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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Serie A 2020-21 Season Guide: Team Previews, Best Fixtures and Players to Watch

Serie A season preview schedule
Can Inter Milan challenge Ronaldo’s Juventus? Giuseppe Meazza/EPA.

Juventus can make it 10 Scudetti in succession if they hold off the Serie A peloton to retain the throne in the 2020-21 season, which is set to kick off Saturday.

The Bianconeri’s streak of nine title wins is already the longest in Italian records, but Andrea Pirlo has a chance to make history of a different sort at his former club after being appointed manager:

The peloton has a point to prove in stopping Juventus. Atalanta have emerged as a new force under Gian Piero Gasperini, and last season’s runners-up, Inter Milan, battled back to within a point of the champions. Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio looked most likely to end Juve’s reign before the coronavirus suspension, while AS Roma, AC Milan and Napoli completed a top-seven lineup boasting much European pedigree.

The fight to remain in Serie A has also developed into a rabid race after 12 points separated eighth-place Sassuolo from Genoa in 17th last term.

Lazio and Atalanta’s opening-weekend duel has been delayed due to the latter’s involvement in UEFA competition in August; Inter will meet Benevento at a later date for the same reason. Spezia’s top-flight debut will be delayed until Week 2, their trip to Udinese moved after the Serie B play-offs ran into late August.

A new Serie A season may help in part to restore a sense of normality after Italy was severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic; fuboTV takes stock of the league’s landscape before the campaign gets underway.

The Title Contenders

Juventus, Inter Milan, Atalanta

There’s no ignoring the one-sided nature of Juventus’ domestic record over the last nine years, but a Scudetto wasn’t enough to keep Maurizio Sarri in a job beyond August.

Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. return under the guidance of a green coach; not only new in that role, but one who’s new to coaching, period.

Pirlo was appointed manager of Juve’s under-23s and moved into the first-team gig nine days later. “The Architect” built a playing career on pulling the strings of any team lucky enough to have him, but the pressure of hitting targets at the club—yearning for Champions League glory—upon debut asks a lot of even his mind.

Transfer business has been relatively quiet at the Old Lady over the summer, merely bringing in US player Weston McKennie, though a move for Barcelona striker Luiz Suarez is understood to be in the works:

Inter Milan and Antonio Conte enter their second season together with much the same target as the first. The Nerazzurri were agonised to finish one point below Conte’s former club in August. Serie A Carlo Garganese suggested nothing less than top spot is acceptable in the second act:

Soccer romantics will hope to see Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta barge with the big boys again, though it may be folly to expect improvement after a historic season for the Bergamo outfit.

The Newcomers

Benevento won Serie B for the first time and are back for their second attempt in Serie A. Managed by Milan legend Filippo Inzaghi, “The Sorcerers” swept away to finish 18 points clear and conceded only 27 times (0.71 goals per game).

Spezia, on the other hand, make their Serie A debut in 2020-21 having already made a small piece of history:

There’s a theme of experience—or lack thereof—among the promoted parties considering this is also only Crotone’s third Serie A season. All three clubs will hope that dearth of wisdom at Italy’s peak doesn’t hold them back too much in the fight for survival.

Players to Watch

Juventus made headlines this summer after signing Arthur from Barcelona and sending Miralem Pjanic in the other direction. However, the addition of United States star Weston McKennie could yield more dividends should they make his loan permanent.

McKennie, 22, often stood out as a rare spark in an ailing Schalke side last season, and American fans can hope there’s method to what seemed an unexpected move. Fox pundit Alexi Lalas envisions a prominent role for the U.S. international under Pirlo than many might predict:

Not to be outdone by their rivals in the market, Inter rightly received plaudits for cutting a $45 million deal to sign Real Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi, who’s form farmed out at Borussia Dortmund put him among Europe’s top right-backs:

Arguably the most significant piece of business saw Victor Osimhen join Napoli from Lille in a transfer that could amount to more than $80 million if conditions are met.

The Nigeria international impressed in his single season in France, scoring 18 times in 38 appearances for Lille. He’s an antidote for Napoli’s fledgling attack, complementing Dries Mertens, and the pre-season signs have been promising:

Atalanta have shown a tendency for discovering unassuming gems in recent times, and Lokomotiv Moscow recruit Aleksey Miranchuk could end up being this year’s steal for the club. A Russian recruit who falls in that $10-$20 million range in which La Dea continue to turn profit, Miranchuk scored a career-best 16 goals in 2019-20, mostly from attacking midfield.

Elsewhere, Spanish duo Carles Perez and Pedro—both of whom share Barcelona links—have boosted the wing options at Roma. Perez, 22, offers more promise than Pedro—11 years his senior—but both are needed all the more after Nicolo Zaniolo suffered a second serious ACL injury in less than a year.

Must-Watch Serie A Matchups This Season

October 17: Inter Milan vs. AC Milan

January 17: Inter Milan vs. Juventus

January 17: Lazio vs. Roma

February 20: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan

February 21: Atalanta vs. Napoli

May 12: Juventus vs. AC Milan

May 12: Inter Milan vs. Roma

May 16: Juventus vs. Inter Milan

May 16: Roma vs. Lazio

May 23: Atalanta vs. AC Milan

2020-21 Serie A Week 1 Schedule

Saturday, September 19

Fiorentina vs. Torino, 12 p.m. ET
Verona vs. AS Roma, 2:45 p.m. ET, Rai Italia, live stream on fuboTV

Sunday, September 20

Parma vs. Napoli, 6:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2, live stream on fuboTV
Genoa vs. Crotone, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN+
Sassuolo vs. Cagliari, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Juventus vs. Sampdoria, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Monday, September 21

AC Milan vs. Bologna, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Visit the Serie A official website to see the 2020-21 calendar in full.

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