Serie A Matchday 1: Juve out to capitalise on Inter offloading stars
The last of Europe’s big five leagues will finally get underway this weekend as Serie A returns.
Juventus fell well short of winning a 10th-straight scudetto last season as Inter Milan stormed to the top.
It will be a far from easy title defence however, as Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5million return to Chelsea has reopened the door for the Old Lady and a host of other challengers.
It promises to be a season you will not want to miss.
Inter Milan vs Genoa (Saturday, 5.30pm)
The reigning champions will look a whole lot different to the side that romped to 91 points just a few months ago.
Boss Antonio Conte left in rather acrimonious circumstances, to be replaced by former Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi.
The new man in charge has seen his side raided for the best part of £160m, with Lukaku following Achraf Hakimi out of the exit door.
Edin Dzeko arrives from Roma to fill a void up top, while Dutch Euro 2020 star Denzel Dumfries joins from PSV Eindhoven.
Hakan Calhanoglu has braved the switch from AC Milan to Inter on a free transfer, plus the Nerazzurri’s defensive line has been bolstered by the signings of Matteo Darmian and Zinho Vanheusden.
Their opponents Genoa troubled neither the European spots or the relegation zone in 2020-21 and would certainly settle for the same again.
A six-game winless run against Inter without registering a single goal will likely continue following forward Eldor Shomurodov’s sale to Roma — the Uzbek’s 0.43 goals per 90 will be hard to replace for Il Grifone.
Saturday’s other games
Verona vs Sassuolo (5.30pm)
Empoli vs Lazio (7.45pm)
Torino vs Atalanta (7.45pm)
Udinese vs Juventus (Sunday, 5.30pm)
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus side will be looking to consign their disappointing 2020-21 season to the history books by bouncing back this time around.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 29-goal golden boot campaign was not enough to stop the Old Lady slipping to fourth place in the table.
Juve have strengthened this summer with Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli joining, alongside the permanent signing of Weston McKennie.
The Bianconeri have been on the winning side in nine of their last 10 Serie A openers, though their one defeat in this spell came against their opponents this weekend.
Udinese’s 14th place finish was even more remarkable when you consider they had the joint-third lowest goals per 90 minutes in the division, just 1.05.
Their defence will have to keep a close guard on Paulo Dybala — he has been more influential against Udinese than any other side, with eight goals and six assists.
Roma vs Fiorentina (Sunday, 7.45pm)
Jose Mourinho’s return to Italian football will certainly be one of the biggest talking points in Serie A this season.
After a hugely successful spell with Inter Milan over a decade ago, fans inside the Stadio Olimpico will be quietly optimistic that he may just bring similar success to the capital.
Roma have won their last four Serie A meetings against Fiorentina and are aiming to go five on the spin against them for the second time in nine years.
The omens do not get much better for the Florence-based side, as their last three opening day matches at Roma, in 1990, 2004 and 2014, have all ended in defeat.
Napoli vs Venezia (Sunday, 7.45pm)
There is plenty of intrigue surrounding Venezia this season, after they completed a rapid rise from bankruptcy and Serie D to Serie A in only five years.
Under American ownership, the side from the floating city returned to the top tier for the first time since 2002 via the play-offs last season — and the Lagunari will simply be aiming for survival.
They mark their return with a trip to Naples, and the hosts are sweating over the fitness of star man Lorenzo Insigne.
The captain has joined Dries Mertens in the physio room at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, after the Belgian underwent shoulder surgery in July.
The forward contributed nine goals and eight assists last campaign and Napoli will need him back as soon as possible if they want to break into those Champions League spots.
Sunday’s other game
Bologna vs Salernitana (5.30pm)
Sampdoria vs AC Milan (Monday, 7.45pm)
Sampdoria will be looking to arrest a rotten run of opening day form on Monday night, having lost their last three season openers in Serie A and failed to score in any of them.
It will be a tough task as they welcome AC Milan to the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, a venue the visitors have won at on their last two trips.
But Milan have also been on the losing side in four of their last five away openers.
Summer arrival Olivier Giroud will be looking to make an instant impact in Italian football, as the 2018 World Cup winner embarks on a new challenge — teaming up with fellow veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Rossoneri.
Monday’s other game
Cagliari vs Spezia (5.30pm)