Italian Soccer League Review - 4 Oct. 2006
Taking a quick look at Italy's Serie A league table reveals some shocking numbers for those who haven't been keeping abreast of Italian football.
The bottom three clubs are all on negative points. Fiorentina are at -13, three behind Reggina at -10. Lazio sit at -2 after five games.
Why? Negative points? How is that possible, you might wonder.
Those three clubs were all penalized this season as punishment for a match-fixing scandal last year. League champions Juventus were kicked out of the top flight and play their football in Italy's Serie B league this year..
Juventus also received a 17 point penalty, a large but not insurmountable handicap on their chances of winning Serie B and getting promoted back into Serie A next season. Juventus kept a large number of their superstars like Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon and David Trezequet. They were enticed to stay after being convinced Juve's stay in Serie B would be a short one. Indeed, the Old Lady of Italian soccer has already cut her deficit to -4 points. But Juventus still sit at the bottom of the table. They are the betting favourites on the outright market to win Serie B at 1.60 odds.
Juve's presence in Italy's second division has made a farce of the country of the World Cup champions.
During their first-ever trip to Crotone, about 1,000 supporters welcomed Juventus at the airport and stopped the club's bus from getting into the stadium.
T-shirts with the phrase "September 19, 2006 - Crotone v Juventus, I was there!" were on sale for five euros. And one Crotone-based Juventus fan went as far as to proclaim: "The pope visited us once in the 1980s. You can compare that with this" The team's decision to keep their top players will draw a lot of attention to Italy's second division from fans who otherwise would have ignored it.
Crotone brought in approximately 300,000 euros for that match - with more tickets sold, merchandise and TV rights -- and many other small clubs in Serie B will likely experience a similar boon.
Back in Serie A, another intriguing team which this year is AC Milan. They presently sit in 12th spot in the league on two points. They aren't having a slow start to the season. In fact, Milan are unbeaten with 3 wins and 2 draws from their first five games so far.
The Rossoneri were the fourth club involved in the Calciopoli scandal and were penalized eight points at the start of season. They were also allowed to participate in the Champions League this year, however, and already have four points in two CL matches. Milan are a value price at 3/1 wagering odds be the Italian football league winners.
Bitter city rivals Inter Milan have 11 points and are favourites to win the Scudetto. But AC Milan show no sign of stopping and could pose a late challenge for the Italian league title. But the Nerazzurri are coming of a painful home defeat in a recent Champions League match at the hands of Bayern Munich. The bookies have priced up Inter at 1.60 bet odds to win the Serie A title this year.
Traditionally middling clubs like Palermo, Messina and Empoli have a great chance of picking up Champions League and UEFA Cup spots this season since teams like Lazio and Fiorentina were also docked points. Newly promoted sides like Catania and Atalanta also like their chances of surviving in the top flight.
Normalcy is slowly creeping back to the league. Pundits are once again speculating that Inter and Milan will be the real challengers for the Serie A title. But the maddening effects of Calciopoli on Italian soccer will continue to be felt for some time.