Serie A 2020/21 Season Preview: Title Contenders, Dark Horses, Promoted Sides & More

Cristiano Ronaldo, Federico Bernadeschi
Juventus celebrated their ninth successive scudetto last season | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Hands up who has been counting down the days for Serie A's return? Yep, me too, amici.

Last season, calcio fans were robbed of what had promised to be the biggest upset in recent Serie A history, with the rampant Lazio and Atalanta closing the gap on the stumbling Juventus, only for the coronavirus to come along and screw everything up.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Soccer Player, Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Buffon, Matthijs De Ligt, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuaín, Giorgio Chiellini
Juventus celebrated in style after winning the league title | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

La Vecchia Signora regained her composure, while the Eagles had their wings clipped, and the Goddess lost her superhuman powers. Oh yeah, and Inter just did classic Inter things. That was last season though. Now, Juve are under new management, I Nerazzurri are ready to do battle again, and money has been swirling around the league like nobody's business.

Serie A is full of mini-subplots, exciting rivalries and individual duels up and down the league. That's to say, there's plenty to keep your eye on at both ends of the table. So, why not have a gander at the battles that have caught 90min's attention, as we preview Italy's top flight ahead of the curtain raiser on Saturday evening.

Title Contenders

Juventus

As nine-time consecutive winners, it'd be mad to suggest Juventus are not the favourites to confirm a decade-long domination of Italian football. I Bianconeri have refreshed their ageing midfield, bringing in Weston McKennie and Arthur Melo, while finally shipping out some deadwood from the squad.

The Turin giants are entering uncharted waters however, as they set sail on a bold, new adventure with club legend Andrea Pirlo at the helm. The 41-year-old, who only recently collected his UEFA coaching license, has never managed at the top level before - nor at any level, for that matter.

He has been handed a pretty good head start on the rest of Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala leading his attack, and the imminent arrivals of Luis Suarez and Edin Dzeko soon to be confirmed.

But has he got the skill, composure and metal to hold off the charge from some of Italy's biggest underdogs?...

Inter

Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku and Martinez proved to be a dangerous partnership up front for Inter | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

There's never a dull day on the black and blue side of Milan. Inter temporarily loosened Juve's grip on the Serie A title last year, but ultimately it wasn't enough to prise the trophy from their ice cold hands. With a determined and reinvigorated Antonio Conte ready to go to war once more, I Nerazzurri pose an intimidating adversary for the current reigning champions.

The Milan club have held onto their key players this summer, with striker Lautaro Martinez having seemingly given up on his dream move to crisis-club Barcelona. Inter have also added to their wealth of superstars, clinching the signature of Real Madrid wing-back Achraf Hakimi and AS Roma veteran Aleksandar Kolarov.

Midfield warrior Radja Nainggolan is also set to return to the fold for next season, adding even more steel to current alternatives Stefano Sensi, Marcelo Brozovic and Nicolo Barella. And of course, there's the relentless and ever-improving Romelu Lukaku.

It's Year 2 of Conte's adventure with I Nerazzurri, and with the right signings finally falling into place, - and Juve in transition - Inter may never spot a better opportunity to end their 10-year drought.

Atalanta

Josip Ilicic, Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Dario Gomez
Atalanta's attacking trident is one of the deadliest in Europe | Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The neutral's preferred winner, you'd suspect. Everyone loves a fairytale, and Atalanta came so close to writing their own in the Champions League last season. In the end, it wasn't to be. However, they're not finished there. Like Inter, la Dea will smell blood, and Gian Piero Gasperini will know this could be their only shot at a proper title charge.

The Goddess have maintained a core group of players for the coming campaign, although Timothy Castagne has swapped Bergamo for Leicester, and starlet Dejan Kulusevski joined Juventus in a big-money move back in January - though he was out on loan last season anyway.

Atalanta have always bounced back - and improved - in the face of adversity though, and there are no indications that they will be bucking that trend this year.

Dark Horses

Milan

Stefano Pioli
Pioli has revolutionised this stuttering Milan side | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It almost feels disrespectful to Italy and Milan to label I Rossoneri as dark horses, but given their failings in recent years, it's easy to see why. A new dawn is on the horizon at San Siro, and under the impressive Stefano Pioli, this group of players have blossomed into possible Champions League contenders.

The summer arrivals of Brescia wonderkid Sandro Tonali and Madrid playmaker Brahim Diaz will only add to the increasing confidence levels, bubbling away under the surface in the economic capital. The re-signing of Simon Kjaer, Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all major coups for this young and ambitious squad, who may finally see their return to the big time this summer.

