MILAN (AP) Five teams to keep an eye on in the Italian league this season, which starts this weekend:
Following another Serie A-Italian Cup double, Juventus has had to deal with infighting and the departures of Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, however, has again bought shrewdly in the offseason.
Douglas Costa brings Champions League experience from his time at Bayern Munich, while Federico Bernardeschi is one of Italy’s top young players. Those two wingers will link up with Paulo Dybala, just behind Gonzalo Higuain.
Juventus is favored to maintain its grip on the Serie A title but could be distracted by its desire to win the Champions League, especially in veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s final season. The team lost in the Champions League final last season for the second time in three years.
After three years without any appearances in European soccer, AC Milan is looking to regain its place among the game’s elite.
The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash and splashed out more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason.
The top four teams in Serie A will now qualify for the Champions League, making it a bit easier for Milan to get back into the top tournament.
Besides signing Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, Milan also brought in forward Andre Silva (FC Porto); midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie (Atalanta), Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).
With teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma agreeing to extend his contract until 2021, Milan could be in position to challenge for its first Serie A title since 2011.
Inter Milan not only lost out on a spot in the Europa League to AC Milan, but it has also been forced to watch as its city rival signed several star players.
Inter’s signings have been more low key but it has brought in defender Dalbert from Nice and Borja Valero from Fiorentina. The creative midfielder is likely to provide even more opportunities for Inter forward Mauro Icardi.
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti should provide some much-needed stability to a club after a tumultuous campaign last season that included four managerial changes.
Inter’s preparations last year were complicated by the departure of coach Roberto Mancini two weeks before the start of the season.
Napoli’s attacking flair saw the team score 94 Serie A goals last season on its way to setting a club record for points. But while it arguably played the best soccer in Italy, it finished only third.
There is the feeling that this could be the year for Napoli, which has improved season after season and has managed to keep its team together.
Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have signed new contracts, Arkadiusz Milik will have a full pre-season and be fully recovered from the knee injury which sidelined him for four months last year, and Marek Hamsik is only three goals away from breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.
That means coach Maurizio Sarri will have a group of talented players who are hungry for success, high in confidence (after a great season finish) and well drilled in his system.
Roma will be playing without Francesco Totti for the first time in 25 years.
Sporting director Monchi has been busy in the transfer market since replacing Walter Sabatini, but has signed no big names.
However, Roma has recruited defenders who can pass well and feed speedy wingers to set up center forward Edin Dzeko, who led the Italian league with 29 goals last season.
While the club has failed to replace Mohamed Salah, who left for Liverpool, it now has more strength in depth.
It remains to be seen how coach Eusebio Di Francesco will make the step up to a top team and deal with the pressure of the Champions League for the first time.
Di Francesco, who played for Roma, arrived from Sassuolo. He guided that team from Serie B in 2013 to a sixth-place finish and Europa League qualification in 2016.
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