STORY OF THE SEASON - For the third year running, Juventus reigned supreme in Serie A, romping to the title ahead of a revitalised Roma and Napoli, who finished in the top three yet again.
The foundation for La Vecchia Signora’s latest league title was their formidable home form, with Antonio Conte’s side winning all 19 of their games at the Juventus Stadium and losing just two and drawing three on the road.
Conte has now won three consecutive scudetti since taking on the Juve job in 2011, though his side, which alternated between a 3-5-2 formation and a more conservative 5-3-2, were unable to progress beyond the group phase of the UEFA Champions League and then fell short against Benfica in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
In finishing fifth and eighth respectively, way off the pace set by the champions, Inter Milan and AC Milan were the biggest disappointments of a Serie A season that produced more than its fair share of attacking football – with an average of 2.72 goals per match – despite the fact clubs were operating on lower budgets.
And while the Italian top flight is home to a sizeable contingent of foreign players, it is the only one of Europe’s top five championships where the scoring charts were topped by a local player. That man was Torino revelation Ciro Immobile, with 22 goals, and he was followed by veteran sharpshooter Luca Toni, who grabbed 20.
The stars of the season
Marshalled by the ageless Gianluigi Buffon, the Juve defence played their part in the Turin giants’ title win, though special mention should go to the midfield triumvirate formed by Chile’s Arturo Vidal, French powerhouse Paul Pogba and the peerless Andrea Pirlo, one of the most effective trios in European football today.
Few people would have expected much from the Torino front line formed by Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci at the start of the season, but the strike pair astounded everyone by scoring nearly 63 per cent of Il Toro’s goals, with Immobile’s haul of 22 containing not a single penalty and Cerci adding 11 assists to his 13 goals. The duo will be hoping to reprise that form at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Having chalked up 46 appearances and eight goals for his country at the age of only 24, Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic has taken his game to a new level with Roma this season. His partnership with Francesco Totti was a delight to watch at times and created plenty of inviting openings for Côte d’Ivoire front man Gervinho, who flourished in the Roman sun under the tutelage of Rudi Garcia, his former coach at Lille.
102 - the number of points amassed by Juventus in romping to another Serie A crown, the first time that any club has breached the 100-point barrier in Italy. Roma finished a full 17 points behind in second, though their tally of 85 points was only two points less than Juve harvested in winning the title last season.
31 October 2013, Matchday 10
Roma made the best start of their history, kicking off with ten straight wins, the last of them a 1-0 defeat of Chievo. New coach Rudi Garcia earned the confidence of Totti by restoring him to the centre of the attack in a 4-3-3 formation that allowed his side to express themselves to the full. The highlights of I Giallorossi’s flying getaway were their emphatic away win at Inter at the start of October, the home defeat two weeks later of Napoli – the only side to stay right with them at the start of the campaign – and the derby defeat of Lazio, a victory that earned Garcia instant credibility. In contrast, Milan endured a disastrous first few weeks and trailed the leaders by no fewer than 16 points at the end of October.
24 November 2013, Matchday 13
Juventus downed Livorno 2-0 thanks to strike partners Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez and moved top for the first time. The pair took their time to settle in at the start of the season, with Conte’s men playing out a 1-1 draw with Inter and then going down 4-2 to Fiorentina. Those were the only points Juventus dropped in the opening few weeks, however, and with Roma playing out four draws in a row, I Bianconeri slipped ahead of them and were never caught. Napoli were the only other side remotely able to keep pace with the runaway top two.
5 January 2014, Matchday 18
Juve had the chance to kill off Roma’s title challenge when the two sides met in Turin at the start of the year, with five points separating them at the kick-off. Caught cold by Vidal’s 17th-minute strike, the visitors could not find a way back into the game, which Leonardo Bonucci and Mirko Vucinic put beyond them with further goals in the second half. It was Roma’s first defeat of the campaign and the tenth of a club record 12 straight wins for the league leaders, who went on to produce a seven-match winning streak later in the season. I Giallorossi’s objective now was to keep second place safe from a Napoli side they still had to visit in March.
5 May 2014, Matchday 36
Coupled with Roma’s 4-1 reverse at bottom club Catania – only their fourth defeat of the season – Juventus’ narrow 1-0 home defeat of Atalanta secured them their 30th scudetto with two matches remaining. Victory left Conte’s men 11 points clear of their closest challengers, with Napoli, Fiorentina and Inter, 24, 35 and 39 points adrift respectively, margins that had never been seen before in Serie A. Just for good measure, the newly crowned champions went to the Olimpico on the penultimate matchday and bagged another three points thanks to Pablo Osvaldo’s stoppage-time winner.
Top and bottom
UEFA Champions League: Juventus, Roma and Napoli (play-offs).
UEFA Europe League: Fiorentina, Inter Milan and Parma.
Relegated: Catania, Bologna, Livorno.
Promoted: With two rounds of games remaining in Serie B, Palermo are the only side to have secured promotion so far.