Massimiliano Allegri admitted there was increased pressure on Juventus in Tuesday's Champions League opener but expressed relief after coasting past Malmo 3-0.

Juve were winless in their first three Serie A games but eased to a sixth straight group-stage away win as they continued their unbeaten run against Swedish opposition in Europe.

Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala were both on the scoresheet as the visitors opened the Champions League with a win by a three-plus goal margin for just the second time, the other against Feyenoord in 1997-98.

And Allegri, who returned to the helm in Europe with his side for the first time since April 2019, was relieved following a fixture which came with added pressure due to their poor start.

"When you play in the Champions League, there is always some tension in the build-up, especially when playing away from home," Allegri told Sport Mediaset.

"There was naturally a little more pressure after three Serie A games in which we didn’t do that well.

"The lads played well on a technical level, we could’ve done better with some situations in the first half. We need to improve, but this doesn’t change the work we started on July 14.

"The psychological aspect is 90 per cent of sport, because when you make individual errors like we did so far this season, it makes us see things negatively.

"Results affect the way your work is judged, but we must do well to retain a balance both in defeat and above all in success."

The Bianconeri's sixth straight group-stage away win stretching back to last season extended upon what was already their longest such run.

Morata has scored six goals in his last six away games in the competition – as many as he had netted in his previous 22 – and he insisted Juve were not worried despite their winless run.

"No, we went through various situations here at Juventus, there weren't as many positive things as now," Morata responded to Sport Mediaset post-match when asked if his side were concerned ahead of Tuesday.

"You have to take the good, be positive as a team, as a club, as fans. You have to go on along the same lines.

"We had a serious match, both today and with Napoli, but sometimes football is like that, episodes make you draw or even lose. Today it was essential to win. Now let's put our heads back on the championship."

Massimiliano Allegri has full faith in his Juventus squad turning around their campaign and challenging for the Serie A title after falling to a 2-1 loss at Napoli.

Juve's slow start to Allegri's second spell in charge continued on Saturday as second-half goals from Matteo Politano and Kalidou Koulibaly earned Napoli a comeback win.

The Bianconeri, who led through Alvaro Morata's 10th-minute strike, have now failed to win any of their first three league games for just the second time in 52 Serie A seasons.

Saturday's late loss also means Allegri has failed to win any of his past eight league games in charge of Juve either side of a two-year sabbatical.

After collecting just one point from their first three matches of the 2021-22 campaign, six-time Scudetto winner Allegri is adamant that his side will grow stronger.

"I have ample trust in this group. I know they will make up the lost ground," he said. "This group is destined to grow thanks to the blows taken.

"This evening's defeat was different and we must quickly put it behind us."

After profiting from a Kostas Manolas error to take the lead in Naples, Juve themselves gifted their opponents – who now have three wins from three – a couple of goals.

Wojciech Szczesny parried Lorenzo Insigne's shot into the path of Politano for Napoli's leveller and could only push a poor Moise Kean header straight to Koulibaly for the late winner.

It is the first time since March 2010 that Napoli have recovered from a losing position to beat Juventus in the league and Allegri accepts his side were not good enough.

"I liked the attitude of the team in the first half, but in the second half Napoli got the upper hand. Sometimes you are made to pay for individual mistakes," he said.

"Szczesny does not lack calmness. He made a mistake with his handling today, but he will be in the team on Tuesday.

"As for Kean, these things happen in football sometimes. We also conceded similar goals to Udinese and Empoli

"From a technical point of view, we could have done better. We haven't won yet, but now we start thinking about our next match in the Champions League."

That European tie with Malmo on Tuesday is followed five days later by a huge clash with Allegri's former side Milan at the Allianz Stadium.

"We know that we need to be more lucid near the area, though the team did what I asked of them today from a tactical point of view against a good Napoli side," Allegri added.

"In football there is no room for mistakes. We have an important test ahead of us that we must overcome in order for it not to become a mental thing."

Juve, who were missing some key players on Saturday, managed just eight shots in total against Napoli and none at all on target in the second half.

That makes it back-to-back blanks for the Bianconeri since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club to rejoin Manchester United, but Allegri reiterated he is eager to move on from that high-profile exit.

