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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Now that the winter break is upon us (well, in countries such as Italy and Spain), it is time to sit back, put the feet up and take stock, at least at the request of my football-loving compadre, Remco Mulder, a fervent follower of both AS Roma and Ajax; someone who has been hounding me for weeks on end for my prediction as to who who will finish top of the tree in Serie A and La Liga.

Who I hope will finish top of the respective leagues - Juventus and Athletic Bilbao, just in case you are wondering, dear reader - is, well, rather different than who I think will finish top. Having said that, Remco will have noted that AS Roma's position has drastically improved from when he first asked me to put something in writing in October. Then, last season's runners-up were in the bottom 3 and looking more like candidates for relegation than challengers for lo scudetto.

Now, at the time of writing, they have worked themselves up to fourth place, though still 7 points off the pace with AC Milan leading the pack. This season's surprise package, Napoli, plus Lazio and Juventus are sandwiched in-between. Current title-holders Inter Milan are in seventh place, some 13 points behind AC Milan, and seem unlikely to mount a challenge sufficient enough to garner more than fourth place. Meanwhile, Palermo are sitting pretty in sixth place and are more than capable of upseting the odds. Sampdoria, Udinese and Genoa occupy the remainder of the top 10 places.

One-time giants Parma and - surprisingly enough -  Fiorentina are hovering above the relegation zone, though both should survive at the expense of those already ensconced in the bottom four: Cesena, Brescia, Lecce and Bari. Bari are the only club currently in the bottom four who didn't come straight up last time, having finished in tenth place last time out. Three of the aforementioned four will go down; Brescia are my tip to save themselves.

Back to the top three; AC Milan are your correspondent's tip to win what is turning out to be a stop-start Serie A, with points being dropped all over the shop in the top 8. Lazio should end up finishing second, a drastic improvement on what they would consider a disastrous showing last season, when they could only finish twelfth. Juventus should finish third, thus improving on last season's seventh place and consolidating themselves once more among the top 4.

AS Roma will finish fourth, having had too much to do to come back from such a perilous position so early in the season, but also having done enough to progress at least to the quarter-final stages of the European Cup, ahem, Champions League - having said that, they have to get past Ukrainian side Shaktyar Donetsk first. No easy task. AS Roma seem still to be a team in transition, a young side, but one which promises much; however, it will not be enough for this season.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the top three positions in La Liga are looking somewhat easier to predict that those in Italy. Between the current top 3 sides at this moment in time, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villareal, they have lost only 6 games this season. Barcelona are 2 points ahead of Real Madrid, with Villareal already some way back, themselves 5 points clear of fourth-placed Sevilla.

What to say? A repeat of last season's finishing positons? Yes and no. Barca to finish top - how can anyone argue with that at this moment in time, with the Catalans playing some of the most refreshingly effective football seen in years? Real to finish second - also playing some good football, but they still can't always seem to get it together at just the right moment - and, yes, Villareal to stay in third, improving on last season when they finished seventh, just ahead of last season's third-placed side Valencia, who are currently in fourth spot, heading Espanol on goal difference. Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao may yet beat Espanol to a place in the European Cup or the UEFA Cup, I mean Europa League (I really should stop being so traditionalist) next season.

Who to go down, though? Last year's Segunda Division champions, Real Sociedad, should do much more than enough to beat the drop, though Real Zaragoza are already looking firm candidates for the drop. Any two of the usual candidates - Racing Santander, Real Malaga, Sporting Gijon, plus this season's new boys Levante and last season's surprise mid-tale finishers UD Almeria - could join them. Opinion? Real Zaragoza, Levante and UD Almeria to go down.

Of course, we are sitting in the winter break and a lot can happen between now and May, but sometimes, just sometimes, things can end up being so Spain, at any rate. Italy is looking just a little less clear-cut, and there may well a fine store of surprises to come, but Serie A should still be AC Milan's to lose. Well, Remco, I'm off to bed. Buonanotte..

1 comment:

  1. Well i am big fan of Italy so i wish to give my favor to Italy because they are my favorite.