2020-2021 Serie A Rankings & Preview: Juventus to Continue Domination

2020-2021 Serie A Preview

Italy’s top division has been dominated by Juventus in recent years. However, up and coming Atalanta and old rival Inter Milan look to target the Scudetto this year. Meanwhile, recently promoted Benevento, Crotone, and Spezia are looking for some magic to stay up in the premiera division of Italian Football.

For the top half of my predictions, I will provide what is expected of the teams and what needs to go right. However, for the bottom-half, I will simply touch on what needs to go right for the teams to succeed for mid-table finishes and to stay out of relegation.

#1 Juventus

What to expect: Juventus has dominated Italian Football for nine years now. With the entire attack relying on Dybala and Ronaldo for Sarri’s team last year, first-time manager Andrea Pirlo will definitely look to a new system going into this year. Pirlo is heavily targeting the midfield in the transfer market, linking Juventus to several young and upcoming creative midfielders. It is hard, even with a first-time manager, to expect anything less than another championship for Juve this year.

What needs to go right: Juventus will need to see improvements from Sarri’s squads in three areas of the pitch. First off, the midfield needs to be much more dominant if they are going to grab their 10th win in a row. Secondly, crosses from the wings and doing something with those crosses need to be dramatically improved if they want to keep up with the scoring of teams like Atalanta. Third, the defense needs to take a step forward and improve upon its 2019 season.

Most Important Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Biggest Signing: Arthur (Barcelona)

#2 Inter Milan

What to expect: Inter is looking to be the team to finally get past Juventus in Italy. They too are heavily targeting midfield, despite already being an area of strength. They want to be able to dominate the time of possession and control the game against the other top Italian clubs. I expect Inter to be challenging Juventus the entire year, and it would not be surprising to see them at the top of the league for the majority of the season.

What needs to go right: Big wins and limited slip-ups. Of course, this sounds obvious but Inter needs to make sure that they do not draw ten games again this year, especially many against extremely inferior opponents. They also, to put it simply, need to beat Juventus. Those 6 point swings make an absolutely monstrous change in the standings.

Most Important Player: Nicolo Barella
Biggest Signing: Sarchraf Hakimi (Real Madrid)

#3 Atalanta

What to expect: I think everyone going into 2020-2021 is not expecting major changes due to the shortened offseason and major pandemic going on. In that way I see the same top three of last year. Atalanta was an attacking powerhouse, something you do not see often in Italian football. I think that most people expect Atalanta to keep up their goal tally, so it will be whether they can solidify the defense and make fewer mistakes in their own box that will decide if they have a chance of challenging for the title.

What needs to go right: Atalanta has already made two signings in the midfield. The hope for Atalanta is continuing to score goals early and often, but then having the ability to see the game out through possession. Something they struggled with at times late in the 19-20 season.

Most Important Player: Duvan Zapata

Most Important Transfer: Mario Pasalic (Chelsea)

#4 Napoli

What to expect: A bounce back, Napoli really fell apart last year and finished all the way out of a European placing, ending in 7th place. I simply do not see that happening again. Champions League football and a 4th place finish are to be expected. The huge signing of Victor Osimhen gives more strength to their attack and some depth not to so heavily rely on Insigne, Mertens and Milik to carry the team.

What needs to go right: More goals. While their defense was not superior, the number of goals scored by Napoli was poor to put it simply. They need to create more chances and finish off chances at a higher rate. If they do this then their midfield and defense are fine enough for a Champions League finish.

Most Important Player: Lorenzo Insigne

Most Important Transfer: Victor Osimhen (Lille)

#5 Lazio

What to expect: It was a great year in the 19-20 season for Lazio. In all facets of their game, they looked great until the season was suspended due to COVID. After the return, they simply did not look to be the same team. They could not continue to rally the points to challenge Inter, Atalanta, and most importantly Juventus for the title. I expect a mix of the two teams we saw for 20-21. A solid team that may struggle against even lower-tier sides if Immobile is shut down and they must look elsewhere for offensive production.

