Fiorentina hosts Napoli in Serie A opening weekend headline fixture

Parma vs Juventus

Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

Saturday, 24-08-2019 @7pm

Serie A makes its long-awaited return with a true nostalgic clash, but Maurizio Sarri is unlikely to be on the Juventus bench against Parma.

The new Bianconeri boss is suffering from pneumonia and still undergoing treatment, but has been keeping up to date with the squad’s training sessions via a video link and his trusted staff. It’s one of a few areas of uncertainty for a revamped squad with completely different tactical approach to the eight years under Antonio Conte and Max Allegri. Sarri has always taken a while to get going with new teams, so not even being there in person will only stall his progress further.

This is a fixture that had many thrilling encounters from the past, including the 1994-1995 campaign, when the clubs went head to head on three fronts, including the UEFA Cup Final.

The hosts have already kicked off their season, having beaten Venezia in the Coppa Italia last week, while La Vecchia Signora will be looking to start their pursuit of a record-extending ninth straight Scudetto with a victory in Emilia-Romagna.

Parma have added a few pieces so far in their summer mercato, with Andrea Adorante at €5m from Inter being their biggest investment. However so far in pre-season and in the cup game last week, Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Brugman has been a pillar in Coach Roberto D’Aversa’s team already. Speedy winger Yann Karamoh is also one to look out for this coming campaign.

Whilst Juve have added in demand centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and even brought back goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, their sales can be seen as head scratchers. Allowing right-back Joao Cancelo and striker Moise Kean to leave brought in much-needed cash, but a willingness to ship Paulo Dybala around Europe has been a bone of contention for many Juventini.

Parma were the ultimate counter-attack specialists last season and that is probably still the case, albeit with a slightly more expansive style this time around. Karamoh and Gervinho guarantee pace to turn teams over quickly, while Roberto Inglese – back permanently now after his loan from Napoli – is unbeatable in the air.

We could very well see an entertaining score draw on Saturday afternoon. Leonardo Bonucci is expected to get the nod alongside Giorgio Chiellini rather than throw Matthijs de Ligt in for his Serie A debut from the start, while Douglas Costa is preferred to Federico Bernardeschi. Cristiano Ronaldo has fully recovered from his muscular issues.

Juraj Kucka is in doubt for the hosts, so Gaston Brugman or Alberto Grassi could step in. Karamoh is a more attacking choice than Luca Siligardi and should be fascinating on the same flank as Ronaldo and Alex Sandro.

Juve have played Parma in the opening Serie A round three times and won all of them in 1990-91, 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Fiorentina vs Napoli

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence

Saturday, 24-08-2019 @9:45pm

Fiorentina are recharged under new ownership and they are going to need full power as they welcome Scudetto contenders Napoli.

Last season is one to forget for La Viola, as they barely survived the relegation dogfight. It’s time to look ahead for Vincenzo Montella and his men, who have revamped the squad and have new President Rocco Commisso with ambitious plans.

They will dive headfirst into a real battle against Carlo Ancelotti’s fearsome Napoli, where one point would be a good deal for the home team. However, optimism should be the outlook, as a new owner and new players signify new dawn for the Tuscan team, and they should go straight for the jugular. A good result would be a tonic for the young squad.

Veteran superstar Franck Ribery has arrived just in time for Serie A kick-off. Whether he will make his debut on the left flank is in doubt, but should be on the bench. Erick Pulgar was a pillar in the midfield in Bologna’s desperate surge for survival last season and is almost certain to make his debut in a Viola jersey. Returning Milan Badelj can start too, but Pol Lirola picked up an injury during the hard-fought 3-1 Coppa Italia win over Monza.

Napoli will have another go at trying to beat Juventus to the Scudetto, and only three points will be acceptable for the Partenopei. They have very bad memories of this stadium, as a 3-0 loss here with Kalidou Koulibaly’s early dismissal proved the turning point in the title race two years ago.

A key signing has already been made in Kostas Manolas, brought in from Roma to unite with Koulibaly. Napoli, on paper at least, boast one of the strongest central defensive partnerships in football.

