Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

5 things to know about the 2016-17 Serie A season

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Over the past few years, Serie A has reversed some tired cliches. Clubs aren’t recoiling into defensive positions or playing exclusively on the counterattack. In fact, goals have been scored almost as frequently as in the Premier League.

This season should be no exception. Juventus is built to dominate on multiple fronts, the Milanese outfits are set for a renaissance under new Chinese ownership, and even some minnows are jumping into the deep end.

There’s never a shortage of storylines in the Italian peninsula. Here are the things to know heading into the 2016-17 campaign:

No one can touch Juventus

The distance between Juventus and the rest of the competition has never been greater. Being the five-time defending champion is not enough: the Bianconeri have dramatically altered their squad to fight for the Champions League crown.

Despite Paul Pogba‘s world-record departure and Alvaro Morata‘s return to Spain, Massimiliano Allegri’s side is stronger than ever. Gonzalo Higuain and Marko Pjaca will bring goals, Miralem Pjanic will set them up, and Dani Alves will offer service from the right flank. There are reinforcements in every outfield position.

Poaching Higuain and Pjanic from Napoli and Roma was the game-changer. Juventus strengthened itself by weakening its rivals.

Napoli begins life after Higuain

Higuain didn’t leave Napoli on good terms. He didn’t even give Maurizio Sarri, the manager who restored his confidence, the courtesy of a phone call. Higuain left the club that built him up as the second coming of Maradona, undergoing a secret medical in another country before moving to Juve.

The fans responded to Higuain’s acrimonious departure by burning his jersey in the streets of Naples. It won’t be pretty when he returns with his new club on April 2.

But Napoli has moved on. It reinvested some of the windfall in highly rated Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik, and reinforced the midfield with the signing of promising box-to-box midfielder Piotr Zielinski.

And Napoli isn’t done yet.

It may require a couple of seasons to truly catch up with Juventus, but the pieces are there to be competitive in Serie A and the Champions League.

Berlusconi era about to end

Silvio Berlusconi finally put AC Milan in the hands of people who can properly finance it. The Chinese consortium that purchased the Rossoneri has agreed to invest €350 million over the next three seasons as it aims for a return to the summit of European football. It will take some time before change is realised, but it’s a start.

Milan currently has a squad that’s barely good enough to compete for fourth or fifth place. Keeping top scorer Carlos Bacca was a tough but logical decision, and bringing in Serie B sensation Gianluca Lapadula will give manager Vincenzo Montella some options. Enigmatic winger M’Baye Niang is also coming off a solid preseason campaign.

Whether Montella will have the opportunity to lay down roots at a club that’s sacked four managers in three years is still open for debate.

Sassuolo sheds minnow tag

Eusebio Di Francesco has Sassuolo on the verge of qualifying for the Europa League group stage – just three years after leading the provincial side to Serie A for the first time. It’s a remarkable achievement, and the Neroverdi have done it with a team made up mostly of Italians.

Domenico Berardi – who disappointed many Serie A observers last season – appears to be on a mission. He has four goals in three Europa League qualifiers, and will have to continue scoring at that pace if Sassuolo wants to maintain its newfound status as a top-seven team.

The departure of Nicola Sansone has already been covered – Serie A veteran Alessandro Matri will relieve Berardi of some of his goal-scoring burden.

But for the most part, this is the same team that made history in May. Di Francesco has a reputation as one of Italy’s up-and-coming managers, and there’s no reason to doubt his ability now.

De Boer the answer for Inter?

The bitter standoff with Roberto Mancini left Inter in a difficult situation. Having already made several signings this summer, the Nerazzurri had to change course and install a new manager just two weeks before the start of the season.

Frank de Boer had only one preseason match to feel out his squad, and there could yet be more arrivals. Sporting‘s Joao Mario and Santos sensation Gabigol are reported targets, but it remains to be seen how this team will come together.

On paper, Inter has the pieces to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2011. Antonio Candreva, Ever Banega, and Ivan Perisic would create a dynamic front line, with Mauro Icardi capable of leading the league in scoring.

New Chinese ownership group Suning will also promise more changes. Serie A, after all, is infinitely better when the Milanese clubs are competing at the top.

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