Can Rejuvenated Inter Milan Challenge Juventus for Serie A Crown?
Juventus won their eight (8) consecutive Serie A title last season finishing 11 points ahead of 2nd placed Napoli and a whopping 21 points ahead of 3rd placed Inter Milan. By doing so, the Turin giants continued their monopoly and dominance of the Italian league. In recent years, the likes of AC Milan, Inter and Roma have fallen on hard times and were unable to challenge Juve for the title, with Napoli being the only team that normally threatens Juve, but when the battle heats up, Napoli always succumbs under pressure.
Coming into the 2019/20 season, much has changed as far as the Italian Serie A title race is concerned. Juventus have replaced manager Maximiliano Allegri with Maurizio Sarri, and Inter brought in former Juventus and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, AC Milan replaced Gattuso with Marco Giampaolo but fired him after a run of poor results with Stefano Pioli being his replacement while Roma have also replaced Claudio Ranieri with Paulo Fonseca.
All the teams were busy in the summer transfer window with Juve strengthening their squad to defend the title and win the much-coveted and elusive UEFA Champions league while their rivals strengthened to challenge them for the title. But of all their rivals, Inter Milan are the strongest and will pose the most threat to Juventus winning the title for the ninth consecutive season.
Inter began the foundation for their title challenge by bringing former Juventus CEO, Giuseppe Marotta, to San Siro in 2018. Marotta was the brain behind Juventus’ rise to dominance in Italy and in Europe. During his time at Juve, he sensationally led the club from a seventh-position finish to consecutive league and cup champions and also two-time Champions League finalists. He brought Antonio Conte to Juve at the beginning of his tenure and also made some outstanding signings in the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Carlos Teves, Marcos Llorente, Patrice Evra, Alvaro Morrata, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira among many others.
Marotta set the ball rolling in Inter ahead of the season by appointing Antonio Conte as manager(talk about repeating history) and also made some shrewd signings in the transfer window, bringing in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella while also showing the exit door to controversial,divisive and ineffective players like Radja Naingollan, Mauro Icardi and Joao Mario amongst others.
Antonio Conte is a proven manager and a serial winner at the highest level. He was very successful in his time at Juve, the Italian national team and Chelsea. His charisma, persona, aura and style of play have rejuvenated Inter incredibly. Conte’s experience over Sarri might count in favour of Inter in the title race. (Sarri has never won a league title in his career and in fact, won his first-ever trophy as a manager when Chelsea won the Europa League in May).
With eleven matches played in the Italian League so far, Inter are going head-to-head with Juve in the title race with just a single point separating them from the champions.
In attack, Mauro Icardi has barely been missed with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez forging a fearsome partnership that has produced an incredible 17 goals so far! Bear in mind that Alexis Sanchez is currently injured and will likely improve the attack on his return from injury.
Last season, Marcelo Brozovic was often left alone to do most of the work in midfield with the likes of Mattias Vecino, Roberto Gagliardini, Joao Mario and Naingollan unconvincing and inconsistent in the middle of the park. Inter have brought in youngsters Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella to support the industrious Brozovic in midfield, and the duo have hit the ground running, forming a dynamic trio in midfield alongside the Croatian.
Inter had the second-best defence in Serie A last season (behind only Juventus). But still opted to strengthen the defence further with the signing of Athletico Madrid stalwart Diego Godin on a free transfer. The experienced Godin joins Milan Skriniar, Stefan De Vrij and his former Athletico Madrid centre-back partner Joao Miranda in the heart of the Nerazzurri defence.
To win titles, you will have to rely on some experienced players and Inter are not lacking in this area with the club able to call on the likes of goalkeeper and captain Samir Handanovic, Diego Godin, Miranda, Sanchez, Antonio Candreva, Andrea Ranochia, Lukaku and Kwadwo Asamoah(who won several titles at Juventus).
Add all these to the fact that Juventus haven’t been at their best so far with the team still struggling to adapt to Sarri’s style of play, missing some injured players —most notably captain, Giorgio Chiellini— the UEFA Champions League being their ultimate target and you will realise that Conte’s Inter — who will still definitely improve and adapt better to each other and to their manager’s style of play — can seriously give Juventus a run for their money in the title race and also claim their first Scudetto since 2010.
Written by Muftaudeen Abdullahi Ishola