Serie A rivals circle Juventus scenting blood

Rome: Juventus have been a class above the rest of the Serie A in the past three seasons but now they must contemplate going for a fourth successive title without coach Antonio Conte and a host of clubs believing they can wrest the crown from them.

The title race will seek to revive Italian fans` morale after a poor World Cup showing by the national side -- their first round exit prompting the resignation of Cesare Prandelli with Conte replacing him as coach.

The fans too will also hope for a stronger challenge by their clubs in Europe this term as the decline in their ability to compete with the English Premier League elite and leading Spanish sides has had an adverse impact.

Inter Milan`s win in the 2009 Champions League is the last time they had a representative in that final and one has to go back to Parma`s victory in 1999 for the last Italian appearance in the UEFA Cup now the Europa League.

Conte gave as one of the reasons for his leaving the Juventus job as being angry that the board were not prepared to aid his push for a successful Champions League campaign with money for players.

They did, however, spend 20 million euros (£15.9m/$27m) on Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata and Conte`s replacement, former AC Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri has said one of his objectives is to target success in European football`s leading club competition.

Allegri, 47 and who won the title with Milan in his first season in 2010/11, admits he will need time to win over the fans but said his recipe for success was that adopted by Diego Simeone at Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

"The three consecutive titles make us favourites in Italy and we`ll compete all the way for the title," said Allegri.

"There are great clubs in Europe, but with a shrewd transfer policy and organisation we`ll try to enjoy an excellent Champions League campaign, just as Atletico Madrid did last season.

"Juventus must be among the top eight teams in Europe, it`s our duty."

AS Roma and Napoli pursued Juventus last season.

The Turin giants finished with a record 102 points but Roma gave them a good run for their money for a long while under French coach Rudi Garcia.

Garcia, previously at French side Lille whom he guided to the domestic double in 2011, has to also prepare for a Champions League campaign.

But he has indicated that the domestic title remains his focus and hopes the 22million euros signing of Argentine striker Juan Iturbe will add the necessary class to their challenge.
"What I know for sure is that Juventus have won the last three scudettos (Serie A titles) and will be a very good and strong competitor as usual," said the 50-year-old, who will be looking to another excellent season from his old Lille comrade Ivory Coast star Gervinho, who is coming off an impressive World Cup.

"Our objective is to be as strong as possible and be effective in the (Serie A) Championship even though we are playing in the Champions League, which wastes many energies."

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez too will be hoping for a stronger run from his side, who have bundles of talent including Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain and Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik, but has also expressed his frustration in bizarre terms at not being able to compete in the marketplace.

"Do we want to exchange our wife" is like "do we want Mascherano". We`re in love with our wife, I mean, our players," said Benitez in July.

"Do we want to exchange our wife for Claudia Schiffer? It could be but it depends on your wife, are you happy with your wife? Let`s wait for a response from the transfer market.`

Both Milan sides will expect to mount a stronger challenge but while Inter at least invested in Chilean Gary Medel from Cardiff and talented, but unruly Frenchman Yann M`Vila, AC`s ambitions have been undermined with the sale of striker Mario Balotelli.

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