Fiorentina went nine games straight without finding the net at the end of last season and struggled badly to break down Serie C side Monza in the Coppa Italia. Giovanni Simeone has fallen out of favour and Kevin-Prince Boateng is rusty after six months on the Barcelona bench.

Cristiano Biraghi is unlikely to feature amid negotiations for a move to Inter, leaving only inexperienced Lorenzo Venuti.

Arkadiusz Milik is not fully fit, so Dries Mertens should lead the way with support from Lorenzo Insigne, Piotr Zielinski and Jose Callejon. Hirving Lozano only arrived from PSV Eindhoven midweek, so might not even be on the bench.

This is the fourth time Napoli pay a visit to the Artemio Franchi on opening day. They lost the first attempt in 1950, followed by two victories and a 1-1 draw, most recently in 2010.

Udinese vs AC Milan

Dacia Arena, Udine

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @7pm

Marco Giampaolo is the new Coach of Milan, but the line-up against Udinese should look pretty familiar.

The Rossoneri seem unlikely to have many summer signings in the starting XI, as Ismael Bennacer, Rade Krunic and Leo Duarte all arrived quite late to the party. The only one who might push his way in is Rafael Leao in place of transfer-listed Samu Castillejo, as their brief pre-season friendly test showed a good rapport with Krzysztof Piatek.

Suso is a mainstay in the Milan side, but has been revamped as a trequartista in Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation. Mattia Caldara and Theo Hernandez are injured, with Franck Kessie some way off match fitness.

For Udinese, it seems like it’ll be another season-long struggle to avoid relegation. Rodrigo De Paul and Seko Fofana, two of their more influential players, appear to be on the way out to Fiorentina and Atalanta respectively, with no new signings to replace them in sight.

That’s in the future, though, as it’s likely both will still be available for this opening fixture, joining Ignacio Pussetto in support of Kevin Lasagna. Sebastien De Maio is on the treatment table, with Hidde Ter-Avest and Giuseppe Pezzella also in doubt, so Becao could get his debut.

These sides met in the opening Serie A round on four occasions, resulting in a Milan victory and three consecutive stalemates.

Cagliari vs Brescia

Serdegna Arena, Cagliari

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

Cagliari and Brescia have invested heavily and hope to challenge for mid-table more than just Serie A safety this season.

The Rondinelle topped Serie B last term, gaining promotion under Eugenio Corini’s first year in charge, but will have to hope that their sensational signing Mario Balotelli will indeed be crucial in their pursuit for safety, although the 29-year-old will be sitting out a ban for the first four matches.

The Sardinians had an active transfer campaign, fueled primarily by the sale of promising talent Nicolò Barella, which allowed a homecoming for Inter outcast Radja Nainggolan, return for Luca Pellegrini, on loan from Juventus, plus Marko Rog (suspended for this game) and Nahitan Nandez in midfield.

The club was wise to stick with Coach Rolando Maran, putting at his disposal an exciting team that will undoubtedly produce many surprises this season, while also giving continuity to a project started years ago.

Fresh from a 2-1 victory against Chievo in the Coppa Italia qualifiers, Cagliari will probably field the same 4-3-1-2 formation, with Nandez, Nainggolan and Artur Ionita in the middle of the park, a trequartista role for Valter Birsa behind experienced duo Joao Pedro and Leonardo Pavoletti. Rafael is set to replace first-choice goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, who will be out for two months due to a shoulder injury.

Brescia are expected to deploy a similar formation, with Alfredo Donnarumma and Ernesto Torregrossa leading the attack, while 19-year-old sensation Sandro Tonali will be handed creative duties in a deep-lying playmaker position. Mario Balotelli and Ales Mateju sit out bans, while ex-Cagliari captain Daniele Dessena and Emanuele Ndoj are unavailable due to injury.

These sides have met 18 times in Serie A and only shared the spoils twice, but they haven’t met in the top flight since April 2011.

Hellas Verona vs Bologna

Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentagodi, Verona

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

Hellas Verona have stuttered in pre-season and host an ambitious Bologna, but both Coaches are absent for very different reasons.

Neither tactician will be on the bench at the Stadio Bentegodi for this season opener. Verona boss Ivan Juric is suspended, making way for assistant Matteo Paro, who followed him from the latest spell at Genoa. Sinisa Mihajlovic will watch on from his hospital bed, as he has done throughout the summer via live-streaming technology, as he undergoes chemotherapy for leukaemia. Trusty assistant Miroslav Tanjga is keeping the bench warm for him until he is well enough to return, but Bologna are at pains to point out Mihajlovic absolutely remains the Coach, giving instructions and wall-shaking team talks remotely.

The Rossoblu surged up the standings once Mihajlovic took over from Pippo Inzaghi last season, going from relegation favourites to comfortable mid-table success story thanks to nine wins, three draws and five losses. They invested heavily this summer with Takehiro Tomiyasu, Stefano Denswil, Jerdy Schouten, Andreas Skov Olsen and the confirmation of players previously on loan like Riccardo Orsolini, Nicola Sansone and Roberto Soriano.

Blerim Dzemaili and Schouten are on the treatment table, with Orsolini recovering from a shoulder injury. Mattia Destro and Federico Santander are battling for the centre-forward role, supported by evergreen Rodrigo Palacio. They started the campaign on the right foot, flattening Pisa 3-0 in the Coppa Italia with Andrea Poli, Orsolini and Palacio on target.

Verona already crashed out of the Coppa Italia last week, losing 2-1 to Cremonese in extra time. It does not bode well for a side that must be among the favourites to drop straight back down.

Luigi Vitale and Samuele Di Carmine are suspended for this season opener, with Emmanuel Badu undergoing treatment for a pulmonary embolism, which could’ve been extremely serious if not spotted so quickly. Veteran defender Salvatore Bocchetti is carrying a knee injury.

Verona have won just one of their nine Serie A season openers as a newly-promoted side, drawing one and losing the other seven.

Roma vs Genoa

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

Both Roma and Genoa enter the 2019-20 Serie A season hoping to redeem themselves under new Coaches after poor campaigns.

The Giallorossi finished sixth last year and were only granted automatic qualification for the Europa League due to Milan’s issues with Financial Fair Play. The Grifone, on the other hand, left it to the last match of the season to escape relegation and remain in Serie A purely thanks to their head-to-head record with Empoli.

In the wake of their worst league finish since the 2012-13 season (in which they also came sixth), Roma brought in a slew of replacements all across the board. Gianluca Petrachi came in to replace Monchi as the new sporting director, Paulo Fonseca took up the managerial role following Claudio Ranieri’s return to the club as caretaker manager, and the additions of Pau Lopez, Leonardo Spinazzola, Amadou Diawara and more speak volumes to the direction the club wants to head toward.

Like Roma, Genoa also brought in a new Coach and players following their disappointing season. The nine-time Serie A winners were on the brink of relegation and seemed set for the drop, but a 0-0 draw with Fiorentina on the final matchday saw them remain in Italy’s top flight.

Former Empoli and Roma boss Aurelio Andreazzoli came in to replace Cesare Prandelli, and Lasse Schöne was their marquee signing from Ajax. Andrea Favilli, Stefano Sturaro and Ionut Radu remain, so there is a lot of promise surrounding this Genoa side. The only direction for Genoa is up, so expect them to come out determined to start things off on the right foot.

Spinazzola is out injured and likely to miss the Rome Derby too, so Alessandro Florenzi and Jesus Kolarov should act as full-backs. Diego Perotti impressed in pre-season and Nicolò Zaniolo can take on a trequartista role.

Genoa have both Marko Pajac and Kevin Agudelo suspended, while Riccardo Saponara and Sturaro are on the treatment table. Christian Kouame hopes to use his pace against the ageing Roma back-line.

Considering the strength of both sides, as well as Roma’s outstanding home record against Genoa, it’s hard to go against the Giallorossi edging the visitors out here.

