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Familiar faces in unfamiliar roles in Serie A

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

By DANIELLA MATAR

Associated Press

MILAN (AP) A coaching shakeup in Serie A has brought some familiar faces back to Italy.

Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri - both former Chelsea managers - have returned to their home country, with the former taking over from Luciano Spalletti at Inter Milan and the latter replacing Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus.

Roma and AC Milan also have new leaders for the new season, which starts Saturday. Paulo Fonseca has taken over in Rome and Marco Giampaolo is in charge at Milan.

Conte, who is back after a year off from coaching following his departure from Chelsea, has been in this position before.

When he took over at Juventus in 2011, the team had finished seventh in each of the previous two seasons. But they went on to win the league title in each of Conte's three years in charge and have not lost it since.

The rise of Juventus coincided with the decline of Inter, which had won four straight league titles and the treble of the Serie A, the Italian Cup and the Champions League in 2010. But getting Inter back to the top won't be easy with Juventus in the way, despite what some may say.

"It will be a more gripping fight than last campaign," Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira said. "Inter has made some good signings and they have brought in a really good coach in Antonio Conte, and Napoli always has to be considered."

Staying on top will be the job for Sarri.

Allegri left Juventus at the end of the season despite winning the league title in each of his five years in charge. He also led the team to four Italian Cup trophies and two Champions League finals. However, he was blamed for his failure to win Europe's top club prize, even after signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sarri's appointment has not been welcomed by some because of his three seasons at Napoli, where his team and tactics were perceived as the "anti-Juve." He was also criticized at Chelsea, where he led the English club to the Europa League title and the final of the League Cup as well as third place in the Premier League.

Juventus was maligned for being dull last season while Sarri was known for past-paced, counterattacking play when at Napoli.

"Sarri wants a type of soccer completely different to Allegri's, so we have had a bit of difficulty and we need time to adapt to the new system and make the movements become automatic, but that's normal," Khedira said. "I followed how he played at Napoli and Chelsea. He plays a different soccer with pressing, intensity, passion and intelligence."

Another former Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is also in Serie A.

Napoli had a disappointing first season under Ancelotti last year. Although the team finished second behind Juventus, it fell from four points behind to 11 points behind.

Atalanta is the only other team in the top six to stick with its coach, Gian Piero Gasperini. Its third-place finish was beyond expectations and a repeat is unlikely this year, especially with the added stress of participating in the Champions League for the first time in its history.

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Updated August 22, 2019

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