"Ronaldo is part of the past, he made a choice," Allegri said. "Now he's gone. Juve let him go because you can't keep a player against your will."

Miralem Pjanic revealed his desire to re-join Juventus last transfer window and encouraged Paulo Dybala to renew his contract in Turin.

Pjanic, 31, made 108 Serie A starts for Juve before departing to Barcelona in 2020, where he clashed with head coach Ronald Koeman and subsequently joined Besiktas on loan in September.

However, with former boss Massimiliano Allegri back in charge in Turin, the midfielder expressed his love for the Bianconeri and admitted he wanted to re-join.

"With Juve there have been contacts and appointments with my agent, but the transfer market is never easy," Pjanic told Tuttosport.

"I would have liked to come back and I would have done everything to find [Massimiliano] Allegri, a guarantee.

"No one is better than him in these situations. Max makes all the players feel important and he doesn't deny anyone a chance. I consider him number one, he's a coach who talks to you for better or for worse."

Allegri's second spell has not started well, picking up just one point in his opening two games – Juve having only failed to win any of their first three Serie A games once in 51 seasons, under the same coach in 2015-16.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, will be absent for the trip to Napoli but Pjanic implored his former team-mate to commit his future to the club.

"[Paulo] Dybala is top, but Iike with everyone, he needs the team," the Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder continued. "I would advise him to stay at Juventus, where they love him.

"But these are personal choices, difficult to judge from the outside, because sometimes one feels the need for new challenges."

Massimiliano Allegri revealed Juventus will be without their South American contingent, including Paulo Dybala, and the injured Federico Chiesa as they prepare to face Napoli on Saturday.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, heads the absentee list, which also includes Rodrigo Bentancur, Danilo, Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro.

Juve have managed just one point from their opening two Serie A games, only once in their history - Allegri's first spell in 2015-16 – have they failed to win any of their opening three matches.

And matters have worsened for the Old Lady as Allegri confirmed on Friday that the visitors will be without their South American players after their late returns from international duty.

"I decided to leave the South Americans at home because they will return too late," Allegri told Friday's pre-match news conference.

"[Juan] Cuadrado was the only one who could have joined the team, but he suffered stomach flu. He hasn't even returned to Italy. He is in still Colombia to undergo some medical examinations.

"This is the situation, I've never complained about the fixture list. Some players finished their international games at 3am last night and would return to Turin at 11am tomorrow morning.

"We don't want to run the risk they pick up injuries, so they will remain in Turin to work, it makes more sense."

Allegri confirmed Chiesa, too, will not be available for selection after the forward suffered a muscular issue with Italy during the international break.

The 54-year-old is without a win in his last seven league games with his new side, with only three Juve managers ever suffering longer winless streaks in Serie A, but asked for patience as his team look to kick-start their season after two poor showings against Udinese and Empoli.

"Napoli are among the candidates to win the title along with another seven or eight clubs, the season is still long and we need to remain balanced," he continued.

"There are many games, the first two matches didn't go as we expected, but this is football, we must keep things simple and start the season because we haven't started yet."

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus cannot keep thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo after the struggling Serie A giants crashed to a shock loss against Empoli without the Manchester United-bound superstar.

Without Ronaldo as he edges closer to returning to Premier League contenders United, Allegri's Juve were upstaged 1-0 by visitors and newly promoted Empoli in Turin on Saturday.

Mancuso's strike lifted Empoli to a surprise victory and condemned Juve to a winless start to the season following last week's draw at Udinese.

Juve have failed to win either of their opening two in the competition for the third time in the last 52 Serie A seasons – having done so in 2010-11 and 2015-16, and head coach Allegri was asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo's exit post game.

"Cristiano spent three years at Juventus, he scored goals, which he is very good at, he's an extraordinary player, but we cannot think about Ronaldo from now on," Allegri told DAZN.

"I have a fine squad, we simply must realise that we can't just dominate every match.

"We need to come together and this will help us for the future.

"I am optimistic, always."

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 and he remained an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 81 goals in 98 Serie A games.

The 36-year-old 29 league goals last season and 36 across all competitions. In 2020-21, only four players across Europe's top five leagues scored more goals than his 36-goal haul.

