Serie A Season Preview 2016/17
Can Juve claim more Serie A glory despite Pogba loss?
Juventus have won the last five Serie A titles and the defending champions look well-placed to make it six in a row.
They will have to do it without Paul Pogba, however, with the France international moving to Manchester United for a world record transfer fee.
Pogba was the best player in the league last year – WhoScored rated his Serie A performances at 7.81 – but Juve have a new star in the form of Gonzalo Higuaín, who cost around £75 million.
Buying Higuaín has the added benefit of weakening their main title rivals, Napoli, although the Argentina international has been widely mocked for appearing to be overweight in pre-season.
Juventus are clear favourites for the 2016/17 title, so here’ s our preview, focusing on teams that are likely to be fighting it out at both ends of the Serie A table.
Napoli and Roma lead chasing pack
Despite an appalling start to last season, Juve ended up winning the league by nine points as Napoli’s challenge fell away, a meltdown and red card by Higuaín contributing to their woes.
Poland internationals Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski have been signed, while Lorenzo Tonelli arrives from Empoli to strengthen the Napoli defence, but captain Higuaín hit 36 league goals in 35 games last year and he will be incredibly hard to replace for Maurizio Sarri.
Roma have also lost one of their key players to Juventus, with Miralem Pjanić leaving for £30 million, while Adem Ljajić has joined Torino.
But Luciano Spalletti has consolidated his squad over the summer break, converting the successful loan deals of Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko into permanent transfers, and the Giallorossi might well be the main challengers to Juve’s crown this time out.
Pjanić and Higuaín are not the only big signings made by Juventus this summer, with the Pogba windfall already spent. Almost £20 million was lavished on Marko Pjaca, a versatile Croatian from Dinamo Zagreb, with Gabon international Mario Lemina completing a move from Marseille too.
Another important signing for Juventus is the arrival on a season-long loan of Medhi Benatia from Bayern Munich, with the 29-year-old strengthening a defence that only conceded 20 goals in 28 Serie A games last season.
Massimiliano Allegri is targeting success in Europe this season and Benatia might well make the difference for his side in the Champions League, as well as in domestic competitions.
Milan clubs still in transition
It has been a summer of upheaval at Inter Milan, with the arrival of new owners – China’s Suning Holdings Group – while Frank de Boer has replaced Roberto Mancini as the team’s coach.
Last year’s fourth-placed finish was unacceptable for Inter – they were 13 points outside the Champions League spots – with over £18 million spent on Lazio’s Antonio Candreva in a bid to push up the table.
Deals for Marcelo Brozović, Dodô and Cristian Ansaldi have been completed too, while Éver Banega arrives from Sevilla on a free transfer.
The sale of El Shaarawy freed up AC Milan to move for Gianluca Lapadula and Gustavo Gómez, two good players who will improve the squad but look unlikely to take Milan on to the next level.
Fiorentina looked good for a Champions League place for much of last season before falling away badly in the closing weeks of the campaign, with the top three again the target for La Viola, who have signed Davide Astori from Cagliari for the new campaign.
Also competing for European football again are Sassuolo, who earned a shock sixth-place finish last year, but Sime Vrsaljko and Nicola Sansone have been sold for a combined £25 million.
Fight against the drop
Hellas Verona, Frosinone and Carpi were the unlucky trio to be relegated from Serie A last season and they are being replaced by Cagliari, Crotone and Pescara this year.
All three clubs look to be in for a tough campaign, but the bottom end of the division is likely to be extremely tough again, with Udinese and Palermo both surviving by a single point last season.
Palermo finally seem to have found some stability after changing their coach multiple times last season, but the sale of Franco Vázquez to Sevilla is going to be a big loss.
Zielinski’s sale to Napoli also weakens Udinese, who sold Nico López to Internacional during the summer transfer window, with Stipe Perica, Ewandro and Seko Fofana among the arrivals.
Sampdoria were only two points clear of the drop zone last year and they look vulnerable again, with Roberto Soriano and Joaquín Correa heading to La Liga in big money deals, while Fernando has signed for Spartak Moscow.
They have raised almost £50 million in transfer fees this summer, but less than half of that has been spent on strengthening the squad and they could be in for a struggle again, throughout the course of the 2016/17 Serie A season.
Can anyone stop Juventus from claiming a sixth successive Scudetto ?