Serie A 2013-14 season previews: AC Milan looking forward to title challenge and a full year of Balotelli

Gabriele Maltinti

After a horrible start last season, a rejuvenated Milan, with the help of a certain ill-mannered forward, were able to push for third place and salvage the season. This season, hopefully, will be less frustrating.

Massimiliano Allegri is still here (boo and cheer accordingly) and Mario Balotelli is set for his full season at AC Milan, alongside a stronger Stephen El Shaarawy and a growing M'Baye Niang. Robinho is still here so there's that too. The club has also reinforced the defence and midfield which should make for less heart attacks during every opposition counter-attack...hopefully.

Last Season

The best thing to do is to feign amnesia about the first half of last season. I mean, what was that? After the departure of Alessandro Nesta, Thiago SIlva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antonio Cassano and Clarence Seedorf, among others, it would have been unfair to expect too much from the team, especially after the defeats against Inter Milan, Juventus (twice), and Real Madrid foreshadowed the strength and limitation of the squad.

But it was made brutally real after three losses in the first four games and two wins in the first ten games. Thankfully, five wins, one draw and two losses in November and December helped end the year on a good note. The team then managed thirteen wins, six draws and only one loss in the new year, catapulting the squad into a third place finish and Champions league playoffs/football. Also, Barcelona happened in the Champions league, Juventus in the Coppa Italia.

Who's Gone?

Not Allegri, no, he's still here. Him and Robinho, still here and all.

Alexandre Pato: The duck who couldn't break his injury duck, managed to break a few hearts and complete a transfer to Brazilian giants Corinthians for a fee of €15 million in the January transfer window. He started his career there by scoring on his first touch and seems to be on his way past the muscular injury issues but never out of the hearts of Milan fans. For all of his problems, he was/is a promising striker who most wanted to do well.

Bojan Krkić: Another young promising striker who couldn't find his feet after coming on loan from AS Roma and scoring only three goals in 27 appearances. He returned to his main club Barcelona, before being loaned out to Ajax, where he will --still only 22-- try and rediscover the promise that he had once upon a time.

Mathieu Flamini: Would you look at the time...wow, Serie A is crazy isn't it? Can you believe that we will be seeing Mario Gomez this year? Incredible. Transfer season is wild man, just real wild. Ok, ok, he was injured all last season, after missing most of 10/11 season with a knee injury after being an important member of the 09/10 scudetto winning team. This year, the team and player did not agree on a contract extension and he is gone. It's sad but not too important.

MASSIMO AMBROSINI: 18 years, Captain since 2009, gorgeous hair, perfect man. Full of running, passion and the greatest professional since THE CAPTAIN who he inherited the armband from. Fought through injuries to help the team, but unfortunately, could not fight age any longer. He was visibly slow, and becoming a tactical liability outweighed the gains from leadership and intelligence. I miss him and he's going to Fiorentina to play with Mario Gomez and other perfect haired men.

Taye Taiwo and Mario Yepes also left, so do what you want with that information.

Who's In?

Matías Silvestre: One year loan from Inter with an option for a full purchase for a fee of €4 million for the 28 year old Argentine. They always say, beware of enemies baring gifts, but you can't be too cautious of defenders when you have Phillippe Mexes as a starting center-back. Suffered an injury to his thigh after only nine appearances for Inter last season, but should add depth to a thin back line.

Andrea Poli: Wow, is that a midfielder? A young one at that? Didn't even know they still made those. Co-ownership with Sampdoria for the 23-year old playmaker, who should help out with the issues of "slow/old midfielders" that has troubled MIlan for years. Also, a very good passer who will enjoy the movement of Balotelli and El Sharaawy.

Urby Emanuelson: The Kevin Constant era might be coming to an end. After being loaned out to Fulham in an odd move last year, the 27-year old all-left-everything player returns to Milan to help out with the lack of quality depth. Much more experienced after a good spell at the English club, he should become the starter and help take off pressure from the young Mattia De Sciglio.

Bryan Cristante: Promoted from A.C. Milan Primavera, the promising 18-year old midfielder is in line to see first team action this year. Definitely a player that can contribute from the beginning if he can acclimate to the rougher climates of Serie A with his impressive vision and close control and dribbling. A very exciting prospect.

Keep An Eye On

Nigel de Jong: After rupturing his left achilles in his initial season at Milan, the midfield will look to de Jong this year to steady the ship. One of the few players on the team with a defensive mindset, he will be critical in stopping the team from being over-ran by more dynamic teams and hopefully to take pressure off the mistake-prone defines.

Predicted Finish

Hopefully the first part of the season doesn't try to emulate last year's and the team can start off on a better foot. Balotelli should be excellent as always, maybe burn down a few houses too while he's at it, El Shaarawy looks faster, stronger and will be determined to prove his development and Niang can shoot now, so yay. If everything goes to plan (hahahahahaha), Milan should be up for the title challenge, so I'm expecting at least, top 3. Again.

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