Champions Milan face early test as Serie A finally kicks off
As mid September approaches, the delayed Serie A campaign gets underway this weekend offering a different flavour to the opening set of fixtures than in previous years. As a strike brought about the cancellation of the first round of fixtures, three Italian clubs already dumped out of both of Europe’s major completions and subsequently Palermo without a manager it is a league campaign already packed with controversy and intrigue before a ball has been kicked.
The wait ends this Friday night as the pick of the weekend’s fixtures takes place at the San Siro. Defending champions Milan face stern opposition opening the defence of their crown against Lazio. The Rossoneri will be looking to get off to a perfect start against the Roman side that had impressed so many last season. However, three points will certainly be the central objective for Max Allegri. The changes to Edy Reja’s forward line over the close season will come under scrutiny as he has the opportunity to call upon new singings Djibril Cissé and Miroslav Klose but not on last season’s star man Mauro Zarate who has arrived at Inter.
Zarate’s new side face the second most intriguing encounter of the weekend in the Sunday night fixture away at Palermo. They are another one of last season’s impressive sides but facing something of a crisis after crashing out of Europe and last season’s star player Javier Pastore sold while they are also without a manager after the sacking of Stefano Pioli. The spotlight will not only fall on Palermo however as Inter’s adaptation to the expansive tactics of Gian Piero Gasperini could offer an early insight into their possible success this season.
The newly promoted sides all face away trips with Novara, returning to Serie A after over 50 years, away at Chievo while Siena are up against Vincenzo Montella's Catania. Atalanta, who start with that six point deduction, travel to face Genoa.
Last season’s surprise package Napoli will be looking to build on their previous excellent campaign with an opening victory away to Cesena almost a year on from their drubbing of the hosts last season. Of the other potential title challengers; Juventus will be looking to improve on last season’s defeat at home to Parma while new look Roma welcome Cagliari to the Stadio Olimpico. Udinese, determined to bounce back from their early disappointment in the Champions League against Arsenal will be away at last season’s strugglers Leece.
It will not be the easy start either Fiorentina or Bologna would have wanted as the ‘Derby dell'Appennino’ takes place in Florence. Both clubs had a season to forget last time out and will be hoping for a little more sunshine during the current campaign. Bologna will be hoping that a good start from Robert Acquafesca - reunited with his former coach at Cagliari Pierpaolo Bisoli – can help recapture the form that has eluded him over the past couple of seasons.
It promises to be a weekend to match the expectation and drama produced prior to kick off. With big matches, big opportunities and a local derby to contest, if the rest of the season can be as potentially enthralling as the opening round it promises to be a fine year of calcio.
Fixtures in full;
Milan vs. Lazio
Cesena vs. Napoli
Juventus vs. Parma
Catania vs. Siena
Chievo vs. Novara
Fiorentina vs. Bologna
Genoa vs. Atalanta
Leece vs. Udinese
Roma vs. Cagliari
Palermo vs. Inter