Juventus have been a class above the rest of the Serie A in the past three seasons, but must now contemplate going for a fourth successive title without coach Antonio Conte and a host of clubs believing they can wrest the crown from them.
The title race will seek to revive Italian fans’ morale after a poor FIFA World Cup showing by the national side. The Azzuri’s first-round exit prompted the resignation of coach Cesare Prandelli and Conte has replaced him.
Fans will also hope for a stronger challenge by Serie A clubs in Europe this term as the decline in their ability to compete with the Premier League and La Liga elite sides has had an adverse impact.
Inter’s win in the 2009 UEFA Champions League is the last time Italy had a representative in the final and one has to go back to Parma’s victory in 1999 for the last Italian club appearance in the UEFA Cup — now the Europa League.
Conte said that one of the reasons for his leaving Juve was his anger that the club’s board were not prepared to back his push for a successful Champions League campaign with money to buy players.
However, the Bianconeri did spend 20 million euros (US$27 million) on Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and Conte’s replacement, former AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri, has said that one of his objectives is to target success in Europe’s leading club competition.
AS Roma and SSC Napoli pursued Juventus last season, when the Turin giants finished with a record 102 points. However, Roma gave them a good run for their money under French coach Rudi Garcia.
Garcia must also prepare for a Champions League campaign, but has indicated that the scudetto is his focus and hopes the 22 million-euro signing of Juan Iturbe will add the necessary class to their challenge.
Napoli boss Rafael Benitez too will be hoping for a stronger run from his side, but has expressed his frustration at not being able to compete in the marketplace.
“Asking ‘do we want to exchange our wife’ is like asking ‘do we want Mascherano?’ We’re in love with our wife, I mean, our players.” he said last month. “Do we want to exchange our wife for Claudia Schiffer? It could be, but it depends on your wife. Are you happy with your wife? Let’s wait for a response from the transfer market.”
Both Milan sides will expect to mount a stronger challenge, but while Inter at least invested in Chilean Gary Medel from Cardiff City and talented, but unruly Frenchman Yann M’Vila, the Rossoneri’s ambitions have been undermined with the sale of striker Mario Balotelli to Liverpool.
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