Many expect Juventus to come back with a vengeance to recapture the Scudetto
Euro 2020 is over. Transfer speculation is rife. Top flight clubs are playing friendlies against fourth division opposition. It can only mean one thing. Pre-season is in full flow and we are creeping ever closer to doing it all over again. The 2021/22 season promises to have a lot of positives. We can expect to see fans return in their droves in the majority of cases. Football TV schedules may not be quite as intense as they were last season. We might even see a surprise or two.
Serie A is going to be very interesting indeed. Last season Antonio Conte's Inter managed to finally break Juventus' nine year stranglehold on the league title and it looked like the winds of change were blowing. Then the fiery Italian had a falling out with the club's Chinese owners and abruptly left the club. There was no cause for concern. With the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo at the helm, Juve were unlikely to pose any real threat this season until he was sacked and replaced by Massimiliano Allegri who famously won five of those nine titles and guided the Turin side to two Champions League finals during his tenure. Those managerial switches have certainly changed the landscape of how this upcoming season is now going to look, and with other new managers and players moving around across the division, we could be in for an interesting title race in Italy.
Some of the best sportsbooks out there have Juventus as favourites to win Serie A. Here are the top four contenders, their odds and what we can expect from them in the Italian top flight next season.
Juventus (5/4 favourites)
In Allegri's two years away, The Old Lady won the league with Mauricio Sarri, fired him and then finished fourth under the legendary Andrea Pirlo in his first managerial post. It was always going to be a risk and it didn't pay off. They ended the season 13 points adrift of champions Inter and only secured Champions League qualification by one point on the final day of the season. Now Allegri is back everyone will expect a response and a return to winning ways. Apart from making Weston McKennie's transfer permanent and welcoming back some loanees, there's not been any incoming activity in Turin thus far. We can expect them to make a few signings before the window is closed and even if they don't, they have a squad full of talent. With that safe pair of hands back at the helm, they will be tough to beat in the race for the Serie A title
Inter Milan (2/1)
Simone Inzaghi has brought to a close his five year spell as Lazio manager to replace Antonio Conte at Inter. The new manager is expected to steady the ship and make a strong push for a title defence. On a much lower budget than some of his rivals at the top of the table, Inzaghi was able to regularly get Lazio into the Champions League. He will likely be a much less confrontational coach to deal with. It will however be difficult for the new man to produce miracles. If Inter's owners are dead set on reducing the wage bill and decimating the squad, while others around them do the opposite, it could be tough to compete, even for a coach used to operating with more restrictions on spending. They have already made the very shrewd signing of Hakan Calhanoglu on a free transfer from bitter rivals AC Milan, but selling the likes of Achraf Hakimi to PSG isn't going to help things a great deal.
In his five years in charge, Gian Piero Gasperini has turned Atalanta from relegation threatened minnows into bonafide Champions League qualifiers. His ultra-attacking, dynamic style of play is not only exciting to watch but it's put his team on the brink of doing something truly special, if being at Europe's top table almost every season wasn't special enough already. At 5/1, they are not rank outsiders and you could do a lot worse than taking a punt on them. They have a settled squad with a coach who's been there a long time by modern football standards. They all know the way they are supposed to play and it's effective. For years they've been selling their best players for huge transfer fees and bringing in players for next to nothing who end up doing just as well. It's a model we've seen work for many "smaller" clubs over the years but sometimes luck does run out. It may be the time to consolidate, invest and think about making some long term use out of the shrewd business they've done in years gone by. With their trusty coach in the dugout, they are sure to be in the top four come the end of the season and they could just take that one step further.
According to Bet 365, Napoli are the fourth most likely team to win Serie A but as you can see from the odds, they are not exactly fancied. The logic here is that they are likely to take the place of AC Milan (who finished second last season) in the top four. But why? Stefano Pioli did well last season to turn AC Milan into title contenders. After underperforming for almost a decade, the sleeping giant looked rejuvenated with a host of exciting young players led by the returning enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They even looked like winning it at earlier points during the season. Napoli, on the other hand, slumped to fifth and will have to settled for Europa League football for a second year in a row, after being perennial top four contenders for many years. So what's changed?
Well we have to go against the bookies on this one. Luciano Spalletti has come in to replace Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, but there have been no significant signings made so far. They do have talent in the squad and they did suffer with injuries last term but we don't see them dislodging any of last season's top four. If any team is going to do so, it is more likely to be Jose Mourinho's Roma. All things considered, the top four of last season will probably remain the same. Milan may not push the title race until the end but having signed a capable replacement for Gianluigi Donnarumma in Mike Maignan from Lille, made deals for Sandro Tonali and Fikayo Tomori permanent and signed Olivier Giroud from Chelsea, they will have a great squad with which to consolidate their position in the European places.
[all odds from Bet 365]
Whoever wins, whoever finishes top four, it is sure to be another fantastic season in the Italian top flight and one you won't want to miss. You can watch Serie A completely free in the UK via live streaming.
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