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Meet the Serie A Contenders

The Serie A is in the spotlight after the beautiful summer Italian sports had, thankfully ending England’s March at the Euros becoming champions of Europe for the first time in a generation, and finishing in the top 10 on the medals table at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which featured equal parts of sporting and humanitarian excellence, we are eager to see what Calcio has to offer us post-summer in the fight for the Scudetto. 

But before that let’s check back to what happened last season. In the 20/21 Serie A season, we experienced an upset as Juventus lost their 9-year hold on the league title to Internazionale in an intensely contested battle for the title which saw the defending champions fighting for a top four finish on the last matchday, and at the mercies of Hellas Verona as well. Juve entered the final matchday in 5th place needing Hellas to get at least a point from Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli for Juventus to seal a top four finish. The Old Lady was spared her blushes with Napoli held to a draw by Hellas Verona and Juve sneaked into the UCL places.

We’re doing it all again in 21/22 this time with some familiar faces coming back into the league and some leaving, Andrea Pirlo stepped down from his job as Juventus Boss and former manager Maximiliano Allegri took over, super coach Antonio Conte surprised everyone by leaving Inter Milan after a successful season.

Romelu Lukaku left the Serie A and found his way to the English capital joining Chelsea in a big-money move while Hakimi joined PSG in the French capital and Cristiano Ronaldo went home to Manchester United. Luciano Spalletti, former Inter and Roma boss, joined forces with Napoli, and the special one Jose Mourinho was given the unenviable task of reviving AS Roma. With these arrivals and departures the league is shaping up to be unpredictable and yet here we are taking a predictive look at some of the title contenders.

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Inter Milan

The blue and black side of Milan stole the Serie A title from their Turin rivals Juventus’ stronghold and would be looking at the possibility of defending their title for the first time since 2007. Although the Nerazzurri have lost three of the biggest parts of their team, you still can’t rule out Inter defending their title.

New Head Coach Simone Inzaghi has already proven himself in the league with Lazio over the last few seasons and like his predecessor Antonio Conte, he favors the 3-5-2 system. With the loss of the Club’s Top Scorer Romelu Lukaku, the Italian giants quickly secured the services of another proven goalscorer Edin Dzeko from AS Roma.

The addition of Hakan Calhanoglu, who played more key passes than any other player in Europe’s big five leagues last season would be a big boost to their already rich midfield which possesses players like Marcelo Brozovic and the hardworking Nicola Barella who was one of the main protagonists in Italy’s EURO 2020 win, starting all of Italy’s games bar the dead rubber against Wales. Even with the exits of Lukaku, Hakimi, and Conte, the Nerazzurri are still going to be a force to reckon with.

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AC Milan

Over on the red side of Milan, Stefano Pioli featuring his modern version of the WM formation will continue to find old solutions to new problems in his bid to improve on the Rossoneri’s second-place finish last season.

Over the course of the last few years, we have watched with cautious belief AC  Milan steadily climb up the table looking like a team ready to return to their glory days. Their blend of young and energetic players like Rafael Leao and Brahim Diaz with the experience and class of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was able to deliver some outstanding results last season.

They will be looking to improve on the results of their home games if they are to become real title contenders as they managed only 30 points from home games last season compared to 49 points from games away from home. Winning only eight games at the San Siro and 16 outside it.

With the addition of more experience in World Cup and Champions League winner Olivier Giroud to their attack, the Rossoneri would look to be more potent going forward as they struggled to find goals from other sources other than Zlatan last season.

They might have lost the services of Calhanoglu to city rivals Inter but they are still looking strong with some of the best young midfielders in the league. Brahim Diaz and Sandro Tonali would be looking to step up and fill the space the Turkish playmaker left.

Pioli would also be happy he was able to retain the services of Theo Hernadez who was a big part of their highest league finish in recent years not only with his key interpretation and execution of Pioli’s tactics but also with seven goals and six assists. Milan have set themselves up as a team whose threat to Inter’s title defense we can’t ignore. 

Atalanta

Then there’s the Serie A high-scoring Atalanta, the darling of hipsters worldwide who play without fear and look to shift the balance of power from Milan and Turin. Gian Piero Gasperini, the mastermind of Atalanta’s rise from Serie B avoiders to Champions League regulars can see the current lack of a clear favourite as an opportunity to take La Dea a step further and make them Serie A winners for the first time in their history.

Their beautiful attacking football has proven their biggest strength in recent years and they have finished with more goals (77), (98), and (90) than any other Serie A team in the last three seasons. However, their high risk, high reward style of play comes with some drawbacks and they have conceded the most goals (46), (48), and (47) among teams ranked in the top four in those three seasons as well.

The team has grown since Gasperini took over and if he can stem the leak at the back, Atalanta might be able to take the next step in their evolution. After being losing Coppa Italia finalists in 2019 and 2021, as well as finishing within touching distance of the title in 2020, it would be beautiful to watch a satisfactory end to the fairy tale for the team from Bergamo come May 2022.

Juventus

Juventus played below their usual high standards during the 2020/2021 Serie A season. The 36-time champions have taken steps that could see them bounce back by hiring Max Allegri who was responsible for five of Juventus’ 9 consecutive Serie A titles. His first point of call will be to revive the career of Paulo Dybala, who has had a dip in his form in front of goal.

He has scored under 10 goals in two of the last three Serie A seasons, having never scored fewer than 10 in any season with Juventus before. The club had relied on only the brilliance of Ronaldo but they can no longer do that with the forward choosing a return to Manchester United over another season in Turin.

In Federico Chiesa, Juve have a shining light who starred for Juventus last season and for the Italian national side during the just concluded EURO 2020 where he scored crucial goals in the round of 16 and semifinal and ran England ragged in the final. He contributed 16 G+A despite completing only 24 90s in the Serie A. Allegri has said the fast and dynamic winger is the future of the Juventus attack and the winger has shown he can do it on the big stage with his performances at the Euros.

They could also have the luxury of new signing Manuel Locatelli who was able to get a few goals at the Euros chipping in goals from the midfield. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chellini would be looking to continue from where they left off during EURO 2020. The pair who went on holiday together entertained us with a master class in defending which saw Italy win their first Euro title in 53 years. This Juventus side could be on their way to reclaiming the scudetto.

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Roma and Napoli

Wild cards like Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma and Napoli are also in the mix. 

AS Roma appointed Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho who has been a serial winner for most parts of his coaching career, his style would definitely make Roma a difficult team to play against this season and he would be looking at new signing Tammy Abraham to get goals for the Romans. Nicolo Zaniolo who has recovered from a knee injury would also add his skills and flair to I Giallorossi’s attack. 

The team from Naples who missed out on the Champions League on the last day of the season would be looking to correct their mistakes with newly appointed coach Luciano Spalletti who is a Serie A antique after managing Udinese, Roma, and Inter in the league. The Italian coach is known for his attacking style of football and the fans of Napoli would want to see their record signing Victor Osihmen get more goals this season compared to his tally of 13 last season. Lorenzo Insigne would also be a big part of the team as the dynamic winger would be looking to add more medals to his cabinet after tasting success with the Italian national team during the summer.

Despite key losses to the team, Inter Milan still look the strongest for the Serie A title. Replacements have come in the form of Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries for Lukaku and Hakimi and Inter can kick on from there under the guidance of Simone Inzaghi. Juventus would have been the favourites, but they now have a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized hole that will be too large to fill this soon even with the brilliant Max Allegri in charge. \

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