SERIE A PREVIEW: The lowdown on Juventus, Inter Milan and rest of top-flight teams

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The word for patience in Italian is pazienza and that is exactly what Serie A fans have had to have plenty of as they wait for the 2019-20 season to commence. But, alas, calcio is back! There are so many fascinating sub-plots to track with Inter Milan and Antonio Conte splashing the cash, Mario Balotelli looking to keep relegation candidates Brescia in the league and will Maurizio Sarri make it nine league titles in a row for Juventus?  It is set to be another intriguing campaign in Italy – a real title fight beckons – and Sportsmail has everything you need to know about every single team ahead of matchday one.  Juventus are looking to win nine titles in a row but face stern tests from Inter Milan and NapoliATALANTAManager: Gian Piero Gasperini Transfers in: Luis Muriel (Sevilla, £13.5m), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Club Brugge, £12m), Marco Varnier (Cittadella, £4.5m), Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahce, free), Aimone Cali (Montespaccato, free), Francis Gomez (Valle Tevere, free) Transfers out: Franck Kessie (AC Milan, £21.6m), Bryan Cristante (AS Roma, £19m), Andrea Petagna (SPAL, £10.8m), Alberto Almici (Hellas Verona, £450,000), Davide Agazzi (AS Livorno, £360,000), Tommaso Tentoni (Imolese, free), Emanuele Suagher (Ternana, free), Gianluca Mancini (AS Roma, loan), Federico Mattiello (Cagliari, loan), Etrit Berisha (SPAL, loan), Luca Zanotti (Como, free), Francis Gomez (Florida, loan), Christian Mora (Cittadella, loan), Boris Radunovic (Hellas Verona, loan), Nicolas Haas (Frosinone, loan), Emmanuel Latte Lath (Imolese, loan), Lorenzo Migliorelli (Siena, loan), Gaetano Monachello (Pordenone, loan), Aimone Cali (Catanzaro, loan), Riccardo Gatti (AJ Fano, loan), Alberto Alari (Sudtirol, loan), Marco Tumminello (Pescara, loan), Gabriel Lunetta (Reggiana, loan), Marco D’Alessandro (SPAL, loan), Andreas Cornelius (Parma, loan), Anton Kresic (Padova, loan), Luca Vido (Crotone, loan), Stefano Mazzini (Pontedera, loan), Thomas Bolis (Piacenza, loan), Enrico Zanoni (AS Gubbio, loan), Roberto Taliento (Sudtirol, loan), Isnik Alimi (Imolese, loan), Fabio Eguelfi (Frosinone, loan), Alessandro Mallamo (Juve Stabia, loan), Alessandro Santopadre (Rimini, loan), Christian Capone (Perugia, loan), Stefano Marchetti (Renate, loan), Tiziano Tulissi (Modena, loan)Last season: 3rd Atalanta have a serious task on their hands to top the success of 2018-19 where a third-placed finish saw them secure Champions League football.Even hosting games at Milan’s San Siro cannot take away the excitement for La Dea. Their finish made it easy to forget how slowly they started. Gasperini’s side won just one of their first eight games. The manager was left scratching his head.But they rallied and went 13 games unbeaten in the last third of the season before flexing their growing muscles even further by eliminating eventual champions Juventus from the Coppa Italia. The Old Lady’s hopes of a domestic clean sweep were quickly in tatters.Atalanta’s rivals have spent big, determined to bridge the gap to Juventus, the runaway train in 2018-19, and so matching, or even bettering, their finish last season would be nothing short of spectacular for Atalanta.Luis Muriel is a smart piece of business and keeping Duvan Zapata feels significant, despite his age. The Champions League could soon dictate the entire campaign if a lightning strikes twice and they make a sluggish start to the season.After hitting all the right notes last season, even Gasperini will be prepared to fall flat on a few in this campaign. Atalanta have acquired Luis Muriel from Sevilla this summer as they look to challenge againFAN VERDICT – Nigel Mannering (@AtalantaNige) The 2019-20 season is set to be the most historic in Atalanta’s 112-year history. Last season’s third place finish will