Ones to watch in Week 1

After 83 days without calcio, Serie A gets back underway tomorrow for the 2017-18 season.

It’s been a momentous summer in Italy, with Milan spending over €200m, Juventus losing Leonardo Bonucci and Luciano Spalletti swapping Roma for Inter.

Juve, the Milan clubs, the Giallorossi and Napoli all start the season with Scudetto ambitions, while the return of four Champions League spots gives extra incentive to the likes of Lazio, Fiorentina and even Atalanta.

Here’s what to watch out for in Week 1 of Serie A.

The Juventus defence

The Bianconeri have built their recent dynasty on the back of their defence, with Gianluigi Buffon protected by Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

However, one third of the ‘BBC’ swapped Turin for Milan this summer, while Dani Alves left for Paris Saint-Germain after just one season.

The result is that for the first time in recent memory, there are doubts about the Juve backline heading into the Serie A season.

Right-back is a cause for concern Mattia De Sciglio was at fault for Lazio’s third goal in the Supercoppa defeat, while Stephan Lichtsteiner was given a torried time by Moussa Sissoko in pre-season.

Perhaps more crucially, the loss of Bonucci removes arguably the finest ball playing defender in the world.

How will Juventus build the play from the back in his absence? We’ll start to get an idea against Cagliari on Saturday evening.

Read our Juventus-Cagliari preview here

Napoli to make a statement

Napoli have had perhaps their best transfer window of recent times, despite signing only Adam Ounas so far.

The Partenopei squad made a pact to stay together and try for the Scudetto, with players voluntarily returning early from their holidays.

They already play the best football in Serie A, but now they need to add silverware to their style.

Maurizio Sarri’s side face newly-promoted Verona on Saturday night, and they’ll want to lay down an early marker.

Read our Verona-Napoli preview here

Di Francesco’s Roma debut

Roma have sold Antonio Rudiger, Mohamed Salah and Leandro Paredes, but perhaps the biggest loss is on the bench.

Luciano Spalletti opted not to renew his contract, jumping ship to join Inter, and former Giallorossi midfielder Eusebio Di Francesco replaced him.

The former Sassuolo boss faces a difficult start against an Atalanta side from whom the Lupi took just one point last season.

After a record points total last season, can Roma finally win a first Scudetto since 2001? Or will the summer’s sales see them fall out of the title race?

We’ll get our first clue at 17.00 on Sunday.

Read our Atalanta-Roma preview here

The new Milan

Milan are the side everyone is talking about this summer, and for good reason.

Bonucci, Lucas Biglia and Franck Kessié have already joined, with Nikola Kalinic set to follow in the coming days.

Rossoneri fans finally have reason to be optimistic, and over 60,000 turned up at San Siro for the Europa League qualifier against Craiova.

The Champions League is the minimum aim and the Scudetto is the dream, but all eyes will be on the Stadio Ezio Scida on Sunday night.

Read our Crotone-Milan preview here

Spalletti’s Inter debut

Borja Valero and Matias Vecino will face former side Fiorentina at San Siro, but the real talking point is new Inter Coach Luciano Spalletti.

The Tuscan has said he’ll manage the Viola one day, but he’s expected to take the Nerazzurri back into the Champions League this season.

Pre-season brought encouraging signs, in contrast to last season’s chaos, but the real action starts this weekend.

Read our Inter-Fiorentina preview here

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Alisson: ‘Roma want the Scudetto’

Roma goalkeeper Alisson declares “we’re aiming for the Scudetto”, believing only Juventus are stronger.

The Giallorossi set a club record points total last season, but ultimately finished second to the Bianconeri, who won their sixth title in a row.

“In my opinion we’re very strong,” Alisson said in an interview with Sky Italia.

“We have to be focused for the whole season, and the only team ahead of us – and all the others – is Juventus.

“We have a lot of desire to win and we’re aiming for the Scudetto.

“We don’t need to be stronger on paper, but on the pitch. We need to show our desire to win. The level of Serie A has increased, it’ll be a difficult season but we’re ready.”

The Brazilian played backup to Wojciech Szczesny last season, but the Pole joined Juve this summer.

“I’m looking forward to a great year, I want to give my best in every game. Last season we only missed the Scudetto, but this year we need to improve.

“I had a year of waiting, it wasn’t easy but it helped me get to know Italian and European football.

