With several big names leaving Serie A for other European destinations, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Italian top flight will disappoint in 2013/14. But the truth is rather different. With a string of clubs believing that they are equipped to mount a serious title challenge, now is not the time to ignore Serie A. Juventus have brought in fresh attacking options, Napoli have bounced back impressively from losing Edinson Cavani and AC Milan, Fiorentina and Roma are all brimming with confidence. Just to add to the drama, there are only three Champions League spots up for grabs.
Inside Futbol take a closer look at the contenders and pretenders as Serie A returns for 2013/14.
After a relatively worry-free campaign last season in which relegation never seemed on the cards, Atalanta must do it all again this year, with maintaining their Serie A status as the number one priority. They have undoubted quality in midfield and attack but squad depth may become an issue. With little to choice between so many of the "third tier" of Serie A sides, Atalanta may struggle to improve on last term's 15th place effort.
Key arrivals: Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Luca Cigarini (Napoli)
Key departures: Manolo Gabbiadini (Sampdoria), Federico Peluso (Juventus)
The emphasis on youth has helped AC Milan finally move on from their golden era. Last season's miserable start cannot be repeated if the rossoneri hope to chase silverware but there was major encouragement from the strong finish to last season. Much depends on the form and temperament of Mario Balotelli and the steady play of Riccardo Montolivo as well as the continued development of the young core. They are outsiders for the Serie A title but should sneak into the top four, despite stiff competition.
Key arrivals: Cristian Zapata (Villarreal), Andrea Poli (Sampdoria), Matias Silvestre (Inter, loan), Riccardo Saponara (Empoli)
Key departures: Massimo Ambrosini (Fiorentina), Mario Yepes (Atalanta), Rodney Strasser (Genoa)
Stefano Pioli has done little wrong since taking charge at Bologna two years ago and he will need to continue to drag the best out of this squad, which is short on spark. It remains to be seen how successful their summer was after a lot of activity and a mad scramble to ensure the squad gels. Bologna proved last year that they are susceptible to dips in form and may struggle to distance themselves from the lower end of the table.
Key arrivals: Rolando Bianchi (Torino), Francesco Della Rocca (Palermo), Gianluca Curci (Roma, loan), Abdallah Yaisien (PSG)
Key departures: Alberto Gilardino (end of loan spell), Tiberio Guarente (Sevilla), Manolo Gabbiadini (Sampdoria), Marco Motta (Juventus), Roger Carvalho (Flamengo), Nico Pulzetti (Siena, loan), Diego Perez (released), Saphir Taider (Inter)
On last year's evidence, Cagliari are another surprise package to keep an eye on and, having kept much of the squad together this summer, boss Ivo Pulga will be pushing for improvement. However, there are definite limitations and, amid a tightly contested pack of mid-table contenders, the Isolani may slip into the bottom half. Also, playing early season home games in Trieste may have an adverse impact.
Key arrivals: Marios Ikonomou (PAS Giannina), Danilo Avelar (Karpaty Lviv)
Key departures: Thiago Ribeiro (Santos)
Embracing the role of underdogs, Catania quietly built a squad capable of taking on the Serie A big boys last season under manager Rolando Maran. But equalling that success will be a tough task without the element of surprise and a couple of their key performers who have moved on. Europe had appeared on the cards for much of last term but expectations should be set closer to mid-table this time around.
Key arrivals: Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Genoa), Gino Peruzzi, Federico Freire (Velez Sarsfield), Sebastian Leto (Panathinaikos), Fabian Monzon (Lyon), Kingsley Boateng (AC Milan, loan)
Key departures: Francesco Lodi, Giovanni Marchese (Genoa), Alejandro Gomez (Metalist Kharkiv)
For Chievo, it is all about one word: survival. New boss Giuseppe Sannino is expected to prompt a somewhat more entertaining style of play but the focus will remain on churning out the necessary points to beat the drop. Some shrewd summer business helps this cause and, despite some rough spells, the Flying Donkeys should hang on for another season in Serie A.
Key arrivals: Dejan Lazarevic (Genoa), Ivan Radovanovic (Atalanta), Manuel Pamic (Sparta Prague, loan), Boadu Acosty (Fiorentina, loan)
Key departures: Isaac Cofie (Genoa), Bojan Jokic (Villarreal), Marco Andreolli (Inter), Luciano (Mantova), Kamil Vacek (Sparta Prague)
One of the slicker Serie A clubs, Fiorentina are hoping to build on an eye-catching 2012/13 campaign. The departure of Stevan Jovetic is a blow but the club moved swiftly to strengthen the squad, with Mario Gomez arriving from Bayern Munich to lead the line. Massimo Ambrosini should also be a key factor, both on the pitch and as a leader in the dressing room. Look for Vincenzo Montella's men to keep Juventus and Napoli on their toes for much of the title race only to fall away down the home stretch.
