Since the conclusion of Juventus’ dominance over the Serie A, the league has become competitive more than ever. Each and every team ranging from Milan, Atalanta, Napoli, Inter, Fiorentina, Juventus and Lazio have the potential to mount a title challenge and the race is exhilarating every time.
This season Napoli will begin their Scudetto defence but it won’t be a straightforward task for them. Lazio, Inter and Milan finished top four last season and are well capable of claiming the league title at the end of the long hard season. While the title and top four races often grab our attention, the survival from relegation ‘race’ too is important and sometimes exciting to watch.
Here in this article, we take a look at five things to watch out for in Matchday 1 of the new season which kicks off today.
5. How do the newly promoted teams start?
While Spezia, Cremonese and Sampdoria suffered relegation last season, teams like Frosinone, Cagliari and Genoa embark on a new quest to sustain their presence in the Serie A.
Under new manager Eusebio Di Francesco, Serie B champions Frosinone will start their top-flight campaign today against Napoli. The Gialloblu have an enduring record against the Partenopei as they have conceded 15 goals in their last four meetings. This will be their third time in a decade in the Serie A.
Genoa will be one to watch this season as they return to top-flight football after staying away for just a year. They have secured the signing of Mateo Retegui who is slowly becoming Italy’s first-choice striker. Survival is on the cards for the Liguria-based club as they venture into the top pack once again.
Unlike Frosinone and Genoa, Cagliari couldn’t secure automatic promotion and therefore had to fight through the likes of Bari and Parma to attain promotion. It will be exciting to see how they fare this season as they kick off their Serie A campaign against Torino on Monday.
4. What will be Juventus’ approach this season?
Juventus approach the new season after enduring one-to-forget. Despite an inconsistent campaign last season, they did manage to finish in the UEFA Conference League spot but the club soon abstained from participating due to numerous financial issues.
Massimiliano Allegri’s job last season was to prevent a humiliating finish and to an extent, he did manage to deliver results on that. A defensive mindset was followed by the Bianconeri for most parts of the season as they conceded 33 goals, finishing right below Napoli and Lazio in the defensive charts.
An emphasis on defence and a lack of offensive options took away the lustre from Juventus’ attack. While they could score more than 6th-placed Roma, most goals came to secure a draw.
Juventus have completed the permanent signing of Arkadiusz Milik and the team is expected to follow a more attacking approach this season, right from the start, to grab a hold of their own destiny and work towards improving.
3. Can Milan’s new signings steer them to glory?
The sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle United replenished Milan’s financial resources, enabling the club to bring in a host of new faces. The likes of Cristian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Noah Okafor, Yunus Musah, Tijjani Reijnders and Marco Sportiello amongst others will aim to provide balance and stability to the team.
Taking into account their spending in the summer transfer window, it is of wonder that Milan are seriously targeting the Scudetto this season. The Rossoneri face Bologna in the first matchday and it will be crucial for them to pick up wins during the first part of the season before the Champions League begins and the fixtures pile up.
A fluid attacking system was noted during Milan’s pre-season games and even though they faltered later, the team was quick enough to identify Real Madrid’s shortcomings before capitalising on them.
This Milan side will surely be exciting to watch!
2. How will Inter adapt without Andre Onana?
Due to financial constraints, Inter had to let go of a host of their star players. Andre Onana, Samir Handanovic, Marcelo Brozovic, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Milan Skriniar all had to leave at the end of last season. While the additions of Davide Frattesi, Yann Sommer, Juan Cuadrado and Marcus Thuram are set to take the team by storm, they will require time to adjust to Inter’s playing style.
The most notable from their departures is of Andre Onana who was sold to Manchester United. The Cameroonian goalkeeper played an influential role last season as he took the Nerazzurri to the Champions League final. Apart from making crucial saves and effectively claiming balls from set pieces, Onana is a master ball distributor. His linkup with Marcelo Brozovic in midfield was a crucial system in Inter’s gameplay but now with both players absent, Simone Inzaghi has got a job in his hands.
1. Can Napoli successfully defend the Scudetto?
While the current league title holders are always one of the favourites to defend their feat, it is actually a humongous task. Rudi Garcia has taken over from the new Italy boss Luciano Spalletti and there are doubts about whether he can take the Partenopei to similar heights as last season.
Having been sacked by Al Nassr not long ago, Garcia’s appointment came from out of nowhere when other, much more famed names were linked with a move. But Garcia is now in-charge and with Napoli having retained a vast majority of their most established players – apart from Kim Min-Jae, there is a foundation to achieve new things and it will be intriguing to see whether Garcia proves detractors wrong.
Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN