The start of the 2019/20 Serie A season is almost upon us and it seems that the Italian top flight is set to be one of the closest title races in Europe this term. It has been a huge summer of upheaval across almost the entire division, but nowhere will those changes be felt more than in the battle to finish in first place.
Much of the intrigue stems from the massive changes that have taken place at Juventus as the Old Lady, so normally calm and serene, has suddenly become uncompromisingly ruthless. Max Allegri had been the Coach for five impressive campaigns, winning the Scudetto each time and adding four Coppa Italia triumphs as well as two appearances in the Champions League final.
Ultimately, coming up short in Europe saw his reign come to an end and he was replaced by Maurizio Sarri, a man who has never won a league title in his entire career. He will of course bring a much more impressive-to-watch playing style to a Juve side that had become borderline unwatchable in recent months, but the former Chelsea boss needs to prove that he can also deliver tangible success.
Signings like Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot will help, but the failure to offload unwanted players like Sami Khedira, Daniele Rugani and Gonzalo Higuain might yet come back to haunt the Bianconeri. So too might their treatment of Paulo Dybala, the Argentina international pushed towards both Manchester United and Tottenham before ultimately opting to remain in Turin.
Juve’s recent dominance means her odds of adding a ninth-consecutive Serie A title next May are unfeasibly short, a best-priced 4/9 looking unfavourable but also underlining how hard it is to bet against yet another march to the Scudetto.
Having such heavy favourites makes the market “without Juventus” a particularly intriguing one, with many of the teams expected to contend making huge improvements since the 2018/19 campaign came to an end.
Roma have replaced Eusebio Di Francesco with Paulo Fonseca, the Portuguese Coach arriving after leading Shakhtar Donetsk to three consecutive Ukranian league titles. He has been charged with overhauling a disappointing team and the Giallorossi have signed promising Atalanta defender Gianluca Mancini, Fiorentina’s Jordan Veretout, Amadou Diawara of Napoli and Juventus youth product Leonardo Spinazzola.
It is a similar story at AC Milan where Marco Giampaolo – who was excellent at Sampdoria – is the new Coach, and the club have drafted in a raft of impressive youngsters who will follow his instructions to the letter.
Napoli will benefit from being arguably the most unchanged side, Carlo Ancelotti’s side retaining almost the entire squad that finished second last term while they have further improved by adding Roma’s standout defender Kostas Manolas.
Yet the most eye-catching work has been done by Inter where Antonio Conte has replaced Luciano Spalletti on the bench, a switch which – even with no other changes – might have been enough to push the Nerazzurri above their rivals.
Yet they have also invested heavily in the transfer market, ensuring that the players they have brought in are perfectly suited to their new boss. Romelu Lukaku is exactly the kind of strong, physical force the Coach loves to have up front, and if the Belgian international can rediscover the finishing touch that deserted him at Manchester United, he might be a huge acquisition.
Elsewhere, Diego Godin embodies many of the relentless, driven qualities of his new manager, adding vast amounts of leadership and experience to the backline. Midfielder Nicolo Barella is also a perfect “Conte player,” a gritty, hard-nosed enforcer who will improve the team exponentially as the season progresses.
Their odds look to provide the best value in the “without Juventus” market too. Napoli (6/5), Milan (9/1) and Roma (12/1) certainly do not look as tempting as Inter’s best priced 23/20 appearing to be hugely tempting.
While the action at the top end of the table will undoubtedly dominate the thoughts of those who follow Serie A, there is likely to be a very closely contested battle in the relegation zone too. It will not include Fiorentina however, the Viola enjoying a complete overhaul since Rocco Commisso bought the club just two months ago.
Fiorentina only avoided the drop on the final day last term and, when 2019/20 comes to an end, it could be just as tight this time around. Newly promoted side Brescia have yet to make any signings whatsoever following their jump into the top flight, and they could well lose star man Sandro Tonali before the transfer window closes.
Their manager Eugenio Corini has not completed a full campaign in any of his previous seven jobs as a Coach, making Brescia’s odds of 6/5 to return to Serie B immediately reflect just how subpar they are expected to be.
One team who could find themselves sucked into the relegation battle are Genoa, who only survived last term thanks to their head to head record with Empoli after both won just 38 points over the entire season.
With owner Enrico Preziosi looking to sell Genoa as quickly as possible and the squad remaining clearly below the required standard, the odds of 6/1 being offered on them to be relegated are hugely tempting for anyone seeking good value in this market.