Key arrivals: Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Joaquin (Malaga), Josip Ilicic (Palermo), Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan), Gustavo Munua (Levante), Oleksandr Iakovenko (Anderlecht)
Key departures: Stevan Jovetic (Manchester City), Romulo (Verona, loan), Maxwell Acosty (Chievo, loan), Luca Toni (Verona, loan), Felipe (Parma), Mattia Cassani (Parma, loan), Lorenzo De Silvestri (Sampdoria, loan)
Few teams dabbled in the transfer market to the extent that Genoa did this summer. The end result, though, is still a squad faced with a relegation battle to fight. New signing Francesco Lodi will be expected to settle quickly and Rodney Strasser brings plenty of hype from AC Milan. Marco Borriello was a huge factor on loan last term but Genoa were unable to secure a permanent deal and will have difficulty replacing the Roma man's goals.
Key arrivals: Francesco Lodi, Giovanni Marchese (Catania), Mario Santana (Napoli), Rodney Strasser (AC Milan), Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb), Moussa Konate (FC Krasnodar, loan)
Key departures: Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Catania), Bosko Jankovic (Verona), Francesco Acerbi (Sassuolo), Cesare Bovo (Torino), Emiliano Moretti (Torino, loan)
How the mighty have fallen. Just three years on from conquering Europe under Jose Mourinho, Inter slumped to a ninth-place finish last season. That disappointment prompted a string of changes, with Walter Mazzarri taking over in the managerial hot seat and a string of deals in the transfer market. An improved campaign is a safe bet but it is asking too much to think that Inter can become relevant title contenders again overnight. A switch to 3-5-2 has been rumoured and that brings its own challenges.
Key arrivals: Marco Icardi (Sampdoria), Ishak Belfodil (Parma), Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli), Rolando (FC Porto, loan)
Key departures: Antonio Cassano (Parma), Walter Gargano (end of loan), Matias Silvestre (AC Milan, loan), Dejan Stankovic (released)
The champions are determined to make a strong defence of their title as they seek a third consecutive trophy. Manager Antonio Conte has top class performers all over the pitch and the addition of Carlos Tevez to spearhead the attack will likely be one of the summer's best moves, assuming the Argentine settles in Turin. League form may suffer a little as Conte chases a stronger Champions League run, but Juventus remain the team to beat.
Key arrivals: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino), Federico Peluso (Atalanta), Simone Zaza (Sampdoria)
Key departures: Manolo Gabbiadini (Sampdoria), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo – co-ownership), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Emanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland)
In the battle for capital city dominance, Lazio finished just a point behind their deadly rivals last term. This season, however, the gap should widen, despite some interesting acquisitions for the Biancocelesti. There is plenty of excitement about the Felipe Anderson swoop but other top half sides have made impactful moves of their own. When the dust settles, Lazio may find themselves losing touch with the group of teams chasing a European spot and sliding towards mid-table instead.
Key arrivals: Felipe Anderson (Santos), Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht), Josip Elez (Hajduk Split), Diego Novaretti (Toluca)
Key departures: Modibo Diakite (Sunderland), Juan Pablo Carrizo (Inter)
It is probably an understatement to say that expectations are low for Livorno heading into the new season. Written off in most quarters as relegation fodder, the players will have plenty of motivation to make a mockery of those predictions. Unfortunately, however, they lack the quality to follow through on that goal. Finding the net will be one of the major problems with sterner defences awaiting them.
Key arrivals: Leandro Greco (Olympiacos), Nahuel Valentini (Rosario), Francesco Bardi, Marco Benassi (Inter, loan), Cristiano Piccini (Fiorentina, loan)
Key departures: Simone Salviato (Novara), Alfred Duncan (Inter), Vincenzo Fiorillo, Savvas Gentsoglou (Sampdoria)
Rather than mourning the departure of Edinson Cavani, Napoli are preparing to launch another title challenge with a new manager and with new stars. The appointment of Rafael Benitez was a shrewd move for the Partenopei – the Spaniard has a point to prove in Italy and showed his worth as interim Chelsea boss. Adding Gonzalo Higuain and Pepe Reina softens the blow of Cavani's exit. The expected switch from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 set-up may not be smooth but look for Napoli to be among the leading pack for much of the campaign.
Key arrivals: Pepe Reina (Liverpool, loan), Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon (Real Madrid), Dries Mertens (PSV), Rafael (Santos)
Key departures: Edinson Cavani (PSG), Mario Santana (Genoa), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter), Morgan De Sanctis (Roma), Omar El Kaddouri (Torino, loan), Antonio Rosati (Sassuolo, loan)
A strong start to last season ultimately fizzled out but Parma's potential was clear. Their season may hinge on the impact that marquee signing Antonio Cassano has as the focal point of the attack – and whether the 31-year-old is focused on the task at hand. If everything falls into place, Parma are an outside bet for the top six, but the likelier outcome is a mid-table finish with no shortage of drama along the way.