see Atalanta play in the Champions League for the first time in its history. We have been one of Europe’s most enjoyable teams to watch over the last three years and it is going to be fascinating to see how we compete with Euorpe’s elite. The team that came third last season – and reached the Coppa Italia final – remains mostly intact with only Gianluca Mancini leaving for Roma. In fact Mister Percassi and manager Gasperini have done a great job keeping the squad together. Last season’s top scorer Duvan Zapata is still in Bergamo, as are Ilicic, Castagne, Hateboer and Papu who were all linked with a move away. We have made some good signings ahead of the new season.Luis Muriel has arrived from Sevilla and comes with a proven Serie A record. Ruslan Malinovskyi has also arrived from Genk and the Ukrainian international looks a lovely player. Hopefully we can see Atalanta pushing for a place in the top four in Serie A again this season!   Gian Piero Gasperini (right) will look to build on Atalanta’s third-placed finish in 2018-19BOLOGNA Manager: Sinisa Mihajlovic Transfers in: Riccardo Orsolini (Juventus, £13.5m), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Sint-Truiden, £8.10m), Roberto Soriano (Villarreal, £6.75m), Nicola Sansone (Villarreal, £6.75m), Stefano Denswil (Club Brugge, £5.4m), Andreas Skov Olsen (FC Nordsjaelland, £5.4m), Jerdy Schouten (Excelsior, £2.7m), Mattia Bani (Chievo Verona, £2.25m), Lassi Lappalainen (HJK Helsinki, £900,000)Transfers out: Erick Pulgar (Fiorentina, £9m), Alex Ferrari (Sampdoria, £4.05m), Filip Helander (Rangers, £3.5m), Felipe Avenatti (Standard Liege, £3.15m), Adam Nagy (Bristol City, £2.25m), Emil Krafth (Amiens, £1.8m), Sebastien De Maio (Udinese, £900,000), Giordano Trovade (Sudtirol, free), Lassi Lappalainen (Montreal Impact, loan), Alessandro Bianconi (Como, loan), Godfred Donsah (Cercle Brugge, loan), Antonio Santurro (Sambenedettese, loan), Juan Manuel Valencia (Cesena, loan), Federico Ravaglia (AS Gubbio, loan), Hamza El Kaouaakibi (Piacenza, loan), Luca Rizzo (AS Livorno, loan), Fabrizio Brignani (Cesena, loan) Last season: 10thSinisa Mihajlovic is a fighter in every sense of the word. He has had scuffles as a player, scrapes as a manager and fought valiantly to haul Bologna back in contention when he took over from the disastrous reign of Pippo Inzaghi last season.But now he faces perhaps his biggest fight, all while continuing to oversee the club’s fortunes. Mihajlovic vowed not to turn his back on the fans or the players when it emerged he had been diagnosed with leukaemia – if that cannot galvanise his players, what will?The turnaround since his arrival has been stark. Players went from lacking any identity to thriving in his desired 4-2-3-1 system.Riccardo Orsolini, Roberto Soriano and Rodrigo Palacio is an exciting and ambitious trio, when fit, to play behind the loan striker and Bologna’s growing ambition is not lost on the club’s supporters.Getting Orsolini on a permanent deal feels significant and if he picks up where he left off in 2018-19, a spot in the top half is there for the taking. Bologna will look to put in a fine season for boss Sinisa Mihajlovic as he battles with leukaemiaFAN VERDICT – Fredrik Bakke (@semprebologna) Last season began terribly under new coach Filippo Inzaghi, but then Sinisa Mihajlovic took charge, and we finished 10th. This summer has seen the owner Joey Saputo invest a lot of money, and optimism is high at the moment. The Serbian coach is loved in Bologna, and the hope is that we improve on last season’s finish. Riccardo Orsolini should be even better this year after Bologna exercised their option to buy him following last season’s loan. He scored 10 and assisted six last season, most of that coming in the second half of the season. Top 10 is definitely the hope!  