For the past two seasons, the Vecchia Signora (Old Lady) of Italian calcio (soccer) Juventus have lifted the Scudetto as the Serie A champions. While their top league rivals have made player acquisitions which have strengthened them and helped them edge closer to dethroning Juventus, in the end of the day, Juventus are still the undisputed favorite to win the 2013-14 Scudetto.
Looking at the team which is coached by Antonio Conte, one of the things that most stands out is that squad remains largely intact from those who were on the team that won the league title back during the 2011-12 season. Just like they did last season by adding Paul Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah to strengthen and improve the team, Juventus have added several players this off-season who will add depth and improve the squad in their challenge for a third consecutive league title.
The additions of Carlos Tevez, whom they acquired from Manchester City, and signing Spanish forward Fernando Llorente on a free will strengthen a forward line that at times failed to step up and score regularly for the team while also helping improve the play of a forward like Mirko Vucinic. In addition to strengthening their attack, Juventus added Anglelo Ogbonna from city rivals Torino to add depth to their defense and give them a player they can slot in if Conte chooses to play with four defenders as opposed to their customary three at the back.
It is clear with the players already on the squad and those that have come in to join what is already a well oiled machine, that Juventus are by far the most balanced and best team that will play during the 2013-14 Serie A season. This becomes patently clear when one compares Juventus against their main rivals. For example, Napoli, who finished runners-up last season have been the most active of the top four sides from last season this off-season.
While it brought in Rafael Benitez as coach, Gonzalo Higuain at forward to replace the departed Edinson Cavani, and Jose Reina on loan from Liverpool to name a few, Napoli are still suspect and have not adequately addressed their issues as far as defenders go.Therefore, while Napoli should be dynamic going forward, they will lose some important games or draw some games because of their weakness at the back with their defenders.
Another of Juventus’ main challengers will be AC Milan who finished third last season. Milan turned their 2012-13 season around after the winter break when it brought in Mario Balotelli who proved to be the player they needed to help the team overcome and hold off Fiorentina on the final game of the season to finish in Champions League positioning. While Milan will clearly have the most potent and dangerous forward line in Serie A with Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy leading the charge, Milan’s title chances are weakened as a result of two significant factors.
The first reason that Milan’s title chances are weakened is because of their overall team defending. As they showed on Tuesday night in their Champions League Qualifier against PSV Eindhoven, Milan were for a good part of the game overrun by a PSV team who were unfortunate to not have scored several goals in the first half. It also showed that Milan are weak in the holding midfield/defensive midfield position as they failed to help shield and protect their defenders on several of PSV’s attacks.
The second reason that Milan’s title chances are weakened is because of their coach Massimiliano Allegri. Allegri weakens his team’s title chances because it is clear that there are games Milan come out playing flat and uninspired and thus cede the initiative and tactical edge to the opposition. Given that Allegri is tactically not at the level of a Conte, Benitez, or even of a Vincenzo Montella and Vladimir Petkovic of Lazio speaks about him as a coach. Finally Milan’s record against the top six teams in the league with Allegri as the coach means Milan losing more times than they win.