Ronaldo is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. He won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

The Portugal captain made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

Meanwhile, Juve have lost two successive Serie A home matches against promoted sides for the first time in their top-flight history.

Juve have also lost two consecutive league fixtures against promoted teams (Benevento in March and Empoli on Saturday) for the first time since 1999.

The Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 16 league games – only twice in their Serie A history they have been on a longer streak without a clean sheet: 19 in April 2010 and 21 in October 1955

Massimiliano Allegri insisted Juventus will improve after a 1-0 home defeat to Empoli on Saturday left them winless in Serie A after two matches.

Leonardo Mancuso scored what proved to be the winner in Turin as Juve looked toothless up top without Cristiano Ronaldo, who edges closer to joining Manchester United.

Mancuso's first-half effort means Juve remain winless after their opening two games – the third time they have done so in 52 Serie A campaigns – following a 2-2 draw against Udinese last weekend. It capped a night to remember for Empoli, who secured a first away Serie A win at Juve after 11 defeats and one draw. 

And despite a slow start to the 2021-22 campaign, Allegri is remaining upbeat.

"Tonight the team started well, after the goal we disunited and we put ourselves in the hands of the team," Allegri told DAZN.

"[Against] Empoli, it was necessary to have more patience, to play as a team and not individually.

"It's not easy, we have a point after two games, but we have all the time to improve.

"It's a difficult moment, we need to grow. There have been too many players who have done things wrong that are not usually wrong."

Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Juventus, as a remarkable transfer to Manchester City edges closer to completion.

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 but reports emerged last week that he wished to leave the Serie A giants.

Premier League champions City – having missed out on Harry Kane – are front-runners for the 36-year-old's signature in what would be a sensational return to English football.

On Friday, Ronaldo was pictured leaving Juventus training having reportedly said his goodbyes to team-mates.

In Allegri's subsequent news conference to preview Saturday's clash with Empoli, the head coach confirmed Ronaldo was leaving the club.

"Yesterday, Cristiano told me that he no longer has any intention to play for Juventus. For this reason he will not be called up for tomorrow's game," Allegri said.

"Things change, it's a law of life. Juventus remains, which is the most important thing. Cristiano gave his contribution, he made himself available, now he leaves and life goes on.

"Cristiano is to be thanked for what he has done, also as an example to the youngsters. But as I said, we must go on."

The seemingly imminent transfer to City is a move that will greatly anger Manchester United fans, as Ronaldo spent six years with the Red Devils after Alex Ferguson signed him from boyhood club Sporting CP in 2003.

Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with United, while also helping them to an FA Cup, two EFL Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup, before joining Madrid in 2009.

At Madrid, Ronaldo won LaLiga twice and the Champions League four times.

He has remained an ultra-reliable frontman for Juventus, scoring 81 times in 98 Serie A matches since the start of 2018-19, but the Bianconeri have continued to fall short in the Champions League.

Another player linked with a departure from Juve has been United States midfielder Weston McKennie, but Allegri insisted the former Schalke man would be staying put.

Allegri said: "Weston McKennie has to stay here at Juventus, he's not for sale. He's part of the project and he can improve."

Meanwhile, Moise Kean – who left Juve in 2019 to join Everton – seems to be on the verge of returning to Turin, with both a permanent deal or a loan with an obligation to buy having been discussed, according to various reports.

Allegri, however, would not be drawn on commenting on the Italy forward, who impressed on loan last season at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I'm not going to talk about Moise Kean, he's an Everton player," Allegri said.

Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Juventus, as a remarkable transfer to Manchester City edges closer to completion.

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 but reports emerged last week that he wished to leave the Serie A giants.

Premier League champions City – having missed out on Harry Kane – are front-runners for the 36-year-old's signature in what would be a sensational return to English football.

On Friday, Ronaldo was pictured leaving Juventus training having reportedly said his goodbyes to team-mates.

In Allegri's subsequent news conference to preview Saturday's clash with Empoli, the head coach confirmed Ronaldo was leaving the club.

"Yesterday, Cristiano told me that he no longer has any intention to play for Juventus. For this reason he will not be called up for tomorrow's game," Allegri said.