Sassuolo

Gregoire Defrel, Hamed Junior Traore, Jeremie Boga, Filip Djuricic
Sassuolo possess some lethal attacking stars | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Finishing in eighth place behind Italy's seven elite clubs, Sassuolo were last season's 'best of the rest.' There should be no reason for them not to repeat those heroics - or even better them - going into the 2020/21 campaign.

I Neroverdi have retained the stars who make this fluid and attacking team so pleasurable to watch, and more importantly, coach Roberto De Zerbi will be in the dugout once again. The Italian boss has won all the plaudits since taking over at Sassuolo in 2018, and another strong season will only increase the calls for him to be handed a seat at the top table in the very near future.

Fiorentina

Chiesa is close to unlocking his potential with Fiorentina
Chiesa is close to unlocking his potential with Fiorentina | Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Surely, this is the season that Fiorentina take advantage of this crop of young, talented starlets and re-enter the circle of Italy's Seven Sisters.

Fiorentina have had a pretty successful transfer window so far. Hellas Verona star Sofyan Amrabat dazzled Serie A with his commanding and dynamic displays in the heart of their midfield, and la Viola had seen enough to take a punt on the Moroccan. We can't forget talisman and fan favourite Federico Chiesa, either, who has been threatening to become one of the most devastating players in Italy for a while now.

Along with the experience of Franck Ribery, Borja Valero and Jack Bonaventura, Giuseppe Iachini's side may finally be ready to stake their claim for a top seven finish this season.

Promoted Sides

Benevento

Filippo Inzaghi
Inzaghi has rebuilt his managerial career with Benevento | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The Sorcerers suffered one of the most gruelling and humiliating campaigns in Italy's top flight back in 2017/18, finishing stone dead last and receiving some heavy beatings. Two years later, they're back for more.

This time, Benevento have Filippo Inzaghi at the helm, rebuilding his managerial career after a poor spell at Bologna. He's done a good job thus far, cantering to the Serie B title and setting Gli Stregoni up for a possible tilt at survival. It's going to be an uphill task, but who better to avoid drowning in the top flight than the Sorcerers?

Crotone

FC Crotone v Frosinone Calcio - Serie B
Crotone players celebrate promotion to Serie A | Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Promoted as the second best team in Serie B, Crotone are back in the big time after a two-year absence. The Sharks have swum in Serie A before, clinching survival with an incredible run of results back in 2017.

But it's a whole different ball game in Italy nowadays, and it's getting harder for the newly-promoted teams to make their mark. Whether Crotone can keep their head above water remains to be seen.

Spezia

Spezia Calcio v Frosinone Calcio - Serie B Playoff Final
Spezia won promotion in a tense playoff | Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Playoff heroes Spezia have never graced Serie A with their presence - until now. It's been a long, hard journey to the top for the Little Eagles, but the moment to spread their wings and soar has finally arrived.

As with any newly addition however, money is tight (especially in comparison to their fellow competitors) and it'll take something seriously special to cement their place in Serie A. It's not impossible, though.

10 Notable Transfers

Arthur Melo
Arthur could be an exciting signing for Juventus supporters | Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Arthur Melo - Barcelona to Juventus (€72m)

Victor Osimhen - Lille to Napoli (€70m)

Sandro Tonali - Brescia to Milan (€42m)

Sandro Tonali
Big things are expected of this boy | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Achraf Hakimi - Real Madrid to Inter (€40m)

Dejan Kulusevski - Atalanta to Juventus (€35m)

Sofyan Amrabat - Hellas Verona to Fiorentina (€20m)

Aleksandar Kolarov - Roma to Inter (€1.5m)

Pedro - Chelsea to Roma (Free Transfer)

Marash Kumbulla - Hellas Verona to Roma (Loan)

Brahim Diaz - Real Madrid to Inter (Loan)

Prediction

Antonio Conte
It won't be a runners up medal this time round for Antonio | Pool/Getty Images

Time to stick our heads above the parapet, make some bold predictions and then completely disappear off the face of the internet without a trace. Inter will win the title this season. There - I said it. I Nerazzurri can really profit from this new-look Juve, and if they avoid the usual mid-season wobble, Conte's men can make the inexperienced Pirlo pay.

Atalanta will be well in the mix for the title, and it'll be close between la Dea and I Bianconeri for the runner-up spot. An almighty scramble for the final Champions League place will undoubtedly break out, and 'dark horses' Milan could have enough to pip Lazio, Napoli, or Roma to the honours.

It's really anyone's guess. Whatever happens, let's just enjoy it, shall we?

Prediction: 1) Inter 2) Juventus 3) Atalanta 4) Milan 5) Lazio 6) Napoli 7) Roma 8) Sassuolo 9) Fiorentina 10) Parma 11) Torino 12) Sampdoria 13) Bologna 14) Hellas Verona 15) Genoa 16) Benevento 17) Udinese 18) Cagliari 19) Crotone 20) Spezia