Edin Dzeko, and Dries Mertens all feature in the Champions League, Higuain could see more domestic game-time. That has to be a positive and I'm happy to keep the 12/1 (Betfred) onside.
Race for a Top Four finish
Inter have made significant strides this transfer window, acquiring the likes of Stefan de Vrij, Sime Vrsaljko, Radja Nainggolan, Keita Balde and Lautaro Martinez – who has excited in pre-season. That should be enough to see Inter improve on last season's fourth place finish. It's 4/9 (Sky Bet) that they finish inside that mark once again.
Roma have also had an intense summer. While they've lost important players such as Allisson Becker and Radja Nainggolan they’ve made 11 new signings including some very big names (Javier Pastore, Steven Nzonzi) and promising prospects (Bryan Cristante, Justin Kluivert).
They're a solid team and now boast a deep squad. Last season they were able to mount a run to the final four of the Champions League whilst finishing inside the top three. They're a shoe-in for the top four this time around.
Napoli, Milan and Lazio should battle it out for fourth spot. The Partenopei are a lot weaker without Maurzio Sarri in charge while Milan should be a lot more competitive. Lazio always go under the radar and there is probably a touch of value about them, but their season is ultimately very reliant on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.