The new Serie A campaign gets underway this weekend and it promises to deliver its fair share of spills and thrills as well as plenty more controversy and drama.
Juventus continue to set the standard after securing their fifth consecutive Scudetto last season, and they have strengthened further this summer as they harbour ambitions of conquering Europe too.
However, they haven’t been the only side pushing to improve ahead of the new season, and there promises to be a thrilling battle for the Champions League qualification spots again this time round.
Time will tell as to which clubs are involved in the dreaded relegation fight with the likes of Sampdoria, Palermo and Udinese flirting with the drop last season, but there is undoubtedly a guarantee of tension and entertainment at both ends of the table.
Can Juventus be stopped?
Probably not. The Bianconeri lost Paul Pogba to Manchester United this summer, but they also made smart moves to improve their squad overall.
Medhi Benatia, Dani Alves, Miralem Pjanic, Marko Pjaca and Gonzalo Higuain have all arrived, and Massimiliano Allegri still has the quality and depth to target trophies both at home and abroad.
Many will believe that the Serie A title race is over before it begins, particularly given that Juve have signed two influential players from their direct rivals, and it’s difficult to see any side keeping pace with the Turin giants over the course of the entire campaign.
Roma are arguably the best placed to do so as they have strengthened this summer to build on their impressive form under Luciano Spalletti in the second half of last season, but ultimately it would be a huge surprise to see the title anywhere other than Turin in May.
What about the Milan giants?
Inter will start a new era under Frank de Boer this season, with the Dutchman replacing Roberto Mancini earlier this month after issues between the Italian and the new ownership.
Antonio Candreva and Ever Banega are two smart signings and will make an immediate impact, but it remains to be seen as to whether or not the former Ajax boss has had enough time to stamp his identity on the group and ensure there are immediate results.
As for the Rossoneri, it’s another reboot for them this year following the appointment of Vincenzo Montella as their sixth coach since January 2014.
A takeover from a Chinese consortium is expected to be completed by the end of the year, as noted by The Guardian, but for now, they’ve faced a frustrating summer in the transfer market.
Gianluca Lapadula, Gustavo Gomez and Jose Sosa have arrived, and combined with Montella’s expansive and possession-based style of play, Milan supporters will be hoping for a fresh start that delivers attractive football and results.
Neither of the Milan giants have done enough to suggest that they will be able to legitimately rival Juve this year though, so a scrap for the Champions League and Europa League spots is the best it will likely get for them.
Intriguing sub-plots to watch out for
The odds are stacked against Crotone avoiding the drop this season, but they will be desperate to prove their doubters wrong and secure their place in the Italian top flight for another year at least.
Elsewhere, there are various fiery individuals both on and off the pitch to ensure that there will be plenty of drama, but Sassuolo undoubtedly deserve a special mention.
Seen as the club that are building in the right way with their Italian nucleus and emphasis on developing young talent and operating within their means, Eusebio Di Francesco has a huge task on his hands this year.
After finishing sixth last season, the Neroverdi are on the brink of qualifying for the Europa League group stages, despite losing key individuals such as Sime Vrsaljko and Nicola Sansone who both left this summer.
Di Francesco has impressed with his management skills over the last few years, now he’ll be hoping to continue his side’s development and establish them as a perennial challenger for a place in Europe.
Follow Sumeet Paul on Twitter @SP_Calcio