"Things change, it's a law of life. Juventus remains, which is the most important thing. Cristiano gave his contribution, he made himself available, now he leaves and life goes on.

"Cristiano is to be thanked for what he has done, also as an example to the youngsters. But as I said, we must go on."

Cristiano Ronaldo was at the centre of transfer rumours after failing to make the Juventus starting XI at Udinese – but Massimiliano Allegri insisted there was an innocent explanation.

Ronaldo and drama go hand in hand and the superstar forward came off the bench to snatch what looked to be a stoppage-time winner in his team's opening game of the Serie A season.

A VAR ruling meant the clinical header was ruled out, however, and Juventus had to settle for a 2-2 draw, with two glaring errors from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny costing them.

Szczesny might have been grateful for the spotlight to be shone on Ronaldo, because it took some of the attention away from his regrettable performance.

The team announcement from Allegri, embarking on his second spell as Juve head coach after last term's failed Andrea Pirlo experiment, sent shudders through football when it emerged Ronaldo was only a substitute.

It was swiftly reported by major Italian news outlets that Ronaldo had requested to be benched and was hoping to secure a move from Juventus before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Allegri said after the game that it had been a decision taken purely with the player's interests, and those of the team, in mind.

"Cristiano is fine, I had talked to him with a view to everyone's conditions at the beginning of the season, also thinking about the game especially at the beginning, and I said to him, 'Come to the bench, in the second half we will need you to come on'," Allegri said.

"He made himself available, he also did well: he also scored a goal, then unfortunately he wasn't good by a centimetre."

Allegri led Juventus to five Serie A titles in his first spell at the club, from 2014 to 2019, and had two years out of the game before accepting an offer to return.

The Scudetto is again the target for Juventus, whose nine-in-a-row title sequence ended last season as rookie coach Pirlo struggled to coax the best out of the team.

Allegri had a win percentage of 70.48 across 271 games in his first spell at Juve, but may find success this time around is harder to come by, judging by how his team started impressively but allowed Udinese to control much of the second half.

Early goals from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado had put Juve in charge, but Szczesny carelessly gave away a penalty after letting a shot squirm from his grasp and then committed a worse error in the 83rd minute that allowed Gerard Deulofeu to fire into an empty net.

Juventus have now conceded eight penalties in Serie A since the beginning of 2021: only Udinese (13) have conceded more in this calendar year in the competition.

"Unexpected things happen: this is football too," Allegri said, quoted on the Juventus official website.

"In the first half we were in control, and we had to control the ball better. Then we didn't know how to manage the unexpected, and this is a lesson that we must take home with us.

"The performance was good, but in football the only thing that counts is winning and knowing how to read the match moments. In the second half, we lost two or three too many balls in midfield, perhaps also due to the heat and the conditions at the beginning of the season."

For the first time since he joined Juventus, Ronaldo has now started two games in a row on the bench: against Udinese and in May against Bologna.

If the substitute trend continues in next Saturday's clash with Empoli, familiar rumours will return. His steadying influence over the closing half-hour of Sunday's game, as a replacement for the misfiring Alvaro Morata (three goal attempts, zero on target), suggests Juventus should do all in their powers to retain him.

Surprise substitute Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a winner by VAR deep into stoppage time as Juventus drew 2-2 at Udinese following a pair of Wojciech Szczesny blunders.

Impressive early strikes from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado looked to have paved the way for a season-opening Serie A success, and a first win of head coach Massimiliano Allegri's second spell in charge of Juventus.

But a mistake by goalkeeper Szczesny was punished from the penalty spot early in the second half, and a desperate clanger in the 83rd minute allowed Gerard Deulofeu to net a dramatic leveller.

In a ripsnorting finish, Udinese almost sneaked a winner, Mato Jajalo firing over in the 90th minute, before Ronaldo headed in a Federico Chiesa cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The celebrations were wild, and a euphoric Ronaldo was booked for removing his shirt, before he was left stunned to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Ronaldo and Dybala have contracts that run to the end of this season, and there seems scant prospect of both staying in Turin. Dybala is seemingly keen to remain, Ronaldo less so, and his omission from the starting XI here sparked fresh speculation about his future. 

