Another season of Italian football is upon us and the attention will now turn from this summer’s engrossing Mercato to this weekend’s opening fixtures.
The 2020-21 campaign saw Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan end Juventus’ nine-year dominance in the Serie A whilst city rivals AC Milan secured a return to Champions League football. It was the most competitive season in Italy’s top flight in the last decade and brought much-needed attention to both the league and its most talented players.
Despite a tumultuous summer for Italian football, the league’s most prestigious clubs will go neck-to-neck in their battle to win the Scudetto or secure European football for the following season. The league has seen thirteen managerial changes this offseason, making for enthralling tactical battles and plenty of exciting matches. There is little certainty for the traditional heavyweights which will offer teams like Atalanta and Lazio a chance to shine.
Here is our prediction for the top seven teams in the upcoming Serie A season:
The Giallorossi have been on a fall from grace ever since their triumph over Barcelona three years ago. Coach Paulo Fonseca has departed from the club, making way for Jose Mourinho. “The Special One” may be one of the greatest managers in football history but the last few years have been nothing short of mediocre for the Portuguese manager. After high-profile sacks at Chelsea and Manchester United, Mourinho failed to redeem his reputation at Tottenham, lasting only 17 months in charge.
AS Roma may be one of the most prestigious clubs in Italian football history but they have failed to compete with Serie A’s biggest teams in recent years. They cannot even say they are the best Roman team in Italy as Lazio seems to be in a better position than their city rivals.
After the loss of Edin Dzeko, Roma signed Tammy Abraham and Eldor Shomurodov from Chelsea and Genoa respectively to bolster the attack. Portuguese international goalkeeper Rui Patricio was signed as a replacement for the departed Pau Lopez and Palmeiras left-back Matías Viña as a deputy for Leonardo Spinazzola, who is expected to be out until next year.
It looks unlikely that there will be a fairytale ending between Roma and Mourinho. Judging by his recent history, a fifth to seventh-place finish seems likely for the Romans. The club’s goal may be a top-four finish, but they should be more than satisfied with Europa League qualification.
League Position: 7th
Key Player: Lorenzo Pellegrini
Despite an impressive season, Napoli narrowly missed out on a top-four finish on the last matchday. The club let go of Gennaro Gattuso this summer but brought in a proven coach through Luciano Spalletti, who has a great track record of securing Champions League qualification. President De Laurentiis has kept the core of their squad and will look to build upon the foundation of last season.
With the likes of Victor Osimhen, Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly, Spalletti will have no excuses if he cannot find consistency with Napoli this season. The manager will need to build momentum and improve the team’s consistency throughout the season if Gli Azzurri wants to return to Europe’s biggest stage.
League Position: 6th
Key Player: Piotr Zielinski
After an impressive campaign in 2019-20 that secured a fourth-place finish, Lazio lacked the consistency to built upon their success as they finished fifth last season. The loss of Simone Inzaghi looked to be overwhelming for the club but the Biancocelesti find themselves in a better position than they would have expected having signed Maurizio Sarri as Inzaghi’s replacement. Sarri brings an impressive resume and would most likely be the coach that could take Lazio from being regular Europa League participants to top-four contenders.
The Roman club has strengthened their squad this summer with the arrivals of Felipe Anderson, Elsied Hysajand, Luka Romero and others. Lazio should take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the other clubs and solidify Champions League qualification.
League Position: 5th
Key Player: Ciro Immobile
Although Milan finished 2nd last season, their season was full of ups and downs. Because of manager Pioli and football director Paolo Maldini, the Rossoneri finally have a team identity after many years of failure.
Milan may have been the highest-spending club in Serie A during the summer transfer window, but most of these funds went towards keeping loan players from last season and replacing Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, who left as free agents. The club made Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali’s loans permanent and extended Brahim Diaz’s loan for another two years.
The other additions of Mike Maignan, Fodé Ballo-Touré, and Olivier Giroud give their squad some much-needed depth but the team is still lacking a starting attacking midfielder and right-winger. There is still time left in the Mercato but it looks as though Milan’s lack of depth will be the key factor in how much success they have this season.
The Rossoneri will look to rebuild their team both on and off the pitch this season and prove that last season’s success was not a fluke. Milanisti may have high hopes for this season after a second-place finish last year, but they should be satisfied with a top-four finish considering the competitiveness of Serie A this year.
League Position: 4th
Key Player: Franck Kessie
It seemed as though the Nerazzurri’s struggles would end after last season’s Scudetto victory but it only took two days for the club to cloud their title celebrations with another controversy. Antonio Conte was fired only days after winning the team’s first trophy in over ten years. Their manager was the first to leave, followed by many key players from the title-winning team, including Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.
Simeone Inzaghi was appointed as Conte’s replacement and is given the arduous task of retaining their title this season. Inter has recruited Edin Dzeko, Denzel Dumfries, and Hakan Çalhanoğlu to fill the gaps in the squad but the club’s willingness to sell their most talented players has lessened their chances of retaining the title another year. Given the uncertainty surrounding the club’s financial problems and desire to find new owners, Inter’s goal should be a top-four finish. Expect a fall from grace for the Nerazzurri this year.
League Position: 3rd
Key Player: Nicolò Barella
Last season marked the third-consecutive top-four finish and a semifinal appearance in their debut Champions League campaign for La Dea. The Bergamo-based club has shown steady development over recent seasons and will look to maintain their status as of Italy’s best clubs.
The club’s only departures are Pierluigi Gollini and Christian Romero, who have been replaced by Udinese’s Juan Musso and Juventus’ Merih Demiral. The future of Josep Ilicic and Duvan Zapata remains uncertain, but both are expected to remain at Atalanta.
Manager Gianpiero Gasperini has done a fantastic job in developing young talents, allowing the club to sell many of its best youth players without seeing a drop in form. His high-intensity, attacking style of football has also made Atalanta one of Europe’s most admired teams. Expect Atalanta to be the highest-scoring team in Serie A and for them to secure another top-four finish.
League Position: 2nd
Key Player: Luis Muriel
Last season marked the end of Juventus’ 9-year title dominance as the Bianconeri finished fourth. Amidst a season of COVID-19 absences, an inexperienced manager and issues on and off the pitch, 2020/21 was the club’s worst season in ten years. However, the reappointment of Massimiliano Allegri was the club’s first step to renewing its domestic dominance.
Juventus have added promising Brazilian attacker Kaio Jorge and Euro 2020 winning midfielder Manuel Locatelli to their lineup. Their only departure is veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who will undoubtedly be a loss for their dressing room. With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Federico Chiesa, Allegri has all the tools he needs to build a Scudetto-winning squad and bring the ‘Old Lady’ back to the top.
Juventus will have the hunger and talent this season to renew their dominance and put last year’s abysmal season behind them. It is very unlikely that any other club has the depth and consistency to take the title over Juventus this season.