Which Italian teams will make the biggest impact in this season’s Champions League?

This season will mark ten years since Inter Milan won the Champions League in 2010, the last Italian team to do so. While Juventus have tried their utmost, finishing as runners-up in 2015 and 2017, the reality is that Italian football as a whole has seen something of a decline in the performances of its clubs in Europe’s premier club competition.
With the latest Champions League odds from Paddy Power suggesting that Italy’s top sides are outsiders once again, it seems as though perceptions of Italian football have changed since the days that the likes of A.C. Milan and Juventus were such formidable forces in the competition. This season, Juventus, Napoli, Inter and Atalanta have the opportunity to bring Italian football back to the Champions League’s top table. Let’s assess each side’s chances of causing a stir in Europe this campaign.
Juventus have been the one Italian side holding their own in the Champions League in recent seasons, usually reaching the latter stages of the competition each year. The Turin club will feel hard done by not to have won the Champions League in recent times, having reached the final in 2015 and 2017, losing out to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
Last season, Juventus would have fancied their chances of success, but suffered an untimely quarter-final exit at the hands of an inspired Ajax side. This time around, Juve will be looking to make another stab at reclaiming the European Cup, having not won the Champions League since 1996. In a group that includes Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow, Max Allegri’s men will have to be at the top of their game to secure top spot.
Having Cristiano Ronaldo at the club is a big bonus for Juventus when it comes to challenging for titles. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner seems to lift those around him to a higher level of performance, and is capable of producing magic at any moment, as he did against Juventus for Real Madrid with that spectacular overhead kick in 2018.
While Napoli have been consistent performers in Serie A, their Champions League results have left something to be desired, perhaps further indicating the chasm between Juventus and Italy’s other Champions League participants. Having failed to progress beyond the last 16 in the competition since establishing themselves among the top club sides in Italy, Napoli are surely due a decent European run.
This season sees them drawn in the same group as Liverpool once again, the club that denied them progress to last year’s knockout stage. However, with Red Bull Salzburg and Genk comprising the other teams in the group, Napoli should be confident of progressing, and could run Liverpool close for top spot.
Inter returned to the Champions League last season having been absent from the competition since the 2011/12 campaign. Their comeback ended with a group stage exit, however, consigning Inter to the Europa League once again. This season, the Milan club will be hoping to wrong a few rights, but the group stage draw has not been kind to them, landing the club in Group F with Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Slavia Prague.
But perhaps such a difficult group could offer Inter the chance to properly announce themselves as a European force once again. They held Barcelona to a draw at the San Siro in last year’s group stage, and will be hoping they can build on that this time around. For such a famous, storied club, Inter will be desperate to restore the fear factor they held during José Mourinho’s reign, which of course culminated in that deserved Champions League triumph in 2010.
With this being Atalanta’s Champions League debut, they represent something of a wild card in the Champions League group stage. Off the back of their best ever Serie A season – finishing 3rd – this European adventure is the next step for a club looking to go from strength to strength. Atalanta have played in the Europa League in the last couple of season, and it will be interesting to see how they adapt to this greater challenge.
While Manchester City represent possibly the toughest opponents they could have been drawn against, their other fixtures against Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb could provide an opportunity to get points on the board and potentially make it through to the knockout stage.
With Italy once again getting four Champions League spots, there is a chance for Italian football to regain a foothold in Europe, and an opportunity for other clubs to match Juventus in going deep in the competition. Italian clubs once represented the toughest, most formidable opponents in Europe, and this season offers a chance for these four clubs to start the process of restoring that aura once again.

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