Bundesliga Has Overtaken Serie A In Europe

As it stands, come the beginning of the 2012 European season, Italy will only be given three Champions League spots. That is correct, because as of now the Bundesliga has overtaken Serie A in UEFA’s Coefficient ranking system since the German league occupies the third spot whilst Calcio slides down into the fourth spot. For the Serie A to reclaim the third position in the UEFA rankings, a much improved performance is required from all Italian sides both in the Champions League and the Europa League this season. It will also help Italy’s cause if the German teams fail to perform, though this is unlikely.

Of course, Inter are the exception to this rule, but they still have the unenviable task of trying to retain their title. This will not be easy and no team has achieved this since 1990, when Inter’s crosstown rivals, A.C. Milan, retained their 1989 title. Nonetheless, as with last year, Inter remain Italy’s best hope to progress into the latter stages of the Champions League, and possibly win it. But without Mourinho, Inter will prove to be a different outfit this year despite no major changes to personnel. A repeat of last year’s success is a tall order and the presence of Rafa Benitez on the sidelines will do little to change this.

As for Milan, the arrival of Ibrahimovic and Robinho has brought much renewed optimism to the red and black half of the San Siro. Yet, early signs are not good as Milan succumbed to a 2-0 defeat to Cesena in a game that marked the debut of their two latest stars.  Even their Match Day 1 victory was not even convincing despite winning 2-0. Whether or not these players will come good for Milan remains to be seen, Allegri certainly has work to do if he is to make Milan’s new look outfit click. A semifinal appearance will be a remarkable achievement, but given the massive holes in both defence and midfield, Milan will struggle to reach this stage.

Italy’s other representative in the Champions League is AS Roma. Simply put, Roma will struggle to make an impression in this season’s competition; their Match Day 1 performance only reinforced this claim. The Giallarossi are not a strong squad and they still rely heavily on veteran talisman Francesco Totti. The arrival of Marco Borriello and Adriano will do little to help their cause. They remain a competitive side and should progress from their group; however, they will be lucky to make it to the final eight.

In the Europa League, Italy has four representatives in Palermo, Juventus, Napoli, and Sampdoria. Of these four sides, Juventus are surely Italy’s best chance of success in Europe’s second tier competition. The signings of Milos Krasic, Fabio Quagliarella, Alberto Aquilani, and Leonardo Bonucci will make Juventus a stronger side than last term. But, rather worryingly, early signs are not good as Juventus have struggled so far this campaign. 

In particular, Juventus look weak at the back despite the fact that their two central defenders are also first choice for the Azzurri. A sign of the times indeed for Italian football and this was again evident in their opening fixture in the Europa league as they conceded three goals. But Juventus will be considered Italy’s best hope in the Europa League and if Luigi Del Neri can get his new team to gel, then perhaps the Old Lady could go some way in the competition. As for Italy’s other representatives, Napoli and Sampdoria will provide tough competition but both squads lack the depth to compete successfully on two fronts.  Palermo will be Italy’s weakest link and their Match Day 1 performance reflects this. However, the Sicilians should still progress to the round of 32, but that will be as far as they go.

It will be a tough task for Italian teams to improve on their performance last year. Not only is an improvement needed in general, but more importantly Italian teams have to outshine the German teams. If the performance of the German teams in recent years is anything to go by, it will be very difficult for the Italian sides to achieve this, and the fourth spot on the UEFA Coefficient Rankings is where Italian football will remain.

Unfortunately, if this does prove to be the case, Italy will be reduced to having three Champions League spots for the 2012 season. Such an event will only highlight to those who deny the fact that the Serie A is not as strong as it once was as it continues to feel the effects of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal. There is still a long way to go if Serie A is to reclaim its position as one of the best leagues in Europe.

2010 UEFA Coefficient Ranking (Please click on the image to enlarge) 

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