Italian football is at a crossroads. Long gone are the days when Italy topped UEFA's all-important coefficients ranking system with the opportunity to have four teams in the Champions League.
Currently sitting in fourth in the rankings, just two Italian teams are now guaranteed entry into the competition, with one more given the chance to qualify via playoff.
Though the football federation would like to be optimistic and think that the nation will work its way back up the ladder, there is a risk that Italy could fall even further down the list. Fifth- and sixth-placed Portugal and France are looming just a few thousand coefficient points behind.
Leaving aside for now the Italians' imprudent lack of interest in the Europa League, it is clear that peninsula clubs must strive to achieve good results in the Champions League over the next few seasons.
Performances need to improve, and quickly.
With that in mind, we take a look at the three Italian teams in this year's tournament—Milan, Juventus and Napoli—and assess their chances.
Champions League credentials: 7-times winners, 4-times runners-up
League finish in 2012/13: 3rd
Squad strength: B+
Group difficulty: Tough. Opponents: Barcelona, Ajax and Celtic.
Milan may struggle to beat Barcelona, but they will fancy their chances against Ajax and Celtic.
It certainly won't be easy, however, and Max Allegri's boys will have to be at the top of their game to avoid slip-ups against the Dutch and Scottish champs.
Second place is the most likely outcome from the group stage, and that result would pit this young Milan side against one of the other group winners.
Further advancement in the knockout stages might be a step too far for Balotelli and Co., who won't peak as a team for another couple of years. This Champions League campaign will provide them with plenty of valuable experience, though.
Prediction: Round of 16.
Champions League credentials: Never progressed beyond Round of 16
League finish in 2012/13: 2nd
Squad strength: A-
Group difficulty: Tough. Opponents: Arsenal, Marseille and Borussia Dortmund
Napoli find themselves in a very even group with no clear favorites.
These can often prove the most difficult groups to advance from, with everybody scrapping for precious points, so Rafael Benitez's side will need to be firing on all cylinders from the very start of the campaign.
If they can make it into the Round of 16, Benitez is a manager who knows how to progress through the knockout rounds of a tournament.
Napoli have the squad to trouble any opponent. They could be a dark horse in this season's Champions League.
A lack of experience at this level compared to Europe's big guns might end up being their undoing, but don't rule out the Partenopei causing a few scares.
Champions League credentials: 2-times winners, 5-times runners-up
League finish in 2012/13: 1st
Squad strength: A
Group difficulty: Manageable. Opponents: Real Madrid, Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
Heavyweight Real Madrid will be Juve's biggest worry in the group stage, though Galatasaray and Copenhagen will be no pushovers, especially on home turf.
Antonio Conte may quietly fancy his side's chances of topping the group, thus ensuring an easier passage in the knockout stages.
Juventus showed in last season's Champions League that they are a formidable outfit. But they lacked that cutting edge when taking on eventual winners Bayern Munich.
With the addition of Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Angelo Ogbonna to an already impressive playing list, the Turin giants look to have gained an extra level of sharpness. As one of the best-organized, tightly knit and focused sides in the competition, Juventus have the potential to go all the way.