Juventus took just two minutes and three seconds to surge ahead, their earliest goal in a season opener during the three-points-for-a-win era, which began in 1994-95. 

Giorgio Chiellini was on the bench so Dybala captained the team, and it was the Argentine forward who produced a special finish to catch the hosts cold. Rodrigo Bentancur slid in a low ball from the right and Dybala cleverly flicked the ball across goal into the left corner. 

Dybala then played a key role in the second Juventus goal, which came in the 23rd minute, looping a long pass to Cuadrado, who took his first touch just a couple of strides outside the Udinese penalty area. The Colombian shuffled skilfully past flummoxed Udinese captain Bram Nuytinck and lashed a low shot into the same corner that Dybala had earlier found. 

Juventus looked practically home and hosed at the break, but conceded a penalty in the 50th minute when Szczesny made a poor parry of Tolgay Arslan's shot before bringing down the Udinese man as he chased down the rebound. 

Former Juve man Roberto Pereyra fired the spot-kick into the right corner, before Alvaro Morata headed against the left post at the other end a couple of minutes later, from a chance he would expect to tuck away. 

Allegri saw the game potentially slipping away and sent on Ronaldo, Chiellini and Dejan Kulusevski on the hour mark, Morata among those to make way. Ronaldo soon teed up Bentancur to smash a shot against the right post, and then came the late drama, Juventus left smarting on day one of the new campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Juventus and his selection as a substitute for Sunday's season opener at Udinese was a mutual decision, according to Pavel Nedved.

Former Juve midfielder Nedved is now a vice-president at the club and was asked about Ronaldo being surprisingly left out of the starting XI in Udine.

Nedved said, according to Sky Sport Italia: "We must not look for sensations where there are none. It was a choice shared with the player.

"At the beginning of the season it is normal that the conditions are not top and the coach tries to field the most competitive team tonight."

Asked whether Ronaldo would remain a Juventus player this season, the last on his contract, Nedved said: "Absolutely yes."

There was nevertheless speculation that Ronaldo had requested to be selected on the bench, with Sky Sport Italia claiming the forward was looking to leave the club before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted this week that last season's Serie A 29-goal top scorer had told him he wanted to stay in Turin, and the Portuguese superstar has condemned what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any of those clubs would likely have to generate funds before mounting a move for the 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and City are expected to move for Harry Kane rather than Ronaldo.

With Ronaldo watching on from the sidelines, Juventus snatched a third-minute lead at Udinese through Paulo Dybala.

Cristiano Ronaldo was named only as a substitute for Juventus' opening Serie A match against Udinese amid renewed speculation he wants to leave the club.

Speaking ahead of his side's opening league game of 2021-22, head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted Ronaldo had told him he wanted to stay in Turin.

Those comments came after the Portugal star posted to social media to hit out at what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

However, on Sunday, Allegri selected Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata as a strike partnership, with Ronaldo on the bench.

Sky Sport Italia then reported that Ronaldo had requested to be left out of the first XI as he is attempting to secure a transfer before the window closes.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any move would appear problematic. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has already said the 36-year-old will not be returning and Los Blancos are said to be trying to build funds for an attempt to sign Kylian Mbappe.

Selling the France star would likely be the only means for PSG to sign Ronaldo given the huge increase to their wage bill following the free transfer of Lionel Messi, while United must sell before buying again after spending upwards of £105million on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

City, meanwhile, broke the Premier League transfer record by signing Jack Grealish for £100m and are expected to make another push to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham in the next week.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri says Cristiano Ronaldo has told him he wishes to stay at the club for the 2021-22 season.

Speculation has persisted in recent weeks that the Portugal star is pushing to leave Turin three years after his move from Real Madrid in a deal worth €112million.

A return to the Spanish capital was mooted until coach Carlo Ancelotti shot down the rumour, while possible moves to former club Manchester United, Premier League champions Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have also been suggested.

Ronaldo himself hit out at the media frenzy around his future in a social media post, condemning the coverage as "frivolous" and "disrespectful".

Allegri has now stated the 36-year-old wants to see out the remaining year of his contract at the Allianz Stadium.

"Ronaldo told me he's staying at Juve," Allegri said on Saturday ahead of Juve's Serie A opener against Udinese.

