The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has thrust Juventus further into the limelight, but in case you missed it, here are the other things you need to note as the Italian season opens…
Juventus are changed by more than Ronaldo’s arrival. After the departure of the legendary Gianluigi Buffon, it is left for Wojciech Szczesny to step up and wear the big gloves of ‘Superman’, with new boy Mattia Perrin in the wings. We will see a slightly different Juve with other new arrivals Emre Can, Joao Cancelo…. and Leonardo Bonucci who has a difficult task of repairing his relationship with the fans on his return after a year with the Rossoneri. Giorgio Chiellini, Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and the other regulars are surely ready to rumble. Maximiliano Allegri’s warriors would begin the new season at Chievo on Saturday.
Inter Milan has had an outstanding summer transfer market activity with the astute signings of Stefan de Vrij, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sime Vrsaljko, Radja Nainggolan (reuniting with coach Luciano Spalletti), Lautaro Martínez and Keita Baldé Diao. They are not done yet though in their quest to dethrone Juventus and be crowned Campione d’Italia this season. The Nerazurri are trying to pull an Italian Job like Juventus: to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid. The 33-year-old last renewed his contract in 2016, taking him until 2020 with a release clause of €750m. Real Madrid are desperate to keep Modric as they try to offer him a new, improved contract to bat away the clear and present danger from Internazionale who have tabled a very lucrative deal and have three fellow Croatians. Last season joint Capocannoniere and Captain Mauro Icardi would be on hand to give Spalletti the goals needed to wrestle with their rivals once again.
AC Milan has undergone lots of changes since the end of last season as Elliott Management took control of Milan from Yonghong Li and named a new Board of directors, promising to return the club back to glory. Paolo Maldini and Leonardo’s return, their Europa League ban overturned, and Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival amongst others has raised her fans’ confidence in the new owners. The 30-year-old striker who holds the all-time Serie A record for goals in a single season (36) is a massive addition to the Rossoneri as the lack of a regular goal scorer was arguably the biggest weakness in Gennaro Gattuso’s side last season. Nikola Kalinic has left for Atletico Madrid While Carlos Bacca wishes to remain in Spain. He would likely haunt Juventus as Bonucci did. Mattia Caldara arrived in the swap deal that sent Bonucci back to Juventus. Ex-Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s arrival would give teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma sleepless nights this season as the most successful Italian club in European competitions seek to return back to Europe’s elite club competition, improving on last season’s sixth place finish.
The departure of Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea heralded the arrival of one of the most successful managers of all time. With a rich CV which includes years at prestigious clubs like AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Carlo Ancelotti hopes to give Napoli the Scudetto that has eluded them since 1990. They got really close last year but self-destructed at the end. With the usual suspects still in the team (Hamsik, Insigne, Mertens and co.) and a few young recruits, they can have one more crack at finally ending Juve’s dominance.
Roma’s fine run to the Champions League semi-finals last season masked their distant third-place finish in the league. Since then Allison Becker and Nainggolan had left the Giallorossi and the Romans were gazumped by Barcelona for winger Malcom from Bordeaux. New signings Javier Pastore, Ivan Marcano, the young Justin Kluivert and imminent arrival Steven N’Zonzi should come up with the goods though and comfortably ensure a top-four finish for Eusebio Di Francesco’s side.
The Departure of Felipe Anderson to West Ham and Stefan de Vrij (who conceded a penalty that helped his new team steal the last Champions League slot) would surely weaken a Lazio side that started the previous season brightly but began to falter midway. Lazio still has last season’s joint Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile Lazio to give them the goals and fight for a top-four finish once again. Star midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić has been a regular on transfer stories as the Biancocelesti tries to hold on to him valiantly. All things being equal, the Lazio vs Bologna fixtures would be tasty as coach Simone Inzaghi would face his elder brother Filippo, the new coach of Bologna.
The sudden death of Davide Astori in March rocked ACF Fiorentina and the world football community, spurring Stefano Pioli’s side to six successive wins after his death as they finished 8th. Marko Pjaca and Kevin Mirallas have joined the Tuscany side on loan to bolster the side with players good enough to vie for Europa League qualification as they would need more of that beautiful run of last season.
The mid table-teams like Chievo Verona, Bologna, Torino, Sampdoria and Sassuolo would surely struggle to make it to the top ten as the bigger teams have reinforced heavily to consolidate on their last season’s performances. The likes of Udinese, Cagliari and SPAL would flirt with relegation with little or no reinforcements.
Promoted sides Empoli, Parma and Frosinone won’t find life any easier in the Serie A. Of the three, Parma has got the most attention after their heroics, finishing second in the 2017–18 Serie B season, just three seasons after their bankruptcy-relegation to Serie D. However, they have been handed a 5-point deduction for the 2018–19 season, following text messages from Parma player Emanuele Calaiò “eliciting a reduced effort” from two players of Spezia during the 2017–18 season, a match Parma won 2–0 to secure promotion to this season. The return of former player Jonathan Biabiany to the Stadio Ennio Tardini and Roberto Inglese coming on loan should help Parma retain their top-flight status on or before Matchday 38.