5 Reasons to Be Excited About the Return of Serie A
It has been just under two months since Juventus were confirmed as champions of Italy—a run which gave them their 29th Serie A crown.
Since then we have seen many players come and go—as well as managers change clubs—in a busy preseason for many of Italy's clubs.
Other than the fact soccer has been away too long, here is a list of reasons to be excited for the new Serie A season.
Verona and Verona
On Week 13, the two clubs will go head-to-head in the "Derby della Scala," which will only be held in Serie A for the third and fourth time in the division's history.
In a league already full of exciting derbies—for instance the Milan derby and the Rome derby—this will add to an exciting fixture list.
Massimo Donati and Luca Toni are probably the most recognisable names for Hellas Verona, with the former having a spell at current Scottish champions Celtic and the latter playing for the likes of Bayern Munich at the Italian national side.
Chievo should go into the games as favourites as they look to continue their five-year spell in Italy's top tier.
Mario Balotelli's 1st Full Season
On the field or off the field, there is a big chance that the majority of headlines made in Serie A will be by the maverick Mario Balotelli.
The Italian International has a catalogue of quirky moments from his time in Manchester City, and after a few months at Milan, he is about to start his first season back in Italy.
However, Balotelli is a key figure for a weak AC Milan team, which started the 2012-13 season in disarray following the departure of multiple club legends.
They will be hoping that Balotelli can lead them to a better start and, position-wise, a better finish.
New Reign and New Reina at Napoli
At the end of the 2012-13 season, it was the end of an era as Napoli manager of three-and-a-half years, Walter Mazzarri, departed for Inter Milan.
Meanwhile, Napoli and Serie A Golden Boot, or "Capocannoniere," winner Edinson Cavani departed for Paris Saint-Germain in a mouth-watering €64 million deal.
But Napoli were quick to act in moving on from Mazzarri and Cavani with the appointment of Rafa Benitez at the helm.
Benitez hit the transfer window and brought in stellar names like Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol, Dries Mertens Pepe Reina (on loan) and star striker Gonzalo Higuain.
This will be a new-look Napoli, who could make the title fight more interesting in Serie A and give Juventus their toughest challenge to date.
The Champions League Places
In 2010, Inter Milan surprised many when they beat Barcelona on the way to winning the UEFA Champions League under Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho wouldn't be around too much longer and Inter would struggle as would Italy in a bid to compete in the Champions League.
A few years on and Serie A has had only three quarter-finalists in the competition since and now gets three Champions League places instead of four after falling behind the Bundesliga in UEFA's coefficient.
However, this makes the competition to finish in the top three incredibly tense, as seen at the end of the 2012-13 season with Fiorentina missing out in the last few minutes thanks to Philippe Mexes' late goal for Milan.
This season, Juventus, Napoli, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter, and even Udinese and Roma will be looking to finish in the top three. This creates both excitement and pressure, which all in all can only lead to a more exciting and competitive league.
Fiorentina will be hoping to avenge the previous failure and have spent big following Stefan Jovetic's departure to Manchester City.
Mario Gomez, Josip Ilicic, Joaquin, Massimo Ambrosini and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado are just some of the names who have joined the club and will be hoping to compete in Europe's top competition soon enough.
Juventus Bring the Firepower
Juventus didn't waste any time in confirming the signing of Fernando Llorente from Juventus following the end of his contract with Bilbao, where he spent much of the season on the fringes.
Llorente is one of two big-name strikers to arrive in Turin with former Manchester United and City striker Carlos Tevez also joining the club.
The two will be hoping to add firepower to a Juventus side which didn't have the strongest attack last season with the likes of Fabio Quagliarella, Mirko Vucinic, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Nicklas Bendtner hardly impressing, forcing the club to sign former France International Nicolas Anelka on a five-month loan deal.
The spine of the current champions is strong with Buffon Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and the continually improving Paul Pogba, but it did lack the firepower of a top striker.
Llorente and Tevez offer both attacking power and options, which can take Juventus from Serie A dominance to European contenders.