Serie A – Opening weekend preview

by Jack Unwin
Game of the Weekend

After a summer when the focus of world football was on whether and when Paul Pogba would leave Juventus, the league he starred in soldiers on without him into a new season.

His old club are in the pick of the ties on the first weekend, as they take on Fiorentina on Saturday night. The rivalry between these two clubs is well noted, but there is extra fuel to this due to events that took place last season.

 

As Juventus sauntered to a 4-0 victory over Palermo, fans in the Curva Sud were heard singing that people from Florence were not Italian but ‘a bunch of Jews’.

Juventus were threatened with the closure of the stand as a result of these songs. It is such a mystery why Serie A is not that popular anymore…

Fiorentina had a mixed 2015/16 season. After a terrific start, in which they humbled both Milan clubs and looked like title contenders, Fiorentina’s season petered out to a fifth place finish.

Having been within touching distance of the Champions League for years, fans have blamed their cautious owner Diego Della Valle for his refusal to loosen the purse strings.

This summer has been no different, as Fiorentina have spent just £11 million, signing the likes of Davide Astori on a permanent deal and Cristian Tello on loan from Barcelona.

Excitingly, they have also signed a seventeen year old Ianis Hagi, son of Gheorghe, a moderately talented player from the 1990s.

To succeed this season, Fiorentina will need to keep their midfield maestro Borja Valero, a reported target for AS Roma, and look to Frederico Bernadeschi to show his ability on the wing.

Despite their quality all over the pitch, a place in the Champions League looks remote for the Viola.

 

Fiorentina face a potentially fragile Juventus side this Saturday night. They have just lost Paul Pogba, and had their new €94 million man Gonzalo Higuain humiliated on the internet for his new, rotund frame.

At the time of writing, they may also lose Roberto Pereyra to Watford, and Simone Zaza may also be going elsewhere.

Neither are first team players, but selling them risks this summer turning into a squad overhaul.

After the radical changes last summer led to a poor start to the 2015/16 season, Juventus risk another slow introduction to Serie A life.

This is a fascinating game, one in which Fiorentina could supply an early surprise.

A  New Milan

After years of stagnation, AC Milan finally exorcised the ghoulish Silvio Berlusconi, with Uncle Fester Adriano Galliani also set to leave.

With new owners and a positive manager in Vincenzo Montella on board, Milan could be beginning to rebuild after years of neglect.

 

Alessandro Matri, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jeremy Menez, Alex and Phillipe Mexes, symbols of Milan’s recent mediocrity, have all left, and whilst new arrivals are slim on the ground, there is a sense of positivity in Milan for the first time in years.

They will face Torino on Sunday, coached by Sinisa Mihajlovic, fresh from his lauded spell with the Rossoneri. Torino, after an average season last time round, will be looking for a place in the top half of the table, having made two excellent, under the radar signings of Adem Ljajic and Iago Falque.

Torino sustained heavy loses this transfer window though. Kamil Glik and Bruno Peres, two of their best defenders, have departed, and Ciro Immobile, who successfully returned on loan last January, is now at Lazio.

What will be intriguing will be the attendance at the San Siro this Sunday. Milan’s average crowd last season was just 37,823, will fans return now that Berlusconi has finally relinquished control?

Other questions to consider
  • How will Napoli fare without Gonzalo Higuain? Is Manolo Gabbiadini the man to replace him? How will Maurizio Sarri top his homophobic outburst last season?
  • Can Luciano Spalletti win the Scudetto in his second spell at Roma? They looked very good in the second half of last season. Will there be a final hurrah for Francesco Totti, the last survivor from FIFA 96?
  • Which mid table club will Mario Balotelli destabilise?
  • Finally, in terms of drama, few can top Lazio this summer. They secured a major coup with signing famed Argentinian lunatic Marcelo Bielsa as manager. This coup, like the one in Turkey, was short lived, as Bielsa was coach for two whole days. The reason for his departure? He demanded four new players for when he arrived as coach, none of whom were actually signed. Simone Inzaghi, caretaker coach last season, is back at the helm, but relations between the club and fans are poisonous. Attendances were poor last season, and might be even worse this time around.

 

Fixtures

Saturday

Roma vs Udinese

Juventus vs Fiorentina

Sunday

AC Milan vs Torino

Chievo vs Inter Milan

Pescara vs Napoli

Genoa vs Cagliari

Atalanta vs Lazio

Bologna vs Crotone

Palermo vs Sassuolo

Empoli vs Sampdoria

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