The new Italian Serie A season kicks off with the first round of fixtures this weekend – Fanzone details what to expect from the forthcoming campaign:
Key players: The arrivals of Eto’o and Diego Milito have grabbed all of the headlines for Inter, but it could well be 19-year-old striker Mario Balotelli who will provide the firepower for Inter’s title defense after showing signs of his huge potential last season. Kaka’s departure has left a void at AC Milan so a big season is needed from heir-apparent Alexandre Pato while Marco Borriello will hope to overcome last season’s injury problems to establish in attack. Juventus paid serious money for Diego and he will be expected to justify his price tag and boss Ciro Ferrara will hope evergreen pair Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Cannavaro have one last Scudetto title left in them. Elsewhere, Geona’s capture of poacher Hernan Crespo could prove to be inspired if he can recapture his best form while striker Robert Acquafresca and goalkeeper Andrea Consigli at Atalanta are the best of the next generation of stars.
New Palermo coach Walter Zenga has talked up his side’s chances of breaking into the top three this season.
Key clubs: AC Milan coach Leonardo speaks with authority and intelligence about the game but it would be a surprise if he delivered the title in his first season in charge so Juventus should provide Inter with their main challenge for the Scudetto. New Palermo coach Zenga has talked up his team’s chances of breaking into the top three this season, while Sampdoria’s formidable striker pairing of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini ensure they will be among the chasing pack. Roma face a season of uncertainty with Rosella Sensi, the head of the Italpetroli oil business that owns two-thirds of the club, attempting to manage debts of $420m while city rivals Lazio are currently a team in transition. At the wrong end of the table newly-promoted sides Bari, Livorno and Parma will be among the strugglers and will be joined by Chievo, Siena and Bologna in the battle to avoid relegation.
Striker Samuel Eto’o arrived at Inter as part of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s transfer to Barcelona.
Expert view: CNN’s Terry Badoo – “Whatever the outcome of this year’s Serie A it is important to the Italian football authorities that the league gets noticed. “Their goals were obvious in preseason when Inter and AC Milan went on a high-profile tour of the U.S. and that Italian Super Cup, between champions Inter and cup winners Lazio took place in Beijing! “The reason Italy’s top brass feel they’ve been left behind by the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga in terms of global appeal, star quality and purchasing power, with a resultant lack of achievement in the Champions League. “Of course, good football gets you noticed. But, in the last four seasons, the one Italian club to produce it consistently are defending champions Inter who are seeking their fifth title on the spin. “The question is — are they hungry enough to claim five in a row Well, in Jose Mourinho they have a coach savvy enough to make it happen. And, with the bargain signing of striker Eto’o in exchange for Ibrahimovic, the ‘Special One’ feels he’s done the deal of the summer. “But, where do Mourinho’s priorities lie The Serie A or the Champions League And if it’s the latter, does he have a deep enough squad to compete on both fronts “Certainly AC Milan are not favorites. The loss of Ancelotti, retirement of Paulo Maldini, sale of Kaka and return of David Beckham to Los Angeles Galaxy (at least until January), has put a hopeful rather than optimistic expression on the face of new boss Leonardo. “So Juventus, in their third season back in the top flight following demotion for corruption, look ripe to claim the title they last won in 2003. “Big-money signings, Diego and Felipe Melo, are viewed as potentially key components and having replaced Claudio Ranieri in favor of Ferrara, the jigsaw may be complete. “But, if you fancy a flutter on an outsider then Palermo could be decent bet under Zenga and with the signing of 20-year-old Argentinean sensation Javier Pastore in their ranks they could just surprise the established elite. “Time will tell as with all predictions. So, pile on the pasta, break out a nice Chianti, and let the good times roll.”