Riccardo Orsolini is aiming to show he can build on his success last year in a Bologna shirtBRESCIA Manager: Eugenio Corini Transfers in: Jesse Joronen (FC Copenhagen, £4.5m), Jaromir Zmrhal (Slavia Prague, £3.4m), Florian Aye (Clermont Foot, £1.8m), Jhon Chancellor (Al Ahli, £1.4m), Luca Tremolada (Virtus Entella, £800,000), Bruno Martella (Crotone, £720,000), Mario Balotelli (Marseille, free), Giangiacomo Magnani (Sassuolo, loan)Transfers out: Biagio Meccariello (Lecce, £90,000), Edoardo Lancini (Palermo, free), Alessandro Martinelli (Palermo, free), Paolo Bastianello (Frosinone, free), Matteo Cortesi (Giana Erminio, loan), Simone Ferrari (Pergolettese, loan)Last season: Serie B champions It has been a long road for Brescia to make it back here, to Serie A. It was 2010-11 when fans tasted it last and even then they went straight back down.But last season it all clicked, after years of lacklustre seasons in Italy’s second tier, and Brescia edged out Lecce by a solitary point to lift the title.While they only lost five matches all season in that run to the title, shipping 42 goals in 36 matches unsurprisingly sounded alarm bells. Perform similarly in Serie A against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co and the punishments would prove far more severe.They have not spent beyond their means in a bid to pay their way out of relegation contention but acquiring Mario Balotelli on a free may well be the most box-office deal across the entire league all summer.Back where he grew up, Balotelli is the big fish in a fairly small pond and with Euro 2020 on his mind, the form of the Manchester City title winner is likely going to make or break the club’s chances of beating the drop.Keep an eye on rising star Sandro Tonali, too. Likened to Andrea Pirlo – and not just because of the pair’s similar flowing locks – Tonali is rightly considered one of the country’s finest emerging midfielders. If it goes well, both he and Balotelli will be at the heart of it. Brescia will be a box-office draw this season after the free transfer arrival of Mario BalotelliFAN VERDICT – GianPaolo Laffranchi (Gazzetta dello Sport – @Joao_Laffranchi)It’s another 2000. Another beginning of a millennium. Another era for Brescia. 2000, Roberto Baggio. 2019, Mario Balotelli. Another dream come true, and it seemed impossible, but was logical actually: if you have an ambitious and smart president, you can climb every mountain. Balotelli was free, without a team, left alone like Baggio almost 20 years ago, when Gino Corioni tried the challenge. And he made it.Now the president is Massimo Cellino, who owned Cagliari for 22 years: 17 in Serie A. Here he brought back Brescia in two years from Serie B. Now he has convinced Balotelli to restart in his hometown, where he’s grown up but never played. Baggio made Brescia’s fortune, saving us four years in a row. Will Super Mario be able to do better? The team won a championship last year and has players who can make a quantitative leap this time round.CAGLIARI Manager: Rolando Maran Transfers in: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors, £16.2m), Alberto Cerri (Juventus, £8.1m), Christian Oliva (Nacional, £4.5m), Fabrizio Cacciatore (Chievo Verona, £720,000), Marko Rog (Napoli, loan), Federico Mattiello (Atalanta, loan), Radja Nainggolan (Inter, loan), Luca Pellegrini (Juventus, loan)Transfers out: Nicolo Barella (Inter, loan), Diego Farias (Lecce, loan), Damir Ceter (Chievo Verona, loan), Luca Crosta (Olbia, loan), Guglielmo Vicario (Perugia, loan), Marko Pajac (Genoa, loan), Fabrizio Caligara (Venezia, loan), Matteo Cotali (Chievo Verona, free)Last season: 15thCagliari fans will hope the days of scrapping for safety near the bottom of the table are over with Rolando Maran building a deep squad for what looks set to be another topsy-turvy campaign.The return of Radja Nainggolan – a firm fan favourite in Sardinia from his reliability to supporters (he enjoyed a smoke with some fans after signing on loan this summer) – could see Maran switch formations to a 3-5-2 in a bid to maximise his latest