"He's always trained well. I read the rumours in the newspapers. He never told us he wanted to leave.

"Ronaldo is a bonus for us because he guarantees a large number of goals. Of course, we have to work as a team to bring the best out of a single player.

"Ronaldo didn't play the [pre-season] game on Thursday because we had been going through a tough week and I gave him half a day off."

 

Allegri returned to Juve to take over from Andrea Pirlo, having stepped down in 2019 following five hugely successful years with the Bianconeri.

He led Juve to five consecutive Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana, while also reaching two Champions League finals.

The 54-year-old said his past achievements will mean little if he cannot mount a serious challenge to reclaim the Scudetto from Inter.

"I don't have to show anything, I have to work to get results. What happened in my five years stays in the museum," he said.

"Ronaldo has won five Ballons d'Or but if this year he doesn't have a good year, they'll remember his last year at Juventus. The same goes for [Federico] Chiesa: what he did at the Euros won't count.

"We have to question ourselves every day, otherwise the conditions to win aren't created."

The 2021-22 Serie A campaign commences on Saturday following a busy close season that saw more than half of the 20 teams change head coach.

Antonio Conte departed Inter after guiding the club to their first Scudetto in more than a decade, with Simone Inzaghi being plucked from Lazio, who in turn turned to Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri's former club Juventus decided to end the Andrea Pirlo experiment after just a year and opted for a familiar face in six-time title winner Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

Luciano Spalletti is back in Serie A with Napoli, meanwhile, and Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy with Roma some 11 years on from his hugely successful stint with Inter.

There will be just as much focus on the dugouts as the field when the new season gets up and running this weekend, then, and some coaches are facing a tougher challenge than others.

Stats Perform looks at what the managerial changes could mean for some of Serie A's biggest clubs.


Inter 

In: Simone Inzaghi

Out: Antonio Conte

Conte will go down in Inter folklore as the man who ended the club's 11-year wait to return to the top of Italian football.

In an ideal world, one in which the Nerazzurri were not in a position whereby they had to sell star players to balance the books, Conte would still be in charge at San Siro.

As it is, though, Inzaghi will be at the helm this coming season and is in a rather unenviable position of having to pick up where Conte left off, minus the goals of Romelu Lukaku.

Inzaghi has his own vision but does not differ too much from Conte in terms of tactics, both coaches favouring a 3-5-2 formation of sorts throughout their careers.

Moving the ball forward quickly will be the aim, with Milan (90) the only side in Serie A last term to register more direct attacks than Inzaghi's former side Lazio (89). By comparison, Inter were third on that list with 80.

While the structure will remain largely the same, losing Lukaku and influential wing-back Achraf Hakimi – albeit with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries arriving – means Inzaghi will need to get more out of others if Inter are to retain their crown.

 

Lazio

In: Maurizio Sarri

Out: Simone Inzaghi

The man tasked with replacing Inzaghi at Lazio is Sarri, who endured mixed fortunes during his most recent two stints in Serie A with Napoli and Juventus.

Having come so close to ending Juve's stranglehold on the title in 2017-18 while at Napoli, the 62-year-old won the Europa League in his solitary season at Chelsea and was then given just 14 months at the Allianz Stadium.

His stint in Turin came to an early end despite leading Juve to top spot, his style of play – coined 'Sarriball' – deemed too distant from what Juventus typically expect from a head coach (more on that later!).

At the Stadio Olimpico, Sarri will have more freedom to put his spin on things as he looks to build or improve upon last season's sixth-placed finish. A back four, rather than the three-man defence Inzaghi favoured, can be expected.

Sarri teams are known for their verticality, meaning they like to move the ball forwards. Lazio, as already touched upon, are a good fit in that regard.

They ranked lowest in the top eight last season for build-up attacks (83), which is defined as the number of open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the opposition box.

The big question, though, is whether Sarri has the personnel to turn Lazio into top-four regulars in the same way he did at Napoli. With Immobile taking on the Gonzalo Higuain role up top, it might just be a possibility.

Juventus

In: Massimiliano Allegri

Out: Andrea Pirlo

While a lot of clubs mentioned are entering the unknown with their managerial appointments, Juve know exactly what they are getting in Allegri.

