AS Roma endured a disappointing season last year, managing only a 7th-placed finish after Luis Enrique failed to instil the consistency necessary for the club to challenge for the title. His replacement, Zdenek Zeman, enjoying a welcome return to the club and the top of Italian football, has instilled a new air of confidence around the Stadio Olimpico, and Roma have the potential to be one of the most-improved teams this season, not just in Italy but in all of Europe.
Zeman has something of a mystical reputation for two reasons - there is perhaps no coach in world football more committed to exciting, attacking football, and he also has a history of developing younger players, with Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti two of the players whose careers he is credited with helping to launch. This would seem to make him a perfect fit for Roma, a club blessed with a plentiful array of attacking options, and also with a number of youths who are yet to unlock their full potential, such as Bojan Krkic, Erik Lamela, and Miralem Pjanic.
Roma's biggest victory in the transfer market this season was probably the announcement that Daniele De Rossi would honour his commitment to the club. An iconic player at Roma, he should form the lynchpin of a formidable midfield with new addition Michael Bradley and Miralem Pjanic which could give the club the power to compete with the likes of Juventus and Milan. Under Zeman, goals will be guaranteed, but so will a lack of defensive solidity, particularly as it is probably the weakest area of the Giallorossi squad.
All this adds up to make Roma a highly unpredictable outfit. It would be no surprise to see them challenge for the Scudetto, but neither would it be a shock to see them fail to live up to their undoubted potential again. Nonetheless, the feeling around Roma is that a side is being constructed which could rival the class of 2001, their last team to win the title. The captain, De Rossi, certainly thinks so, and after Mancini reportedly attempted to lure him to Manchester City by claiming he was risking going his career with fewer trophies than he deserved, he may like to rehash the words of Fabio Capello, who managed the class of '01: "One Scudetto in Rome is worth ten in Milan or Turin."
Last Season: 7th
Who's Gone?: Fabio Borini (Liverpool), Juan (Internacional), Fabio Simplicio (Cerezzo), Matteo Brighi (FC Turin), Gabriel Heinze (Newell's), Stefano Okaka (Parma), David Pizarro (Fiorentina), Aleandro Rosi (Parma), Jose Angel (Real Sociedad)
Keep An Eye On: Erik Lamela. The youngster is supremely talented and if Zeman can get the best out of him, he could establish himself as a key player in the side.
Predicted Finish: 3rd