asset.Nainggolan was all but driven out of Inter by new boss Antonio Conte and so the fire is burning inside the Belgian midfielder to prove he can still compete at the top level.Maran laid the foundations for this season last year and fans can expect to see the fruits of the Czech’s labour early on with winnable games against Brescia, Parma and Genoa all in the opening four games.Losing Nicolo Barella to Inter is undoubtedly a real blow to the club given he is one of the most promising young players in the country. But Leonardo Pavoletti remains in possession of the striker spot and after 18 goals in all competitions last season, the 30-year-old is aiming to go further.A bottom half finish would represent a backwards step for Maran should the season take a turn for the worst. Radja Nainggolan has returned to Cagliari on loan after being left isolated at Inter MilanFAN VERDICT – Valentina Campus (@valentinacampus) We are breathing new air in Cagliari. Our president, Tommaso Giulini, has decided to be aggressive in the transfer market and now the team has the potential for an excellent season. Unfortunately, our key player, Nicolo Barella, has left for Inter but with the money collected, Rolando Maran has rebuilt our midfield: Radja Nainggolan is back on loan from Inter and the new players, former Napoli ace Marko Rog and the Uruguayan Nahitan Nandez arrived from Boca Juniors, bode well. The fulcrum of the attack remains Leonardo Pavoletti, probably the most dangerous header of the ball in Serie A. Cagliari is a strong team supported by the enthusiasm of a whole island: we could really surprise everyone this year. Our first test will be the home game against newly promoted Brescia. They are run by our former president, the Sardinian Massimo Cellino. We will welcome him warmly, but the three points will be ours!  Boss Rolando Maran will be expected to deliver a better season than 15th-place in 2018-19FIORENTINA Manager: Vincenzo Montella Transfers in: Erick Pulgar (Bologna, £9m), Aleksa Terzic (Red Star, £1.5m), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Sassuolo, £900,000), , Riccardo Baroni (Virtus Entella, £360,000), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich, free), Pol Lirola (Sassuolo, loan), Milan Badelj (Lazio, loan)Transfers out: Vitor Hugo (Palmeiras, £5m), Christian Norgaard (Brentford, £3m), Jordan Veretout (AS Roma, loan), Riccardo Saponara (Genoa, loan), Jaime Baez (Cosenza, free), Simone Minelli (Teramo, free), Alban Lafont (Nantes, loan), Martin Grainciar (Sparta Prague, loan), Amidu Salifu (Al-Salmiya, loan), David Hancko (Sparta Prague, loan), Petko Hristov (Bisceglie, loan), Rafik Zekhnini (FC Twente, loan)Last season: 16thNow under new ownership, there is a renewed belief in Florence that La Viola can taste good times again.Last season they flirted with relegation and a place in Serie B, only getting their act together and staying up by the finest of margins in the end. The fall-out was immense, under no circumstances was it to be tolerated again.In came New York-based Rocco Commisso. But while it was out with the old and in with the new in the boardroom, in the dug-out an under-pressure Vincenzo Montella remained.Montella is under the spotlight like few of his colleagues before a single ball has been kicked. Kevin-Prince Boateng has arrived from Sassuolo and Franck Ribery has come in on a free after leaving Bayern Munich. Neither will accept mediocrity at a club with a proud history in European competitions.New arrivals represent real quality, Erick Pulgar one of the gems of their summer window. Keeping hold of Federico Chiesa is another vital piece of the jigsaw with hopes of challenging for a European spot this season.And given the tools at their disposal now, the pressure falls with Montella to build a side capable of standing strong from start to finish. Fiorentina fans can look forward to seeing Kev

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