Previewing the 2015-16 Serie A season; can Juventus retain their grip on Italian soccer?

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After four consecutive Scudetti titles, it looks like Juventus’ grip of Serie A has narrowed. The reigning four-time Italian champions kick-start their Serie A campaign on Saturday night against Udinese, but the side that faces the Zebrette will have many questions surrounding it. 

Coach Massimiliano Allegri must replace the irreplaceable, as Carlos Tevez, Artur Vidal and Andrea Pirlo are all gone. Tevez will be the most difficult to replace, but new signings Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic look capable, both scored in Juventus’ Supercoppa Italiana win against Lazio. Without Tevez’s 20 Serie A goals, there could be room for change at the top.

Roma’s additions of Iago Falque, Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah, has many believing this could be the Giallorossi’s year. Roma was expected to run Juventus close last season, but after a great start, the Romans nosedived – going winless in nine of ten matches between January 11th and March 16th. In the end, the Giallorossi missed out on its first Scudetto in 14 years. This season, expectations are as high as ever in Rome and Rudi Garcia must be at his best following last season’s disappointment or the axe will finally fall on the Frenchman. 

SEE MORE: beIN SPORTS renews Serie A TV rights in US through 2018.

This Serie A season will also be a season of firsts as both last season’s Serie B champions Carpi and runners-up Frosinone will compete in Serie A for the first time. They will be joined by playoff winners Bologna, who bounced back to Serie A after one year in the lower division. The road will be difficult for all three and expectations for the debutants to return to Serie B are high. 

In the fashion capital of Europe, Inter and AC Milan have both been busy upgrading their squads. The two Milanese clubs finished eighth and tenth respectively a season ago. Roberto Mancini has worked hard to strengthen an Inter team that was short on talent in 2014/15 and has already added a proven Serie A goal scorer in Stevan Jovetic. Geoffrey Kondogbia arrived for €28 million and the former Monaco midfielder brings a tough tackling style to what was a soft Inter midfield.

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While Inter’s dealings have been modest, AC Milan has spent money this summer, signing Italian playmaker Andrea Bertolacci (€20m) and goalscorers Carlos Bacca (€30m) and Luiz Adriano (€8m). In addition, the Rossoneri finally addressed a hideous central defense that gave up 50 goals last term. Alessio Romagnoli arrived from Roma for €25m. 

While last season’s third place finishers Lazio have done very little in the transfer market, the Biancocelesti had far less to do than its direct rivals.  Lazio has already gotten its Champions League campaign up and running, beating Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of the playoff round. Despite consistent form under coach Stefano Pioli, Lazio’s biggest problems are a lack of quality depth. Despite this, Felipe Anderson will be key to igniting Lazio’s attack. The Brazilian tallied 10 goals and seven assists in 32 games last season. Expect another big year from the Lazio No. 10.

Last season’s fourth and fifth place finishers, Fiorentina and Napoli, both disappointed in the end. However this term, both are back with new coaches and a new set of expectations. Paolo Sousa takes over at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and is joined by new arrival Mario Suarez from Atletico Madrid. The Viola will look to finally crack the top three, but with Roma and the Milan clubs upgrading, it will be difficult. The key is Giuseppe Rossi, who has played a mere 22 Serie A games since arriving in 2013. If Rossi can stay fit for once, then he can add to his 16 career Fiorentina goals and lead them into Champions League soccer. 

Last May, Napoli said, “Arrivederci!” to Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard’s time at Napoli will be remembered for winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana. Other than that, there weren’t too many positive notes. Maurizio Sarri takes over from Benitez after leading Empoli to 15th place last season. Despite being tipped to be relegated back to Serie B, Sarri played a team of Italian youngsters and Serie A veterans. The results were stunning as Empoli took points away from Roma, Lazio and Napoli on its way to Serie A survival. 

Napoli has done excellent transfer business, bringing Pepe Reina back to the club where he played in 2013/14, and signing Allan from Udinese and Mirko Valdifiori from Empoli. All three should improve the side and despite Sarri’s lack of experience at a “big” club, Napoli should improve on last season’s fifth place finish. 

The rest of the 2015/16 Serie A will be made up of dreamers and also-rans. The two Ligurian clubs, Genoa and Sampdoria, have seen changes to last season’s overachieving sides. Genoa has already seen several players leave through sales or expired loan deals. On the other hand, Sampdoria lost its coach as Sinisa Mihajlovic is now at AC Milan. 

Torino, Hellas Verona, Palermo and Sassuolo have all retained their coaches ahead of the season, and that stability should see another season of mid-table security . Finally, Atalanta, Udinese, Empoli and Chievo, all have coaches that have been in the job for less than a year. Can they be more consistent and stay away from the relegation zone this time around? 

The questions will begin to be answered on Saturday as the 114th season of Italian top-flight soccer kicks off. Only one thing in Serie A is for sure and that is, this season will be like no other before it.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Soccer TravelsMLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, English Premier League, German Bundesliga and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

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