“It’s not that different from South America, but there are small differences. I’ve worked well in pre-season and my Serie A debut will be very important for me.

“Atalanta? The numbers speak for them, last season they surprised everyone. We only took a point against them, so we hope to do better this year.

“They’re not just a technical team, but a canny one. We need to go there and want it more than them.”

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Iturbe set for Mexico?

Mexican side Club Tijuana Xolos are reportedly on the verge of signing Roma outcast Juan Iturbe.

According to Gianluca Di Marcio’s website and ABC Paraguay, Iturbe is only “details” away from joining Xolos and will land in Mexico on Saturday.

The winger is expected to initially join on a season-long loan, ahead of a permanent switch for €5m next summer.

The Giallorossi paid €24.5m to bring in the 24-year-old from Verona in 2014, but he played just 68 times in three seasons at the club, while loan spells at Bournemouth and Torino were equally disappointing.

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Five crucial fixtures for… Napoli

Ahead of the Serie A kick-off, Football Italia looks at the crucial fixtures for each of the top sides, and today it’s the turn of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.

The Partenopei have won praise from all quarters for their stylish football over the past two seasons, but their beautiful play hasn’t been rewarded with trophies.

The squad resolved to stay together for a serious assault on the Scudetto this season, and these five games will be crucial if they’re to finally win Serie A again.

Atalanta-Napoli [Week 2]

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were something of a bogey team for Napoli last season, beating them both in Bergamo and at the San Paolo.

The two sides renew acquaintances in Week 2, and if the Partenopei can take three points in Bergamo it’ll be cause for optimism ahead in their quest for a first title since 1990.

Another defeat, however, could see them lose early ground in the Scudetto race, and last season a difficult October and November is ultimately what handed Juventus the title.

Roma-Napoli [Week 8]

Roma and Napoli have been the two sides running Juve closest over the past six years, and the meet for the first time in Week 8.

The Giallorossi have undergone numerous changes this summer, while Sarri’s squad is virtually the same as the one which won five in a row at the end of the previous campaign.

This game will give us a good indication of where each side stands, and the Partenopei will be hoping to lay down an early marker.

Napoli-Juventus [Week 15]

This has become a real grudge match in recent years, particularly following Gonzalo Higuain’s move to Turin last summer.

With the Vesuviani looking to dethrone the Old Lady this season, a win at the San Paolo will be essential, while defeat is unthinkable.

Last season saw a 1-1 draw in Serie A and a 3-2 win in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg, which wasn’t enough to progress after defeat in Turin.

Napoli-Lazio [Week 24]

Napoli will be aiming to reach at least the Last 16 stage in the Champions League, but competing on two fronts can bring its issues.

The first legs of the Last 16 ties will be played on February 13 and 14, with Napoli visiting Lazio the weekend before.

Given that the Aquile are likely to be competing for a Champions League place, any rotation on a trip to the Olimpico could see the Partenopei drop vital points.

Fiorentina-Napoli [Week 35]

Week 35 brings a trip to Florence, just one week after Sarri and his men face Juventus in Turin.

While the previous match could have a greater bearing on the Scudetto race, if Napoli are in a position to win the Scudetto they can’t afford to slip in the run-in.

Their final three fixtures are Torino and Crotone at home and Sampdoria away, so a visit to the Franchi may be the final stumbling block.

Click here to read our full Serie A season preview

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Tagliavento for Inter-Fiorentina

The referees have been announced for the first weekend of Serie A, with Paolo Tagliavento taking charge of Inter-Fiorentina.

The season gets underway on Saturday evening when Juventus host Cagliari, with Fabio Maresca overseeing that game.

However, the biggest clash of the weekend is the Viola’s trip to San Siro, and Tagliavento will be the man in the middle for that match.

Elsewhere, Michael Fabbri will run the rule over Napoli’s trip to Verona, with Pierpaolo Mariani entrusted with Crotone-Milan.

Serie A Week 1 referees:

Atalanta-Roma – Piero Giacomelli
Bologna-Torino – Davide Massa
Crotone-Milan – Pierpaolo Mariani
Verona-Napoli – Michael Fabbri
Inter-Fiorentina – Paolo Tagliavento
Juventus-Cagliari – Fabio Maresca
Lazio-SPAL – Rosario Abisso
Sampdoria-Benevento – Fabrizio Pasqua
Sassuolo-Genoa – Antonio Damato
Udinese-Chievo – Claudio Gavillucci

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