The 54-year-old guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019, having also previously lifted the Scudetto at Milan.

Only one coach in the Bianconeri's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190, while Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of the returning favourite.

This Juve side has changed since Allegri's first stint, though, and it may take him time to make this team his own again following the aforementioned reigns of Sarri and Pirlo.

Whereas Sarri and Pirlo were a little complex with their tactics and what they expected from players, Allegri will take a different approach. That is not to say Juve will not be able to chop and change things under Allegri, as they did in his previous spell.

One aspect that will surely differ from last season is the number of goals Juve score. They found the net an underwhelming 56 times from open play last season from an expected goals return (xG) of 54.3.

By comparison, champions Inter scored 65 open play goals from a near identical xG as Juve of 54.6. With the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo set to stay at the club for at least one more season, there is hope of reclaiming the title this time around.

 

Roma

In: Jose Mourinho

Out: Paulo Fonseca

The highest-profile of the incoming coaches in Serie A this season, Mourinho arrives with his 'Special One' status still intact in Italy thanks to his success at Inter a little over a decade ago.

Mourinho won as many league titles in two seasons at San Siro (two) as he has in the 11 years since (one), while also lifting the second of his Champions League crowns, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during that trophy-laden stay.

The Portuguese won 62 per cent of his matches at Inter but that win rate has steadily declined and he won just 51.2 per cent of his games with Tottenham, leaving the club in April after just 17 months in charge.

Mourinho's sides were so often hard to beat, but Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him, making it his worst ever season in that regard and he did not even see it all the way through.

But could his career take a turn in the right direction in Rome? Mourinho's tactics have remained largely consistent throughout his career, no matter the club or country he is coaching in.

The back three largely favoured by Paulo Fonseca will become a back four and there will be particular emphasis on Bryan Cristante, a typical Mourinho player in many ways, to shield the defence and get the ball forward.

The addition of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea is clearly a Mourinho signing, helping the fill the void left by Edin Dzeko, but Mou's pragmatic approach is surely a concern for a Roma side that looked better offensively than defensively last season. 

Finding the correct balance will be key, and that ultimately depends on whether Roma have hired the pre-2015 Mourinho or post.

Napoli

In: Luciano Spalletti

Out: Gennaro Gattuso

With spells at seven different Italian clubs under his belt, including two years at Inter, Spalletti certainly does not lack of experience. After two years out of the game, however, the 62-year-old has to quickly prove he is not yesterday's man.

Spalletti made clear when he took over from Gennaro Gattuso that he will look to operate with a 4-3-3, though on the basis of pre-season it may well be a more familiar 4-2-3-1 come the opening day.

He inherits a talented squad that includes the likes of Piotr Zielinski, Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne – for now – in attack.

Napoli had no problems scoring goals last time out, with no team managing more shots from open play than their 493 and only Atalanta (77) and Inter (65) scoring more from non-set-piece situations than their 64.

Pressing is a big part of Spalletti's game and that makes Napoli a good fit as they ranked joint-second in Serie A last season for goals scored from high turnovers (nine), behind only Atalanta (10).

There are already a few rumblings of discontent behind the scenes with regards to transfer activity, but a kind fixture list ensures that Spalletti can hit the ground running in his quest to guide Napoli back into the Champions League.

Barely a month has passed since Giorgio Chiellini lifted the European Championship trophy at Wembley, and it would seem logical to expect Serie A to begin amid high fanfare.

This may prove to be the case, as the opening weekend of the season arrives, but a major talent drain from the Italian league since last term cannot be ignored.

Romelu Lukaku, Cristian Romero and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all moved on, swapping Inter, Atalanta and Milan respectively for Chelsea, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

To put those losses into greater context, of the 2020-21 Serie A end-of-season award winners, that is the MVP, the top defender and the leading goalkeeper all exiting the league.

Sweeping changes on the coaching benches also add to uncertainty as the new campaign begins, with a much-changed Inter hoping to successfully defend their title.


JUVE ON A SCUDETTO MISSION

After the folly of handing dugout rookie Andrea Pirlo the reins before last season, Juventus look to be on firmer ground this time with Massimiliano Allegri back as head coach.

