Why Juventus Will Still Be the Team to Beat in Serie A Next Season
Juventus secured back-to-back scudetti last weekend with three matches to spare, an indication of their superiority throughout the campaign.
The Bianconeri have a formidable squad that will only get better after Antonio Conte experiences the challenge of juggling domestic football with the Champions League.
One signing has already been made; Spanish centre-forward Fernando Llorente will join the Old Lady on a free transfer from Athletic Club, which will bolster one of the rare weaknesses to the side.
When you consider that Juve are almost certainly going to sign another striker of even greater quality, with Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport (via Spanish newspaper Marca) linking PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain with big money moves, a mouthwatering prospect when you consider how outstanding their defence and midfield have been over the past two seasons.
With these kind of astute signings and the Juventini making the Juventus Stadium more of a home in its second season, this could be just the beginning of a dominant era in Turin.
Juventus-Cagliari already sold out. Apart from Shakhtar (protest), every Juventus home game has been a sellout this season. #juvenews— Juventino (@Juventus_FC_fan) May 7, 2013
With the emergence of the world class talent of Paul Pogba over the last couple of months, Juve possess a stellar midfield that could rival any other side in Europe.
Conte has experimented with a 3-6-1 formation—perhaps in anticipation of a second crack at the Champions League after being outclassed by Bayern in the quarter-finals—demonstrating the wealth of options at his disposal, including Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.
Llorente will provide them with a new dynamic to their attack. As a physical force, the Spaniard will be a target inside the penalty area aerially. Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic were unable to offer this threat, and Nicklas Bendtner has been injured for the majority of the season, but the Dane would probably have fell short in other areas of his game, preventing him from realistically starting for the Bianconeri.
Gonzalo Higuain is a fascinating proposition, as he will provide that killer instinct inside the penalty area that Matri showed flashes of, but the Argentine can offer plenty more.
Higuain's tendency to work the channels will stretch the opposition's back line and add more variety to Juve's passing game from deep, a bonus for Pirlo, whose passing tended to be restricted to short passes, or those floated into the feet of the forwards.
Vidal and Marchisio's willingness to break into the penalty area will be further evident once Pirlo can send the ball in behind the opposition into the corner for Higuain to chase.
Another reason why Juventus will be extremely difficult to catch is the ground that their rivals will inevitably have to make up through additions in the transfer market.
Milan appear best prepared, and the signing of Mario Balotelli has been sensational, but the midfield seems woefully short of any sort of guile and cutting edge.
The Rossoneri back line is also lacking, not to mention the mystery surrounding who will be the manager next season. With so many areas of Juve's side settled and a manager full of ideas and accustomed to the expectations placed upon him, a title for the Diavoli would be quite remarkable.
Napoli might muster hopes of an improved challenge this season. After all, had the Partenopei been able to beat Udinese at the end of February, they would have entered their match with Juventus at the San Paolo knowing that they could usurp their rivals with a victory.
Two drab draws in both matches ultimately cost Napoli any real shot at the title, but Walter Mazzarri's stock is rising and with admirers at Inter and Roma, keeping the Livornese coach will be a tricky proposition.
Their star striker Edinson Cavani is also hotly tipped to move away from Naples, while Hugo Campagnaro—one of the side's most underrated performers—is almost certainly leaving on a free transfer after failing to agree a new contract.
It is not unthinkable that Napoli could lose Cavani and still mount some sort of title charge, especially given the figures being quoted by some sources for El Matador. Napoli will be banking on more of Lorenzo Insigne's potential being fulfilled and any money received from sales being invested in other areas.
Inter seem some distance from reaching the pinnacle of Italian football once more, with a drastic rebuilding project being fully committed to by president Massimo Moratti, who will need to give time to the manager, whomever it may be, to galvanise the squad into anything close to contenders.
Fiorentina and Roma have lofty ambitions, but the likes of Stevan Jovetic, Marquinhos and Erik Lamela all appear to be high on the agenda of Europe's biggest clubs in the transfer market. So with both teams likely to take a step back before being able to take a step forward, the scudetto will not feature in their preseason targets.
So Juventus will seemingly go from strength to strength and could probably see off stronger contenders than those that they are likely to come their way, but due to differing circumstances around the league, it is difficult to envisage anybody staking a claim to snatch Juve's crown next season.
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