After nine successive Serie A titles, a fourth-placed finish in the 2020/21 campaign simply was not the ticket for Juventus.
It was nowhere near the domestic domination the Old Lady has become accustomed to over the past decade and, as a result, the gamble that was Andrea Pirlo was swiftly moved on.
Now Massimiliano Allegri who, during his previous spell with the club between 2014 and 2019, picked up five of the nine straight Scudettos – and made two Champions League finals – is back at the helm and will look to restore Juve’s crown.
The start of the season is often – although not always – a very good indication at how a club’s season is going to pan out, so let’s take a look at the Old Lady’s first ten Serie A matches of the 2021/22 season and grade them on difficulty.
It’s never ideal starting your campaign away from home but, on paper, Allegri’s side will be big favourites for their opener at Udinese.
Luca Gotti guided the club to a measly 14th-place finish last term and, after main man Rodrigo De Paul’s departure to Atletico Madrid, they shouldn’t be a threat to any of the top teams this time around.
There’s always an air of optimism on opening day, but Allegri should be able to see his men to victory to kick things off.
Always be weary of those who have just earned promotion to the top flight, although Juventus can probably consider this one safe.
Empoli finished as Serie B champions last term but, after seeing a number of loaned players returning to parent clubs and having manager Alessio Dionisi poached by Sassuolo, it could be a tough season.
Allegri will be keen to kick things off with a bang, and a home tie to newly-promoted Empoli could provide him with it.
Points in their opening two fixtures could be key as they face significantly more threatening opposition on matchday three.
Gennaro Gattuso may have only led the Neapolitan side to a fifth-placed finish last time around, but new coach Luciano Spalletti has experience working in the top flight.
The 62-year old has earned seven honours across spells at Roma and Zenit St. Petersburg and has previously been awarded the Serie A coach of the years ward on two occasions.
Juventus should be regarded as favourites for the tie, but expect this Napoli side to present more fierce competition than before.
The Old Lady will be presented with two tough Serie A fixtures on the bounce in the early stages of this upcoming campaign.
Following a trip to Napoli is a tie with Milan, who Stefano Pioli led to a second-placed finish last season. There is clearly a lot of progression being made at Milan and, while the club have lost the formidable on-field and off-field presence of Gianluigi Donnarumma, their business so far this window has been impressive.
I Rossoneri have brought in the excellent Mike Maignan to replace the Italian number one, made the loans of Sandro Tonali and Fikayo Tomori permanent, and also acquired the services of Olivier Giroud.
They are threatening, and are clearly keen to build even further upon a promising season last time out.
Things get a bit simpler for Juve on matchday five.
Vincenzo Italiano led Spezia to a 15th-placed finish last term and, without really building on their squad thus far in the transfer window, they will doubtfully push for anything more this campaign.
Spezia had the worst defensive record aside from the relegated teams last campaign, so it’s an opportunity for a potent Juve attack to put themselves on the scoring leader board early on in the season.
Sampdoria are still yet to replace Claudio Ranieri as manager, but whoever takes over will have a chance of achieving something special.
The club have a nice blend of experienced quality and exciting youthful spark, with which a ninth-placed finish was achieved last campaign.
The squad have had time to blend further and, after Mikkel Damsgaard’s coming-of-age showing at Euro 2020, they have a particularly special starlet in their ranks – should he stay, of course.
They’ll be hopeful of presenting an outside threat to those further up the table this season, although with the experience of Allegri at the helm Juve should see these types of fixtures out.
2021/22 should be a year of rebuilding for Torino. After narrowly escaping relegation by finishing 17th with just 37 points to their name and changing managers midway through the season, there’s a chance for new face Ivan Juric to take the club into a new era.
The Croatian had done impressive work at Hellas Verona since 2019, achieving ninth and tenth-placed finishes despite one of the league’s smallest budgets.
He’ll have more quality to work with at Torino and, as a result, could bring them back to loftier heights – not one to write off for the likes of Juventus this season.
Who knows how Roma’s season will pan out?
Jose Mourinho could recreate his first-season magic and win the league, or disappoint the feverishly excited fanbase with dull football that leaves them struggling for European qualification – whatever happens, it should be fun as an outsider.
The Portuguese is already making his mark on the club and there seems to be a lot of speculation regarding incoming players to what is already a very strong squad.
Mourinho is no doubt a pragmatic coach and can get the best out of squads – depending on momentum, Roma could feasibly be a dangerous prospect for the likes of Juventus.
As a title chasing club before the start of the campaign, it’s hard to know whether it’s better to travel to the reigning champions early in the season or later.
And, depending on how Allegri’s men start, this fixture could come at the perfect time. Under the Italian manager, Juve have been much more used to blistering starts to the season than not, so they may be relieved to get this one out of the way.
Let’s not sugarcoat it, though. This will be one of – if not, the – most challenging tests for any side to face during the upcoming campaign and while Antonio Conte won’t be overseeing proceedings any longer, Inter are still a formidable side.
As previously mentioned, last season’s Serie B title-winning manager Dionisi will be at the helm for Sassuolo’s 2021/22 campaign.
The club have had very steady progression over the past few years but, after two consecutive eight-placed finishes, it’s a tall order to continue the journey in the right direction for the former Empoli boss.
They’re an attacking side with exciting players – including three Euro 2020 winners in the young Giacomo Raspadori, skilful Domenico Berardi, and tenacious Manuel Locatelli (although he could be on the way out) – but likely won’t be able to challenge those European-chasing sides just yet.
And, with Juventus’ quality, the Old Lady will expect to head into matchday 11 on the back of a victory.