Roma have won the last 13 league matches at the Stadio Olimpico against Genoa, which is their longest active home winning streak against any current Serie A side.

Sampdoria vs Lazio

Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

Lazio await injury updates for this very tricky trip to Sampdoria, which will feel like a derby for Eusebio Di Francesco.

The former Roma Coach was sacked just days after a heavy defeat to Simone Inzaghi’s men back in March, so has extra motivation to make a good impression on his Serie A debut with the Blucerchiati.

Samp have already played one competitive match, a hard-fought 3-1 Coppa Italia victory away to Crotone on August 18, coming back from a goal down. Fabio Quagliarella converted a penalty in that tie and is hoping to carry on where he left off last season, as Capocannoniere. Gonzalo Maroni also found the net, before he was stretchered off with a badly-sprained ankle. The Argentine is therefore expected to miss out, along with suspended Fabio Depaoli, while Gaston Ramirez and Gianluca Caprari are favourites to start rather than Manolo Gabbiadini.

Lazio have to wait on injuries too, as Manuel Lazzari could remarkably start just days after fracturing a metacarpal bone in his hand. The former SPAL star had surgery to stabilise it and insists he has no problems playing with a protective cast, having already fractured his wrist some time ago.

Lucas Leiva and Felipe Caicedo are major doubts with muscular concerns, while Jony Rodriguez is still waiting for his international transfer to come through following Malaga’s legal action. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic seems to have recovered and is fit to start in midfield with Denis Vavro tipped for a defensive spot.

Lazio won the Coppa Italia and therefore qualified for the Europa League, but lost focus in Serie A and finished just one place above Samp in the final standings. Inzaghi had his men more concentrated during the summer, winning all their friendlies against the likes of Bournemouth and Celta Vigo.

Lazio have won 11 of their last 15 Serie A meetings with Sampdoria, home and away, losing only once.

SPAL vs Atalanta

Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

Atalanta made history last season with a third-place finish, but have it all to do again with this trip to Andrea Petagna’s SPAL.

The Bergamaschi are coming back energized and confident following the most successful campaign in the club’s history. Not only did they reach the Coppa Italia Final, but also qualified for the Champions League, ending the season ahead of Inter, Milan and Roma.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s men make the trip to the Stadio Paolo Mazza, a ground which has proven difficult in the past, with the hopes of starting the new campaign with the full three points. La Dea are coming off an eventful pre-season in which they played five friendlies, losing three and winning two.

Coming into the year certain of Champions League football, Atalanta have added to their arsenal of players, including Luis Muriel, Martin Skrtel and Ruslan Malinovskyi to help compete at a higher level. However, Josip Ilicic and goalkeeper Marco Sportiello are suspended for this opening weekend in Serie A, while Timothy Castagne is out injured.

SPAL on the other hand are coming into this match enthusiastic to start the season on the right foot and give their home fans a well-deserved show. The men from Ferrara finished last term in 13th position, and despite the loss of star player Manuel Lazzari to Lazio, will be aiming to finish even higher this year.

The style of Coach Leonardo Semplici is not unlike Gasperini, as both focus on attacking and entertaining football built around a three-man defence. Andrea Petagna experienced both, as he left Atalanta for SPAL and enjoyed the most prolific season of his career.

The Spallini have already played a competitive game last week, beating Serie C side Feralpisalò3-1 in the Coppa Italia, despite going behind within 60 seconds of that tie.

The Biancazzurri will have to live without Algerian international Mohamed Fares on the wing, as he will be sidelined for several months with a serious knee injury, but will be energized by the introduction of new boys Marco D’Alessandro (on loan from Atalanta) and Federico Di Francesco.

Atalanta have lost the first game of the season more than any other team in Serie A, with 27 losses. Their only previous Week 1 encounter with SPAL ended 0-0 in 1954.

Torino vs Sassuolo

Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Torino

Sunday, 25-08-2019 @9:45pm

After a 3-2 home defeat to Wolves in their Europa League play-off, Torino will have to refocus as they welcome Sassuolo for their Serie A season opener.

