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Serie A 2016-17: Can anyone challenge Juventus for the Serie A crown?

Sourav Saha
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
934   //    24 Aug 2016, 23:30 IST
TURIN, ITALY - AUGUST 20:  Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus FC gestures during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and ACF Fiorentina at Juventus Arena on August 20, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Higuain signed for Juventus from Napoli in the summer
 

If the weekend results were anything to go by, the Bianconeri are all ready to take on the Serie A this season. The Serie A has been in the news all summer and most importantly Juventus has captured the imagination of the football public by marketing their biggest asset, Paul Pogba, who is now the world’s most expensive player.

Juventus were also quick off the blocks in purchasing the best as well by purchasing the record-breaking centre forward of Serie A last season, Gonzalo Higuain from Italian rivals Napoli for a mouth watering €94 millon. And the forward was on hand to score the winner against Fiorentina in his typical poacher style by deducing where to be so as to poke the winner.

Looking to chase a league record sixth consecutive Serie A title, a mark set by the club themselves back in the 1930’s, Juventus will look to dominate their rivals at home and abroad this season.

Over the course of this article, we will look at Juventus’s additions and why they are favourites and the possible challengers that may last the distance in the Serie A race with the Old Lady.

Strengthening over the summer

MODENA, ITALY - AUGUST 13:  Miralem Pjanic of FC Juventus controls the ball during the Pre-Season Friendly match between FC Juventus and Espanyol at Alberto Braglia Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Modena, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Miralem Pjanic of FC Juventus controls the ball during a friendly
 

A recap of last season, when Juventus started off poorly only to canter to the title is still fresh in their opponents mind. And the Old Lady hasn’t done too shabbily either over this summer, investing in Bosnian Miralem Pjanic (Roma, €32 million) and Croat Marko Pjaca (€23 million Dinamo Zagreb) to their attacking ranks. In defence, they have opted to purchase the Moroccan Medhi Benatia (€3 million loan from Bayern Munich) alongside Brazilian Dani Alves who arrives on a free transfer from Barcelona.

In a sign of intent, the purchase of Higuain and Pjanic does show an ability to flex their financial muscles domestically. Instead of opting for untried talent, they have chosen to dip into the Serie A pool for refreshing their squad and in one move have strengthened their squad with proven talent while weakening their main challengers to the title.

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To be the best Italian side in itself is a challenge, but by ensuring the purchase of the best talent available in the Serie A, they will expect  to perform considerably well in the Uefa Champion’s League. With Dybala, alongside Higuain, the prospect of Juventus outscoring the other teams is a given possibility. Further additions in the form of Pjaca and Pjanic only add to the creative midfield of Marchisio and Khedira.

After making only 29 appearances for Bayern Munich over two seasons, the Moroccan defender Benatia will also look to add muscle to the Juventus defence having been a part of Serie A with Udinese and Roma till the summer of 2015. Arriving from Bayern Munich, the Moroccan will look to catch up on lost time and help augment Juventus’s title charge.

Probable Challengers

As usual, the expected challengers would be AS Roma, alongside the Milan clubs and hopefully Napoli will get over the loss of Higuain to mount a serious challenge. All the clubs had woeful starts to their season, though AC Milan did manage to hang on for a win that helped them put points on board. AS Roma, on the other hand, were imperious in their 4-0 thrashing of Udinese.

Inter Milan

VERONA, ITALY - AUGUST 21:  Head coach  of  FC Internazionale  Frank de Boer looks on during the Serie A match between AC ChievoVerona and FC Internazionale at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on August 21, 2016 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Head coach of Inter Milan Frank de Boer looks on during the loss to Chievo
 

Frank de Boer, who was appointed only two weeks back as the Inter coach, had a torrid time as Chievo beat his side 2-0 on the night. The Dutchman would fancy his side’s chances given the Chinese investment in the form of €270 million.

Having been the most significant appointment of the side this summer, the Dutch manager will have to ensure that he can help a squad possessing the talent of Marcelo Brozovic, Geoffrey Kondogbia,  Felipe Melo, Ivan Perisic, Miranda finish better than the 4th position they achieved last season.

The free transfer of Ever Banega to Inter Milan will bring the so-called “bite” into Inter’s midfield. A player who can pass and tackle and can construct moves from the back, Banega is bound to make an impact on this Inter Milan team, which has underachieved considerably over the past few seasons.

Napoli

Napoli didn’t do too well either but will consider themselves lucky after substitute Dries Mertens came on to score twice and rescue a point for his side. Napoli’s preparation to the game were hampered by the player unrest and demands of transfer in the form of Lorenzo Insigne and Kalidou Koulibaly but were caught on the backfoot when the newly-promoted Pescara shot into a quick lead.

Napoli’s primary purchase this summer has been that of Arkadiusz Milik from Ajax. The Polish striker caught the eye in the Euros and will look to establish himself as the first choice striker ahead of Manolo Gabbiadini. Understandably, Higuain will be missed but this will also be an opportunity for players such as Piotr Zielinski and the Croat Marko Rog, to become regulars in the Napoli line-up.

AC Milan

The new Milan coach, Vincenzo Montella, must have thanked his lucky stars after the side managed to hang on to the win this weekend. Having led the game 3-1 for 90 minutes, they almost gave the game away by conceding a goal and conceding a penalty as well. Thankfully, they were rescued by their goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who plunged to his left to push away Andrea Belotti’s spot-kick.

Having been the prized possession of Silvio Bersculoni since 1986, the Milan club has seen a considerable deterioration of standards since the days of Champions League successes. Over the past few years, AC Milan has racked up a considerable amount of loss. Having sold the club to Europe Investment Management Changxing, which bought a 99.9% holding for €740 million inclusive of the €220 million of debt, there is bound to be investments in the squad.

With Chelsea trying to lure Romagnoli, Vincenzo Montella will hope he doesn’t lose out on any more players. Having trimmed the squad of the high wage-earners much will be expected from the young Italians Davide Calabria and Manuel Locatelli.

AS Roma

The club having sold Pjanic haven’t been active this summer. But their winter purchases of Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy who were instant successes at the club last season. Kevin Strootman will be back this season, having spent the entire last season being injured. Mohammad Salah, the former Chelsea winger was highly impressive as usual.

Luciano Spalleti will do well to gel the talents of these young players along with the veteran Totti, who will be playing his final season this year. Over the weekend, they were impressive as they won 4-0 over Udinese, but their failure to qualify for the Champions League means they will have to concentrate their efforts in the domestic competitions this season.

Prediction

Over the weekend even with an under-strength side at his disposal Massimo Allegrini, still managed to guide Juventus to a win. The Bianconeri are undoubtedly the favourites to win the league this season but have to ensure that they can keep their title rivals at bay.

Inter under De Boer will be expected to challenge them on a consistent basis, while it will be interesting to see Milan’s and Napoli’s progress. 

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Sourav Saha
SENIOR ANALYST
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