Serie A Season Preview | Soccer Betting Picks & Predictions
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty. Pictured: Victor Osimhen.
Napoli weren't viewed as one of the top three favorites to win Serie A entering last season, but the breakout campaigns of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia into European superstardom led to a comfortable league title. There are some obstacles in the way of Napoli repeating as Serie A champions, but they are going to keep hold of their two top players going forward.
The biggest loss for Napoli is the departure of manager Luciano Spalletti. His replacement is Rudi Garcia, who has spent most of his career managing in France and just came from Saudi Arabia after two seasons with Al Nassr.
Inter Milan kept hold of Simeone Inzaghi but did see some squad turnover. They are the slightest of betting favorites to win the Scudetto, but the Italian title race is one of the most competitive in all of Europe.
Serie A Season Preview
Pick: Napoli to win Serie A (+300 via bet365)
When you look at the outright board for Serie A, Inter are priced at +175, solidly ahead of Napoli at +300. The question is whether or not you think there's a legitimate title threat further down the board and whether there's actually a gap between these two sides.
Napoli lost their coach and sporting director, but retained almost all of their goal production from last season. Losing Kim min-Jae to Bayern should hurt the defense a little, but the majority of production is back and there's no reason to expect regression from Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia — who were both top 20 players in all of Europe last season. Osimhen posted a ridiculous 4.3 shots per 90 and Kvaratskhelia's top comps on fbref.com are Vini Jr. and Ousmané Dembele.
Meanwhile, Inter needs to replace Milan Skriniar, Romelu Lukaku, Edin Dzeko, Andre Onana, Robin Gosens and Marcelo Brozovic. That's a lot of first team regulars departing the club. They've done an adequate job replacing some of the pieces — Marcus Thuram and Yann Sommer should plug some of the gaps — but it's not unreasonable to expect a small drop off in performance at both ends of the pitch.
I'm not much of a believer in AC Milan or Juventus as legitimate title threats. Milan made some really intriguing summer moves — Christian Pulisic and Samuel Chukwueze should help make the attack more well-rounded around breakout star Rafael Leao. But Milan lost top midfielder Sandro Tonali and won't have Ismael Bennacer until February. That means they're inexperienced in defense and light on ball winning in midfield. Milan also start from a lower baseline than both Inter and Napoli last year.
Juventus' defense ran ridiculously well from a shot stopping perspective last season (33 goals allowed from 42 xGA), but the attack doesn't look like it's about to take a leap either. It wasn't a top four attack last year and I remain lower than consensus on Dusan Vlahovic.
Because of my concerns about the teams around them — Milan, Inter and Juventus — I'm betting Napoli to repeat as Italian champions at +300. They have arguably two best attacking players in the league nearing peak ages. The rest can sort itself out.
Regression looms for Lazio
Lazio were one of the largest xG over performers in all of Europe for two straight seasons under Mauricio Sarri. I've spent a lot of time to figure out if Lazio were doing something that the traditional expected threat or expected goal numbers were just missing, but I couldn't find anything. Sometimes, you just roll doubles twice in a row and an unfrequent outcome comes. Ciro Immobile's plus finishing helps them, but even his underlying numbers took a step back last season at age 32.
Lazio also lost Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who was their most important passer and creative player in the center of the pitch. The big summer moves for Taty Castellanos, Daichi Kamada and young winger Gustav Isakson are an effort to get younger, but the core of this team was still really old last year and likely to regress down toward the Italian mid-table instead of the top four race.
Lazio finished with a +30 goal difference compared to a +9.3 xDiff.
Roma may struggle with lost production
Roma badly underperformed xG for the last two year, which is ironic for a José Mourinho side that had generally outperformed said metrics in the past. Poor finishing in front of goal kept Roma from getting three points enough to stay in the top four, but now Roma have lost Tammy Abraham to injury.
They are the only team I'd bet on in the top four market, but +115 isn't a great price for them given the squad situation. They're betting and relying on players with sizable injury histories. You can see a world where things regress back to normal and Roma are right there with Milan and Juventus for a top three spot, but the price isn't good enough for me to get involved. I'd rather play Mourinho in the cups again.
Pick: Salernitana to be relegated (+300 via BetMGM)
For two consecutive seasons, Salernitana have been fortunate to avoid relegation based on underlying numbers. They got 16 goals from Boulaye Dia last season and still had the second-worst xG difference in the league, ahead of only relegated Sampdoria.
Salernitana were quite fortunate at both ends of the pitch to outperform xG. Both Luigi Sepe and Guillermo Ochoa had stellar shot stopping seasons in net which is unlikely to be sustained year over year. Dia also scored 16 goals from 8.8 xG, which is a level of elite finishing that he will not be able to sustain for another season. When you compare his numbers from last year to other past seasons in his career, it's clearly an outlier.
They were the only team to be bottom five in xGF and xGA last year and not get relegated. They probably won't be as lucky this year. I'd bet them at +250 or better to be relegated.