They have brought in Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo, primed to play a Pirlo-like role on the pitch, and it seems Cristiano Ronaldo will hang around for the final year of his contract.

Rumours continue to encircle the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, but Allegri can likely count on his reliable flow of goals, just as he did for the 2018-19 season – Ronaldo's debut campaign in Turin and the end of the line for Allegri in his first stint as coach.

A six-time Scudetto winner, Allegri will look to get the best out of wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa as they enter their second seasons with the Bianconeri, while it remains to be seen how Paulo Dybala performs as he enters the final year of his deal.

Plagued by injury last season, Dybala started just 14 Serie A games, but results were often perkier when he played. Of those 14 games, Juventus won 10, drew three and lost one, with a points-per-game average of 2.4 when he played from the off, compared to 1.9 when he was absent or a substitute. The win percentage of 71.4 per cent when Dybala was in the starting XI (compared to 54.2 per cent when he was not) is in the ball park that Allegri will be eyeing.

 


INZAGHI STEPS INTO CONTE SHOES

Social media tells us Antonio Conte has been thoroughly enjoying his summer, topping up his tan and seemingly showing no regret over his Inter exit, which came in May, just weeks after he guided the Nerazzurri to title glory.

Conte reportedly left amid concern the club planned to raise funds with sales that have duly come to fruition. The loss of striker Lukaku feels like a body blow, given his influence, and persistent rumours suggest Lautaro Martinez could also move on. Achraf Hakimi is another big loss, but, as with Lukaku, a big fee was banked as the right-back proved a one-season wonder in Italy.

In have come coach Simone Inzaghi, who impressed at Lazio, while Edin Dzeko will be a straight swap for Lukaku in the forward line, albeit unlikely to carry quite the same threat. Former PSV star Denzel Dumfries can replace Hakimi in the attacking right full-back role, and Inter will hope his Euro 2020 form transfers to Serie A duty.

It is hard to see Inter repeating last season's success, and the comedown could be painful. They exceeded their expected goals total last season, scoring 84 goals against an xG of 75.3, and Inzaghi will look for more of the same.

They possess plenty of quality still, but they have likely lost Christian Eriksen for the long term too after his cardiac arrest on Denmark duty at Euro 2020. His survival was everything in June, and now his recovery is all-important. The knock-on effect is that Inter have lost a player who became important over the second half of the season.

So much has changed since that title was secured. Landing Hakan Calhanoglu on a free from Milan looks like great business, but consolidation with a top-four finish may be their limit in the new campaign. That, and being sure to secure city bragging rights again.

 


MOURINHO'S BACK AMID MERRY-GO-ROUND

Never mind Inzaghi and Allegri at Inter and Juve, now is the time to get used to the sound of Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, Vincenzo Italiano's Fiorentina, Luciano Spalletti's Napoli ... and Jose Mourinho's Roma. Milan rather feel like the odd ones out, keeping faith with Stefano Pioli.

A whirlwind of change has swept through Serie A, and it will be worth watching to see quite what impact Mourinho can have on a side who finished 16 points short of the Champions League places last term.

His 'Special One' reputation was enhanced the last time he coached in Italy, guiding Inter to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the 2009-10 campaign.

Spells at Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have followed, but Mourinho's cachet has diminished over the past decade.

Tammy Abraham has followed him in swapping London for Rome, with the Chelsea striker arriving, along with Eldor Shomurodov from Genoa, to pep up an attack depleted by the loss of Dzeko. Rui Patricio has joined fellow Portuguese Mourinho, and the goalkeeper's arrival from Wolves could prove a fine signing.

Roma won just five Serie A away games last term, and have only had fewer once in a season beginning in the 20th century (4 in 2002-03), while their shot conversion rate of 41.35 per cent can be improved upon, given they topped 50 per cent twice in the 2010s.

Most important for Mourinho, perhaps, will be to build on Roma's poor duel success rate (48.97 per cent) and cutting out the errors leading to goals (10 in 2020-21 in Serie A).

The duel figures are important and were the worst Roma had managed in at least 15 years, while the error count will be simply intolerable to the new boss. Only Bologna committed so many costly errors (also 10). Mourinho has his work cut out.

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