The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Roma looks to end Juventus' hold on Serie A title after Allegri replaces Conte
MILAN - There is plenty of change in Serie A this season after a difficult and tumultuous period for Italian football.
The pain in Italy began with the Italian Cup final in May, which was overshadowed by the shooting and later death of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito.
It was hoped a good World Cup campaign would serve as a timely boost to a crisis-ridden country, but Italy was knocked out in the first round in Brazil, prompting the resignation of national team coach Cesare Prandelli and the president of the Italian football federation.
Giancarlo Abete's replacement is Carlo Tavecchio, who is now under investigation by UEFA following alleged racist remarks during his electoral campaign.
The one positive note is that Antonio Conte was chosen to replace Prandelli — but that move sees Serie A lose one of its finest coaches.
Conte left Juventus fans reeling when he announced his departure, shortly after steering the Bianconeri to its third straight league title in his three years in charge.
He was replaced by Massimiliano Allegri, a man who was subject to constant criticism from the media and fans during his time at AC Milan, despite leading the Rossoneri to the league title during his first season in charge.
Allegri has admitted it will be tough to emulate Conte's record-breaking last season in charge.
"To collect 102 points is impossible," Allegri said. "The average you need to win is usually 84-85 points. I just want to have one more than second place.
"When you change coach, new things are normal. Each approaches the team based on their character. The coach is very important, but you need togetherness between him, the club and the players. At Juve I have found this. At Milan it was there for three years."
With the uncertainty of how Juventus will perform under Allegri, Roma is among many people's favourites to end the Bianconeri's hold on the title.
Last season's runners-up faded after a fantastic start under coach Rudi Garcia but are likely to cope better after a year of experience and following more shrewd moves in the transfer market — if the squad manages to deal with the dual challenges of the Champions League and Serie A.
In previous offseasons, Allegri's old club has been seen as the team most likely to challenge Juventus. But Milan fans are set for another season of mediocrity after an eighth-place finish.
Milan — which fired Allegri in January — dismissed coach Clarence Seedorf at the end of the season and replaced him with another club great, Filippo Inzaghi.
The preseason has not gone to plan with a number of embarrassing performances and the sale of striker Mario Balotelli to Liverpool.
City rival Inter Milan is unlikely to fare much better, but could emerge as surprise title contenders if new signings Nemanja Vidic, Pablo Osvaldo and Gary Medel stay away from controversy.
If the Milan crisis — which saw both of the city's teams flounder — repeats itself, Napoli and Fiorentina are likely to once again challenge for the top three.
Napoli impressed under coach Rafa Benitez last season but showed the previous year that it struggles domestically when involved in the Champions League.
Fiorentina is sweating again on the fitness of striker Giuseppe Rossi, who is sidelined with another knee injury.
There will be excitement further down the table, too, as Andrea Stramaccioni and Zdenek Zeman return to coaching, at Udinese and Cagliari, respectively, after a season break following high-profile failures at Inter and Roma.
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