Key arrivals: Antonio Cassano (Inter), Mattia Cassani (Fiorentina, loan), Felipe dal Belo (Fiorentina), Gianni Munari (Sampdoria)
Key departures: Ishak Belfodil (Inter), Dorlan Pabon (Monterrey), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord), Alvaro Ampuero, Fabiano Santacroce (Padova, loan), Francesco Modesto (Padova)
A busy summer at the Stadio Olimpico has led to real optimism among Roma fans after the turbulence of last season. Rudi Garcia is the latest manager to try his luck in the Italian capital and, while he may fall short of last term's entertainment value, he will likely make Roma tougher to beat. They have rolled the dice in the transfer market and it is too much to expect all their moves to come off. If Kevin Strootman settles quickly, European qualification is a real possibility. Either way, stability is the order of the day and the first step towards closing the gap on Juventus.
Key arrivals: Kevin Strootman (PSV), Maicon (Manchester City), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Gervinho (Arsenal), Mehdi Benatia (Udinese), Tin Jedvaj (Dinamo Zagreb)
Key departures: Pablo Osvaldo (Southampton)
Fresh off an encouraging first season back in Serie A, Sampdoria will be looking to build on that momentum. Their squad has been weakened over the summer, in particular with Marco Icardi's move to Inter, but there is enough quality to keep I Blucerchiati clear of the relegation battle. Instead, a mid-table finish should be the target.
Key arrivals: Manolo Gabbiadini (Juventus), Bartosz Salamon (AC Milan), Pawel Wszolek (Polonia Warsaw)
Key departures: Marco Icardi (Inter), Andrea Poli (AC Milan), Maxi Lopez (Catania, end of loan), Marcelo Estigarribia (Deportivo Maldonado)
The new boys face an uphill battle as they take their Serie A bow, with many already writing off their chances of emerging from a relegation scrap. Like all promoted teams, it will take time to adapt to a higher quality of opposition and, while their pleasing style of play will win over the neutrals, there may be some humbling afternoons for their defence. Sassuolo boss Eusebio Di Francesco worked some magic in the transfer market but it may not be enough.
Key arrivals: Simone Zaza (Ascoli), Francesco Acerbi (Genoa), Jonathan Rossini (Sampdoria), Jasmin Kurtic (Palermo), Marius Alexe (Dinamo Bucharest, loan), Antonio Rosati (Napoli)
Key departures: Michele Troiano (Virtus Entella), Gennaro Troianiello (Palermo), Richmond Boakye, Raman Chibsah, Andrea Catellani (end of loan spell)
Watching city rivals Juventus lift another Scudetto last season will have been painful viewing for Torino fans – but their team are a long way from challenging for Turin bragging rights. And their realistic target for the new campaign is rather different. All the signs point to a challenging campaign, with Torino scrapping at the foot of the table. The loss of Angelo Ogbonna to Juventus hurts but a flurry of new signings should spark healthy competition for places. That said, there will be many nail-biting moments for their supporters through the final weeks of the season.
Key arrivals: Ciro Immobile (Genoa), Marcelo Larrondo (Fiorentina), Nicola Bellomo (Bari), Omar El Kaddouri (Napoli), Nikola Maksimovic (Red Star, loan), Daniele Padelli (Udinese)
Key departures: Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Rolando Bianchi (Bologna), Mario Santana (Genoa), Jean-Francois Gillet (suspension)
Year after year, Udinese defy the odds – and this season should be no different. Inspired by captain Antonio Di Natale and a strong supporting cast, another top half finish is a strong possibility. Mehdi Benatia has moved on to Roma but there is reason to believe that Udinese can chase last term's fifth place finish again despite the big spending of several rivals. Look for Francesco Guidolin's men to stay close to the European places for chunks of the campaign but ultimately fall short.
Key arrivals: Valerio Verre, Nicolas Lopez (Roma), Francesco Benussi (Palermo), Alexandre Coeff (Lens), Naldo (Granada)
Key departures: Mehdi Benatia (Roma), Daniele Padelli (Torino),
For Serie A fans (and Tim Parks fans), Verona's promotion back to the top tier was a welcome sight. An active summer in the transfer market has yielded impressive squad depth without losing key members of the team that earned the ticket back to Serie A. Their derbies with Chievo will be worth watching and there is enough quality to edge away from relegation danger. Look for some scary moments during the campaign but, ultimately, a gritty escape. Anything better than a relegation struggle will be a bonus.
Key arrivals: Luca Toni (Fiorentina), Massimo Donati (Celtic), Bosko Jankovic (Genoa), Nikolay Mihaylov (FC Twente), Ezequiel Cirigliano (River Plate, loan)
Key departures: None