What needs to go right: Keeping hold of Milinkovic-Savic, if he goes it is hard to see who Lazio could bring in, in such a short amount of time to replace him. He is one of the best in the world right now in the midfield. If they can do that and find goals from other players not named Immobile then I think Lazio easily challenges for a Champions League spot this year.

Most Important Player: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Most Important Transfer: None

#6 Roma

What to expect: The low end of the top 6. This is where I see a gap between the top 5 teams competing for Champions League football and the middling teams competing for the Europa League spots. Roma is rebuilding around its young and talented Italian players; however, they simply just do not have the talent and maturity yet to be boxed in with the likes of Juventus and Inter. They ended the season on a brighter note looking much better after the restart, but not good enough for the top four.

What needs to go right: If they are to manage a Champions League finishing run those young Italian players like Pellegrini, Spinazzola, and Zaniolo need to take a huge leap forward and turn into top talents in Serie A.

Most Important Player: Lorenzo Pellegrini

Most Important Transfer: None

#7 AC Milan

What to expect: The club in 19-20 was able to barely finish in the top 6 spots. However, I do not expect that from them going into the 2021 season. Milan is headlined by world-class keeper Donnarumma; however, currently, that is where the star power seems to end. They have not made many moves and will continue to rely on an aging Zlatan Ibrahimovic and an ineffective Ante Rebic for goals. They should beat most teams in Serie A, but I do not see them keeping pace with any of the top six teams.

What needs to go right: Superior defense and control of the game in the midfield. I do not see a world where Milan is scary going forward. However, they can make up for this by controlling the midfield with Kessie and simply not letting their opponents break them down. They have the amazing insurance policy of Donnarumma in goal so it is not that crazy to see them leading the way in goals against this year. That must happen though if they want to compete with the big boys.

Most Important Player: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Most important Transfer: Alex Saelemaekers (RSC Anderlecht)

#8 Fiorentina

What to expect: Top-end of mid-table football. Fiorentina is not good enough to be considered with the teams previously mentioned, and there is definitely a tier break. However, they are better than a purely mid-table team. One must expect a similar result as last year with maybe a few less slip-ups against the lower tier teams.

What needs to go right: More goals, Fiorentina was not scoring enough or making enough chances in any of the games that I watched. Patrick Cutrone, the young Italian signed from Wolves, looked pretty promising and could be a source of some newly found offense without making transfer moves.

Most Important Player: Nikola Milenkovic

Most Important Transfer: None

#9 Sassuolo

What to expect: An extremely strong midfield team with the opportunity for upsets. The way Sassuolo played against the big boys at times was often better than some of the teams above them on this list. They do not have the star power or depth of those teams, but on any given game day they have a chance at winning.

What needs to go right: Keeping hold or replacing Locatelli. This was a great pick-up for only around 10m dollars from AC Milan. However, Locatelli who is the motor of that midfield sparking many of the deadly counter-attacks is on many of the top tiers Italian clubs’ radar. If this team can shore up the defense and get production from the bench they could easily slip into the top 6 or 7 for this upcoming season.

Most Important Player: Manuel Locatelli

Most Important Transfer: Georgios Kyriakopoulos (Tripoli)

#10 Hellas Verona

What to expect: Mid-table football with wins against the bottom-half and defeats against the top-half. Verona was somewhat of a surprising story in 19-20 with some great wins like a 2-1 victory over Juventus in February. However, they were headlined by great defense and very little going forward. Not much in the way of a path to rising up the table, but they should not drop either.

What needs to go right: Victories against the lower-half teams. Verona will have a tough time pulling off more upsets, but they need to be winning games against those bottom-half teams. Sanyek Du Carmine looked good in his limited appearances and will need to continue to surprise if they want to keep their mid-table status.

Most Important Player: Davide Faraoni

Most Important Transfer: None

#11 Parma

What needs to go right: They need to find a replacement for Dejan Kuusveski, the now Juventus man was a key part of the offense in Parma. It will be huge shoes to fill for anyone and manufacturing products that he creates out of the wing will be extremely difficult.

