It's back! Serie A is back! The long, cold, lonely summer is finally over and football has returned. Hooray!
There've been a few changes to Italy's top division, of course. Pescara, Palermo and Siena have dropped down to Serie B, meaning that the league is a bit less colorful now without Maurizio Zamparini around. In their place we have Livorno, Sassuolo and Hellas Verona, so at least we'll have the insanity of the Verona fans to talk about.
If you're curious as to the individual changes occurring at each club, check out the SBN Italia previews. We've got transfers in and out, players to watch and our predictions on how each side will perform. But anything can happen in football, and that cliche seems to hold double in Italy -- so bring on the season!
Saturday , August 24
Hellas Verona vs. AC Milan (6 p.m. local; 12 noon ET)
Newcomers Hellas face a tough challenge in having to open the season playing host to Milan. The rossoneri looked lively in Eindhoven on Tuesday, with Stephan El Shaarawy opening the scoring against PSV. But some questionable defending and a blooper by Christian Abbiati brought an equalizer from PSV. Verona should be looking to exploit those same weaknesses.
Juve open their scudetto defense at Sampdoria, where the hosts will most likely just try to contain the Old Lady. Juventus were in fine form facing Lazio in the Supercoppa last weekend, putting four past Lazio and conceding none. Doria getting even a point would simply go against all the odds.
Sunday, August 25
all matches at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m.. ET unless otherwise noted
Inter Milan vs. Genoa (6 p.m. local; 12 noon ET)
Genoa have made some surprisingly smart moves during the summer, but will those adjustments be enough to get them anything at the San Siro? Walter Mazzarri is now in charge of Inter and even though, judging from preseason play, their defense looks just as shaky as last season, the nerazzurri likely won't be as laughable this time around.
If you're electing to watch this match rather than one of the other late Sunday games, it's almost certainly because you're either a Cagliari or an Atalanta supporter. In that case, you probably already know everything there is to know about these two lower mid-table sides.
After finishing all the way down in 7th last season, Lazio had no midweek matches to wear them out this week, whereas the little zebras were comprehensively beaten at home by Slovan Liberec in the Europa League. Udinese typically get off to a slow start while their players learn to recognize one another's faces, so this fixture tips in favor of the biancocelesti.
The FIGC is playing nice with Roma, giving them a nice, easy start to the season. Livorno finished third in Serie B last year, earning promotion through the playoffs, and have done little to prepare the squad for top flight football. Roma, meanwhile, are embarking on yet another new era, this time with Rudi Garcia at the helm. At least his name is easy to spell.
Napoli have experienced a bit of an upheaval this summer, losing their top goalscorer and seeing their manager take off to Inter. And with a Champions League campaign and the desire to mount a title challenge this season, the partenopei must hit the ground running. Unfortunately, they play host to Bologna, who came back from behind to beat them on their last visit to the San Paolo, and then knocked them out of the Coppa Italia there three days later.
Parma vs. Chievo Verona
Parma have announced that Nicola Sansone isn't going to Sassuolo, so that's a very good reason to watch the match. If Roberto Donadoni even puts him on the bench, that is. On the other hand, you'd have to watch the Flying Donkeys. And really, they don't fly.
Freshly promoted Sassuolo visiting a side that just wants to do whatever it takes to have a second consecutive season in Serie A. So this match should be filled with free-flowing and attacking football, with both teams throwing caution into the wind.
Monday, August 26
Fiorentina vs. Catania (6 p.m. local; 12 noon ET)
The Viola campaigned to get their opening match switched to Friday on the basis of...well, I forget now. They had a Europa League match but so did Udinese, so maybe the reasoning was simply "we're now good enough to challenge Juventus so put us in prime position to do so unless you want this league to be incredibly dull." Sounds like a perfect reason to me.