Wednesday , June 23 2021
Who will challenge for Inter 's Serie A crown next season?

Who will challenge for Inter ‘s Serie A crown next season?


AC Milan and Atalanta have the capacity to challenge, while Jose Mourinho’s return to Italy with Roma could shake things up.

AFP Sport looks at how five title contenders will shape up:

Antonio Conte’s Inter dominated Serie A this season sealing their 19th title with four games to spare, and first ‘Scudetto’ since their historic treble under Mourinho in 2010.

Conte rebuilt the ‘Nerazzurri’ on his arrival two years ago, finishing runner-up in his first season before winning his fifth league crown after three with Juventus between 2012 and 2014 and one with Chelsea in 2017.

An early European exit allowed Inter to focus solely on the league campaign, with Conte now targeting dominance with Inter as he achieved with Juve a decade ago.

First the 51-year-old wants guarantees from the club’s Chinese owners on new players and holding stars from this campaign including Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi, Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella.

Inter finished with 91 points, their second best season ever, and had the second top attack behind Atalanta, with 89 goals scored by 17 players, along with the tightest defence.

“We want to enjoy this but from Monday we will immerse ourselves immediately in the new season,” warned Conte.

Stefano Pioli’s Milan survived a rocky second half of the season after leading at the half-way point to establish his side as contenders next campaign to match Inter’s 19th titles with a first ‘Scudetto’ since 2011.

Despite poor home form, Milan were solid on the road with a Serie A record 16 away wins to finish second  — 12 points behind Inter — and return to Champions League football for the first time in seven years.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the catalyst, on and off the pitch, in a season overshadowed by injury and illness where he scored 15 goals in 19 games.

The Sweden veteran has committed to another season with the ‘Rossoneri’ taking him past 40 years old.

Ibrahimovic proved to be a mentor in a club with the youngest players in Italy with midfielder Franck Kessie having his best season in with 13 goals.

The club are also keen to hold 22-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who Pioli praised for his “incredible season”.

Atalanta missed out on an historic second place finish, days after losing out on their first trophy since 1963 in the Coppa Italia final.

A third consecutive season of Champions League football beckons despite the disappointment of dropping to third place after a 2-0 home defeat to Milan.

“I think that today Atalanta are at the highest level, but it will not even be easy to maintain this against rivals who have greater resources,” said coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

Atalanta equalled their best-ever points tally, with 78. 

The Bergamo side finished the season with 90 goals scored by 14 players including top scorer Luis Muriel (22) and Duvan Zapata (15).

Hit by injuries and erratic form, Andrea Pirlo’s Juve managed to snatch a Champions League berth at the death, with a run of three consecutive wins to.

They lost points against lowly Benevento, Crotone, Fiorentina and Verona as novice coach Pirlo experimented tactically in the first half of the season.

Injuries to forward Paulo Dybala and veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci complicated matters.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 29 goals were not enough to secure the title for a 10th consecutive season.

Ronaldo’s future at the club remains uncertain with Federico Chiesa, Dejan Kulusevski, Alvaro Morata and Dybala proving solid in the final 4-1 win over Bologna as the Portugal attacker stayed on the bench.

Pirlo believes he deserves another season in charge, despite the slip-ups.

“Now I know the players better, I’ve managed to put the conditions in place for them to perform at 100 percent,” the 42-year-old insisted. 

“We’re on the right track.”

Jose Mourinho heads to Rome next season looking to turn the capital side into Serie A title contenders after two barren decades. Roma won their third and last ‘Scudetto’ in 2001 with their last trophy the Coppa Italia in 2008.

Paulo Fonseca’s side won just seven of 19 games in the second half of the season to finish seventh overall, and secure a place in the inaugural Europa Conference League.

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