Italian preview: Juventus aims for record 6th straight title

ROME (AP) — Having signed Gonzalo Higuain in the most expensive transfer in Italian football history, it seems a foregone conclusion that Juventus will win a record sixth consecutive Serie A title.

With the Milan clubs still forming new identities amid ownership — and coaching — changes, Juventus is chasing history.

Since Serie A was founded in 1929, no club has won more than five straight titles.

Torino won five consecutive titles from 1943-49 (including a season that was canceled due to World War II), Inter Milan took five straight from 2006-10 and Juventus claimed a handful from 1931-35 before its current streak.

“We’ve done so much as a team but there is still much more to achieve,” Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon said ahead of his team’s season-opener at home to Fiorentina on Saturday. “This club teaches you to never rest on your laurels. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from last season so we can avoid making the same mistakes again.”

Last season, Juventus won just one of its opening six matches before surging up the table as it overcame the departures of Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal.

While there have also been key departures this offseason — Paul Pogba returning to Manchester United and Alvaro Morata back to Real Madrid — they have been overshadowed by the arrivals of Higuain and several other top players.

Higuain transferred from rival Napoli for 90 million euros ($99 million) after scoring 36 goals last season to break a 66-year-old Serie A record for goals in a single season.

Other signings include playmaker Miralem Pjanic from Roma, winger Dani Alves from Barcelona and defender Medhi Benatia from Bayern Munich.

“These are guys that are used to shining on the big stage and carrying themselves in a way befitting of top players,” Buffon said. “The important thing in the coming weeks is that we gel together as a group and bed in the new boys as quickly as possible. We can only confirm the notion that we are favorites by demonstrating it on the pitch.”

Here are a few other things to know about the Italian league:


THE CHALLENGERS: Such is Juventus’ dominance that last season’s runner-up Napoli, Roma and Inter are each considered challengers for second place, while AC Milan could be in for another difficult season under yet another new coach, Vincenzo Montella.

Napoli will need to overcome the psychological blow of losing Higuain to Juventus. The Argentine’s departure opens the center forward position to Manolo Gabbiadini, who has been a reliable backup, but club president Aurelio De Laurentiis is under pressure to use the windfall from Higuain’s sale to recruit another top striker.

Luciano Spalletti has a chance to put his stamp on Roma after taking over as coach from Rudi Garcia midway through last season. Roma lost just once under Spalletti last season but then lost perhaps its best player, Pjanic, to Juventus. The defense, often a weak point last season, is reinforced with the arrivals of Juan Jesus from Inter, Thomas Vermaelen from Barcelona and fullback Bruno Peres from Torino. Captain Francesco Totti is entering his 25th and likely final season with Roma.

Inter’s preparations were slowed by the departure of Roberto Mancini less than two weeks before the start of the season amid a reported lack of communication with the club’s new owners, the Chinese retail giant Suning. New manager Frank de Boer, however, can count on consistent scorer Mauro Icardi and the arrival of solid midfielders Antonio Candreva from Lazio and Ever Banega from Sevilla.


OPENING WEEKEND: The season kicks off Saturday with Roma hosting Udinese and Juventus facing Fiorentina.

On Sunday, it’s: AC Milan vs. Torino; Atalanta vs. Lazio; Bologna vs. Crotone; Chievo Verona vs. Inter Milan; Empoli vs. Sampdoria; Genoa vs. Cagliari; Palermo vs. Sassuolo; and Pescara vs. Napoli.


PROMOTED CLUBS: Calabrian club Crotone could have a difficult debut in Serie A. With its Ezio Scida stadium undergoing renovations and expansions, the team will have to play its opening home matches 600 kilometers (373 miles) away in Pescara.

Pescara is also back in the top division, for the first time since 2013.

Of the bunch, Serie B champion Cagliari has the best chance to stay up following the arrivals of former Italy international Marco Borriello and fullback Simone Padoin from Juventus.


VIDEO REPLAYS: Serie A is one of seven leagues selected for a trial of video assistance for referees this season.

However, the technology won’t have any impact on matches yet.

The tests will be conducted on two matches per round but results will not be made public.

If the tests go well, the replay system could be used for real in next season’s Italian Cup.

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