Most Important Player: Gervinho

Most Important Transfer: None

#12 Cagliari

What needs to go right: Winning close games, Cagliari looked a lot better than where they finished in 19-20. Oftentimes, they would lose by one goal or let a team tie up late and so many times games could have been different. They could have easily finished in the top-half of the league but made mistakes or did not have the luck. Winning those games, especially ones that they are leading late is a must for them.

Most Important Player: Nahitan Nandez

Most Important Transfer: None

#13 Bologna

What needs to go right: Shoring up the defense must be a priority for coach Mihaljlovic. Bologna struggled to keep the ball out of their net mightly in their 19-20 campaign. If they have any chance at a top-half finish they must see a huge reduction in the number of goals they concede, especially with the football they play. They are not a team built to outscore opponents.

Most Important Player: Ricardo Orsolini

Most Important Transfer: Luis Binks (Montreal Impact)

#13 Torino

What needs to go right: Torino was able to string enough wins midseason to keep them up by the end of it with 40 points. However, this team is much more talented than that. What needs to happen this year is the star players of this mid-table team other than Belotti need to show up. N’koulou and Armando Izzo need to perform better in the back and keep the score down. Getting a few more draws with the teams above them on this list and keeping the wins coming against the bottom sides has to happen, and it will start in the back.

Most Important Player: Andrea Belotti

Most Important Transfer: Ricardo Rodríguez

#15 Udinese

What needs to go right: A new system under Luca Gotti. The manager thrust into position at the start of last season did an okay job. Now he has had time to establish a culture at the club and hopefully has enough time to implement whatever style of play he needs from his team. I imagine it will be counter-attacking, and if that is the case the key will be to defend well and have efficiency at the other end of the pitch.

Most Important Player: Kevin Lasagna

Most Important Transfer: None

#16 Sampdoria

What needs to go right: More consistent attacking football out of Fabio Quagliarella and Manolo Gabbiadini. Both of these strikers have prolific stretches and incredible goals. With the creative ability of Gaston Ramirez, this team needs to be putting more balls into the back of the net, and this is going to be the way they stay out of the relegation battle.

Most Important player: Manolo Gabbiadini

Most Important Transfer: Mikkel Damsgaard (FC Nordsjælland)

#17 Genoa

What needs to go right: Mattia Perin needs to keep performing as a keeper and the defense needs to get much better to avoid relegation. The number of chances they gave up was astounding. The young talents like center back Cristian Romero and Andrea Favili need to take another step forward in terms of talent to keep this team up another year in Serie A.

Most Important Player: Mattia Perin

Most Important Transfer: Sinan Gümüş (Fenerbahçe)

#18 Benevento

What needs to go right: Strong defense and grinding out results against mid-table clubs will be Benevento’s best chance at staying up this year. I cannot see them scoring many goals so they need to make them count when they do happen by being solid at the back.

Most Important Player: Lorenzo Montipò

Most Important Transfer: Kamil Glik (Monaco)

#19 Crotone

What needs to go right: In short, a lot. This is Crotone’s second time in the top league in Italy. I struggle to see a world where they produce enough goals to stay up in Serie A; however, that is exactly what needs to happen. Manufacturing goals and being able to sit back and defend. It is extremely hard with the short offseason, but hopefully adding a player or two that could insert into the starting lineup could help.

Most Important Player: Niccolo Zanellato

Most Important Transfer: None

#20 Spezia

What needs to go right: Similar to Benevento the strong suit of this team is most likely going to be their defense. Simone Scuffet at keeper and Martin Erlic at CB will be absolutely crucial to them having any chance of staying up in Serie A.

Most Important Player: Simone Scuffet

Most Important Transfer: None

  
Matthew Amato is a UC Berkeley Economics and Philosophy graduate. Matthew follows and writes about the NFL, Fantasy sports, MLB, European soccer, Professional Lacrosse, and e-sports. He has managed his own tournament baseball team and coached high school lacrosse. In his free time, Matthew used to compete competitively in Call of Duty and Counter-Strike.

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