FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Massimiliano Allegri made one point abundantly clear before Juventus' pre-season match with Roma on Sunday, and he repeated the refrain after.
The Bianconeri may have won six straight Serie A titles, but No. 7 is far from a sure thing.
While Juve closed in on the treble last season, claiming the Scudetto and Coppa Italia while advancing to the Champions League final, the Serie A race was a tight one: In edging Roma and Napoli by four and five points, respectively, Juve won the title by fewer than nine points for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
As Juve and Roma battled to a 1-1 draw at Gillette Stadium, with Allegri's side winning the International Champions Cup clash on penalties, one could see two rivals ready to battle neck-and-neck for a Serie A crown.
"Six Scudetti in a row is difficult, but obviously winning the seventh one is going to be even harder," Allegri said in his post-match news conference. "The teams have reinforced themselves, have strengthened themselves, so certainly our first objective is to go out there and compete for a seventh Scudetto.
"Roma had 87 points last season, the most in its history, so they're certainly a very strong team that promises to be even stronger.
"But let's not forget about teams like Napoli and Milan, especially Inter, and let's also not forget about Lazio, a team that's very strong. So the competition to win the Scudetto will be competitive."
AC Milan, of course, have made the biggest splash this off-season. The Rossoneri have splashed the cash on the likes of Andre Silva, Andrea Conti and Hakan Calhanoglu while also convincing Juve centre-back Leonardo Bonucci to join their ranks.
Yet it remains to be seen how cohesive that side will be after such a dramatic off-season overhaul. Roma, meanwhile, have quietly set themselves up for success under new sporting director Monchi and manager Eusebio Di Francesco.
The loss of Antonio Rudiger to Chelsea stings, but Roma have reinforced their back-line by adding Aleksandar Kolarov, Rick Karsdorp and Hector Moreno while completing permanent moves for former loanees Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio and Bruno Peres.
Although Mohamed Salah's move to Liverpool looms large, 20-year-old newcomer Cengiz Under has the makings of a ready-made replacement on the flank. Lorenzo Pellegrini, who returns from Sassuolo after Roma triggered their buy-back clause, is another enticing young attacker. And Di Francesco has emphasised the Giallorossi aren't done in the transfer market, specifically citing the need for more options on the flank.
After Mario Mandzukic gave Juve a first-half lead Sunday, Roma saw Kevin Strootman strike woodwork in the second half shortly before Edin Dzeko netted the equaliser. The Bianconeri may have been the marginally better side, but Roma never looked out of their depth.
"I'm happy that we were always in the game," Di Francesco said. "In the second half we played much better."
Juve have done their own bit of business this summer, helping offset the exits of Bonucci and Dani Alves by adding Mattia De Sciglio, Federico Bernardeschi, Rodrigo Bentancur and Douglas Costa. In doing so, they've put more of a premium on attacking depth that could prove useful in the long Serie A campaign.
Yet Allegri is right — Roma and the rest of Juve's rivals aren't going to make it easy. Remember when Juve could win Serie A by double-digit points? Those days are looking like a distant memory.