The Granata will be bitterly disappointed with that result, as it leaves them with a mountain to climb ahead of the return leg in England next week, as coming back from conceding three away goals to a team like Wolves is not a situation they wanted to find themselves in.

There will be little time to lick their wounds, however. As Torino are certainly well aware, Sassuolo have built their reputation on causing all sorts of trouble for the bigger teams in Serie A since they burst onto the scene in 2013, and if they have been able to beat the likes of Juventus, Inter and Milan, then a smaller outfit like the Granata would be no exception for the plucky Neroverdi.

Over the summer, they’ve added players like West Ham’s Pedro Obiang, himself no stranger to Serie A having spent time with Sampdoria in the past, and experienced striker Francesco Caputo, who valiantly attempted to keep Empoli afloat in the top flight last season with his goal-scoring efforts.

Domenico Berardi and Francesco Magnanelli sit out bans, with Alfred Duncan and Filip Djuricic injured. That means Jeremie Boga and Caputo should be joined by Enrico Brignola in the trident attack.

Torino, meanwhile, will few real options for squad rotation even if they wanted to, as Iago Falque, Simone Edera, Vittorio Parigini and Lyanco are on the treatment table. Alex Berenguer and Soualiho Meite were particularly poor against Wolves, while Ola Aina should get his first start of the season in place of Cristian Ansaldi.

Walter Mazzarri has never lost to Sassuolo as a Coach, drawing two and winning four, including two different 7-0 results for Inter.

Inte Milan vs Lecce

Stadio, Guiseppe Meazza, Milan

Monday, 26-08-2019 @9:45pm

Antonio Conte makes his Inter debut by welcoming his hometown club Lecce to San Siro on Monday evening.

The Nerazzurri have changed both personnel and Coach since scraping into fourth place on the final day of last season.

Antonio Conte replaced Luciano Spalletti and reunited with his former Juventus director of sport Beppe Marotta and they have gone about their business in trying to build a competitive team.

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku arrived from Manchester United for around €65m plus €13m in possible bonuses and will be expected to fire in the goals that former captain Mauro Icardi used to score. The Argentine hitman is still refusing to leave the club and won’t feature in this game, despite his threats to remain in Milan and fight his way back into the side. He’ll be supported by Lautaro Martinez, fresh from an impressive Copa America performance.

The Beneamata overhauled their midfield by bringing young Italy internationals Nicolò Barella and Stefano Sensi from Cagliari and Sassuolo respectively.

Uruguayan defender Diego Godin also arrived from Atletico Madrid on a free transfer, but is unlikely to feature in this tie, as he is struggling with injury.

Lecce, on the other hand, gained promotion from Serie B by finishing as runners-up to Brescia and will partake in their first top-flight campaign since the 2011-2012 season.

The Giallorossi have already been in action this summer, when they beat Salernitana 4-0 in the Coppa Italia last weekend. Former Milan striker Gianluca Lapadula bagged himself a brace and will be expected to lead the line for the Southern team this year.

The Salentini have also brought in defenders Luca Rossettini and Andrea Rispoli to add some much-needed Serie A experience, however, they will still be considered as one of the favourites to be relegated. Like many newly-promoted teams, they’ve made the potential mistake of transforming the squad without much time for them to gel.

It will be down to Coach Fabio Liverani to mastermind the great escape by avoiding the drop, and if they can pick up anything out of this game, they will be well on their way.

Expect this game to be a first test for the Nerazzurri’s title credentials and Conte will have his men prepared to hit the ground running. Sassuolo caught the Milanese outfit napping on the first day of last season by winning 1-0 at the Mapei Stadium, this year they’ll need to kickstart their campaign with a win if they are to be taken seriously as contenders.

There is a growing theme in recent years, as Inter have lost two of the last three season openers. However, Lecce have never won a Serie A Week 1 fixture, managing only six draws from 15 attempts.

Lecce have lost 14 of their 15 Serie A trips to Inter, the only exception being a 1-0 victory in November 2000.



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