We'll start with the three shunned teams -
Livorno - 6 wins, 20 losses, -25 on goal differential (the lowest). Notable performances include a draw to Inter, and an amazing eight game point streak starting at the beginning of November. Check it out - draw, win, win, draw, draw, draw, win, win. They achieved more than half (16 of 30) of their points on the season with this run! Livorno fans from November 4th to January 20th were at a bar drunk and happy telling Torino fans that they had turned the corner this year and that their 3 year plan is totally working. Final grade - B. Haha get it? they're headed to the Serie B...
Empoli - 9 wins, 20 losses, -23 on goal differential. Their only noteworthy game was definitely of note. Along with Juventus, Empoli was a part of the most exciting Coppa Italia game and arguably the best called game of the year - more on this later. I picked a good one for my only running diary of the Serie A.
Believe it or not the Empolians qualified for the Uefa Cup last year and even won their first leg before promptly breaking their second leg and exiting - think Eight Belles. Too soon? I attended the Preakness this year; amazing per usual. This experience of course is for a different blog. Big Brown is an absolute freak by the way. I was at the fence just before turn 1 when Gayego was prematurely ejacking and Big Brown was on cruise control. Big B looked me in the eye, breathed effortlessly and then smiled at me. Not joking. Anyway, Empoli, yeah they sucked. They'll be back in 2 years.
Parma - 7 wins, 17 losses. That 17th really, really, really hurt. It was a double whammy (one of my favorite game shows) because if they won they would have handed the title to Roma and, more importantly, stuck around the Serie A to see it happen. Can you imagine the party Roma would have thrown! Parma would have totally been invited too. Parma players would have walked into the club and Totti/De Rossi would have seen them across the way, lifted their heads and pointed directly at them with a "these guys!!!" look, ran over there and introduced them to the hottest girls they had ever seen. Think Girl Next Door when the three friends walk into the porno convention except every woman is Italian and has nipples that match their skin color. See what you missed out on Parma! Gosh.
The beauty of being irrelevant. These are middle table teams that were inconsistently frisky. Jim and I refer to these teams as "NewCastlers." This also gives me a chance to write,
LONG LIVE KING KEV! - which is what Jim and I yell at the end of every phone conversation.
Catania Calcio - 8 wins, 17 losses. The benefactors of Parma's disaster. Mid way through their celebration gala for staying in the Serie A, a Catania fan looks at his buddy deep in thought and says, "what are we celebrating?" Some NewCastle fan drunkenly hands them shots and screams, "who cares!!" and the gala resumes.
Reggina - 9 wins, 16 losses. They have some really sweet jerseys (pictured). Look familiar? That's Andre Pirlo.
Torino - 8 wins, 13 losses. I spent 3 hours of my life trying to figure out what happened to Alvaro Recoba and eventually settled here. Torino had him on loan from Inter and I actually got to see the fallen Uruguayan phenom play. It was kind of tragic but mostly just really really inexplicable. He was injury prone and hurt most of the time, but still, the kid could play and I don't know what the hell happened to him. I read a description of Recoba once... "a lethal left foot." That makes me smile... and shake my head.
Cagliari - 11 wins, 18 losses. 7 of their 11 wins came in the second half of the season. Cagliari got off to a terrible start with only 15 points in their first 20 games. A much better second half settled them nicely into the middle table.
Siena - 9 wins, 12 losses, 17 draws. Their leading scorer was named Masssimo Maccarone. I love the first name and I had his last name for dinner the other night. They drew alot, more than anyone else, which is also a great recipe to secure middle table glory.
Lazio - 11 wins, 14 losses. We left ground zero back on planet Livorno and this spaceship is slowly approaching some stars. Goran Pandev had 14 goals for his side and if you think Cristiano Ronaldo dives, your head would have exploded watching Goran. Lazio enjoyed the fruits of their Champions League qualification last year but unfortunately couldn't get out of their tough group of Real Madrid, Olympiacos and Werder Bremen. No slouches there. In the Serie A they played almost every opponent tough but couldn't handle the big boys with 1 win, 1 draw and 6 losses against Inter, Roma and Juve. Losing to the top 3 in your league - way #3 to enjoy middle table glory. This should be a commercial or something.
Atalanta- 11 wins, 14 losses. If you want to diss Inter, confuse them with Atalanta. Also, if you do a google search of Atalanta, you won't find anything about soccer until page 3 (their away jersey) and google will think you meant to type Atlanta. Do it, it's funny.
Palermo - 12 wins, 15 losses. Ah Palermo, such fond memories. Every day is breast cancer awareness days for the Palermos. What amazing jerseys (pictured)! Not only that, but they have something very special in Carvalho Amauri. What a baller. I watched him for 90 minutes destroy Juventus and each goal was absurd. I remember not even being mad. I told Jim to watch the highlights and reaffirm whether or not I could be mad at this guy. He agreed I couldn't. Respect. This guy is officially on star watch - a list Jim and I keep adding to but have never compiled. Maybe we'll get around to doing that.
Genoa - 13 wins, 15 losses. Great salami and a great footballer in Marco Borriello. Expect him to not be on Genoa ever again.
Napoli - believe it or not but we're approaching positive goal differential! 14 wins, 15 losses, -2 goal differential.
The disappointers. This section belongs to all those teams that really thought they had something going. The words, "next year" are spoken often in this land. Also, Jim and I reside here.
Udinese - 16 wins, 12 losses, 57 points. Knowing just that win/loss margin, what would you guess their goal differential was? Make a mental note of what you thought... its -2. Minus two. Ouch. This may lead you to believe they had no defense, but thats actually not true. The truth is that they were overachieving with 2 unbelievable strikers. Di Natale and Quagliarella, 2 strikers on the Italian National team seeing significant playing time, combined for 29 goals (17 and 12 respectively). They were the second best striking duo in my opinion behind you know who. These two are the ones to taking playing time away from Luca Toni, the heartthrob who may be having the single best opening season in the Bundesliga ever, and Del Piero who just had his second best statistical season ever. Life as an Udinesian is good. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Sampdoria - 17 wins, 12 losses, +10 goal differential, 60 points. They have a player named Ferrari on their team. I don't know if he's any good. This squad faded just a bit at the end of the season. With AC Milan decaying and Juve shaky for a bit, the 3rd and 4th spot were open for the taking and Sampdoria was in the running 9/10ths of the way. They finished 3 points short of Champions League and 1 point from Uefa. That's tough. Their outcome was basically decided in the last 4 weeks of the season. They drew unjustly against Fiorentina and lost against a determined Roma. 6th place has never seemed so bad.
Stay tuned later for a more detailed description of the rest - AC Milan, Fiorentina, Juve, Roma and title champs Inter.