Will the Old Lady’s streak of eight consecutive scudetti end?
Italy’s Serie A will start tomorrow when champions Juventus will play Parma at Ennio Tardini and the Turin outfit is once again starting as the favourite for the trophy.
Internazionale and Napoli are the strongest rivals, while Roma, Milan and outsiders Atalanta try to spoil the party in a championship with few new recruits.
Although the black and white have the strongest team on paper with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt, Giorgio Chellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Miralem Pjanic just to mention the few, their weakness lies outside of the pitch. Juventus management has replaced Massimiliano Allegri with Maurizio Sarri.
The former Chelsea and Napoli coach is a self-described blue-collar worker, which is at odds with the aristocratic image of the Agnelli family’s team. In the past a similar experiment backfired.
When Juventus appointed Luigi Maifredi in 1990, a coach with a similar style and background as Sarri, the team had its worst season in 28 years, finishing seventh on the ladder and outside of UEFA Cup qualification.
Juventus’ main rivals’ strength, on the contrary, lies on the bench: Inter’s Antonio Conte, Napoli’s Carlo Ancelotti and Atalanta’s Maurizio Gasperini know how to yield the highest return from their players.
Internazionale has sacked Luciano Spalletti and recruited the most successful coach in recent Italian football history in Antonio Conte. The manager has cleaned the house from troublemakers Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Radja Nainggolan. Maintaining discipline was one of Spalletti’s weakest points and Conte sent a clear message to the rest of the team.
Inter recruited Belgian star Romelu Lukaku, the highest scorer in Red Devil’s history to substitute Icardi, while Nainggolan’s place in the midfield has been taken by raising Italian star Nicolò Barella.
Napoli is highly unchanged from the past season, and Mexican Hirving Lozano is the star recruit for the team. The Azzurri finished second three of the past four tournaments and are the best placed to build on their past experience on how to counter Juventus.
Finally, Atalanta may play the outsider role. Gasperini’s team surprised most last season finishing third and qualifying for the first time in its history for the Champions League. Atalanta lacks big stars and bases its success in the collective effort and hard work.
As every minor club, Atalanta had to yield the economic pressure and was forced to depart from some of its best players: Bryan Cristante, Franck Kessié and Andrea Petagna were returned to their home clubs as the Bergamo’s outfit wasn’t able to confirm their loans.
Paradoxically last year’s success is the biggest threat for the Bergamo’s team, as has often happened in the past in similar situations around the world.