Serie A challengers are coming thick and fast
... but Juventus is still the team to beat16 August 2018 | Charlie Laurendi
The last time the start of the Serie A season was held with such high anticipation was way back in 1990-91, after Italy faltered in its own backyard at Italia 90 and the prince of Italian football, Roberto Baggio, controversially transferred from Fiorentina to Juventus for a then world record. The wrath for many Fiorentina supporters still lingers to this day.
The excitement surrounding Serie A in season 2018-2019 can be associated to one name, and one name alone, RONALDO.
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid has transformed football in Italy. From increased shirt sales, corporate sponsorships, television deals, tickets sales, and the responses from rival clubs has fans of Italian football all over the world waiting in anticipation of what lies ahead. Many football experts believe the gap has widened even further between his new club, Juventus, and the rest of the Serie A contenders with the arrival of Ronaldo.
However, rivals to the crown Juventus has defended for seven years, have accepted the challenge and will make it as uncomfortable as possible for Juventus whilst doing their best to dethrone the king, and become Serie A Champions themselves.
Here are the title contenders (players pictured are in bold).
The Bianconeri have a squad big and talented enough to contend for every competition they compete in.
After winning the past seven Scudetti and four Coppa Italia’s in a row, the priority is undoubtedly the Champions League. Juventus have gone all in for European glory with the captures of experienced world class players but should still have more than enough class to win the championship.
- Major Ins: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo, Mattia Perin, Emre Can, Leonardo Bonucci
- Major Outs: Gianluigi Buffon, Gonzalo Higuain, Kwadwo Asamoah, Mattia Caldara, Stephan Lichsteiner
Previous Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri didn’t do a lot wrong in the past few seasons pushing Juventus all the way last season and arguably playing the better brand of football. Football is a results driven business and can be brutal at times, with Carlo Ancelotti snapped up despite Sarri producing Napoli’s greatest ever Serie A points total.
Ancelotti has won championships in every country he has coached, Italy (AC Milan), England (Chelsea), Spain (Real Madrid), France (PSG) and Germany (Bayern Munich), five of the biggest clubs in European football. No one is questioning Napoli’s best XI, the question remains, do they have the depth to challenge Juventus? Time will tell.
- Major Ins: Fabian Ruiz, Simone Verdi, Alex Meret, Amin Younes
- Major Outs: Jorginho, Duvan Zapata, Pepe Reina
Roma had a fantastic campaign last season, finishing third in the league and reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco has strengthened the squad with quality playmaker Javier Pastore and teenage sensation Justin Kluivert from Ajax, as well as French World Cup winner, Steven N'Zonzi from Sevilla. The loss of Radja Nainggolan will hurt but we should expect more of the same from this talented Roma line-up.
- Major Ins: Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert, Ante Coric, Steven N'Zonzi
- Major Out: Radja Nainggolan
Inter manager Luciano Spalletti has invested heavily in his squad to not only challenge for the Serie A title but also the Champions League, having qualified so dramatically on the last day of last seasonm confining Lazio to the Europa League with a 3 - 2 win over the Biancocelesti on their home deck.
Keeping star forward and team captain Mauro Icardi was also a coup, fighting off interest from Real Madrid.
- Major Ins: Radja Nainggolan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Lautaro Martinez, Stefan de Vrij, Sime Vrsaljko
- Major Out: Davide Santon
While manager Simone Inzaghi is still smarting from that defeat on the final day he will have confidence in his players for the upcoming season. Sometimes it’s the players you keep rather than the players you bring into the club which can make all the difference.
Lazio has done extremely well to hold onto Serbian Sergej Milinković-Savić, fighting off the advances of Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid. The sky is the limit for this midfield maestro.
- Major Ins: Francesco Acerbi, Valon Berisha
- Major Outs: Felipe Anderson,Stefan de Vrij
AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso is under more threat to keep his job than most other managers in Serie A as Antonio Conte is lurking in the shadows having been sacked by Chelsea. But it is Gattuso who starts in the top job and will have some added firepower at his disposal following the acquisition of gun forward Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus.
The loss of Leonardo Bonucci has been offset by the arrival of Italian international defender Mattia Caldara, also from Juventus. The pairing of Caldara with Alessio Romagnoli in the heart of AC Milan’s defence, supported by young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma could also be the backbone of the Italian national team for many years to come.
- Major Ins: Gonzalo Higuain, Mattia Caldara, Pepe Reina
- Major Outs: Leonardo Bonucci, Nikola Kalinic, Andre Silva
Promoted clubs Empoli, Parma, Frosinone all return for another season in the top flight.
Empoli won the title and Parma finished second, both securing automatic promotion into Serie A. Third place Frosinone beat Palermo in the play-offs to confirm the final place in the 2018-19 Serie A season.
We wish them luck, all three historic Italian clubs are going to need it.