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Friday September 13 2013
The sibling rivalry of a Scudetto

Saturday’s Inter-Juventus tie is the first of a number of close encounters which could shape the Serie A season, writes Dave Taylor.

Once upon a time, there were seven sisters. They were made up of Juventus, Milan, Inter, Parma, Lazio, Roma and Fiorentina. They invariably contested and won many of Europe’s top prizes. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, beset by financial problems le sette sorelle broke up and went their separate ways.

Now, boosted by an astute summer of buying and selling, the siblings have been reunited – well, almost. Take out Parma and Lazio, then add Napoli and you have six sides seemingly intent on returning Serie A to those glory days.

The Inter-Juventus clash this weekend is the opening salvo in a run of crucial ties over the next three matchdays that involves all six. Week 4 sees Milan entertain Napoli and Roma play Lazio, while Inter will welcome Fiorentina in Week 5. And although these results won’t mean too much statistically at this stage of the season, they could give an early insight as to who will finish where.

These new six sisters have made their intentions clear with their financial outlays over the summer and by collecting, with the exception of Milan, maximum points from the first two rounds.

The biggest spenders were Napoli who laid out over €70m, with their record €37.5m capture of Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain their most impressive swoop. Other new recruits included Spanish forward Jose Callejon and defender Raul Albiol, Belgian international Dries Mertens and Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael. Fellow custodian Pepe Reina was netted on loan from Liverpool.

“We have targeted players with a few years of experience, players who can hit the ground running,” clarified new Coach Rafa Benitez. When you factor in the contract extensions to the “priceless” Marek Hamsik and the explosive Lorenzo Insigne, Benitez could not have made his intentions any clearer.

Fiorentina also made some exciting buys with dynamic young Coach Vincenzo Montella partnering €15.5m striker Mario Gomez with a revitalised Giuseppe Rossi. Add in experienced Milan veteran Massimo Ambrosini, the menacing attacking midfielder Josip Ilicic and they too will be looking towards a top spot. The Scudetto, though, remains a big ask.

Roma are another club who purchased big, with almost €50m spent on three players. Serbian star Adem Ljajic, the ultra-classy defender Mehdi Benatia and top midfielder Kevin Strootman all arrived and played their parts in their two wins as the Giallorossi look to seriously compete despite some high profile sales.

On the other hand, Milan started slowly by losing their first game at Verona. But as Zenit’s former Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti said: “Milan are Milan.” He also reminded us that a side labelled as horrifying during the early part of 2012-13 still ended the campaign in third. On paper, Milan will be competitive following the signings of Andrea Poli, Matias Silvestre and Alessandro Matri. If Kaka is anything like his old self then the Diavolo could be hard to stop – especially if Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy both deliver.

Inter also had a busy transfer window with some established performers like Napoli stopper Hugo Campagnaro reinforcing the squad alongside some potential stars of tomorrow in the shape of Mauro Icardi and Ishak Belfodil. The most crucial capture, though, could be that of Walter Mazzarri – a tactician who has already given his side a new identity.

The Beneamata’s credentials will be tested in the Derby d’Italia clash on Saturday. Inter President Massimo Moratti thinks his team can close the gap on Juventus, with former club legend Ronaldo believing Inter will have a great season without the pressures of European involvement.

That’s a possibility, but Juventus are still rightly regarded as favourites for the Scudetto. Yet the Nerazzurri did break Juve’s unbeaten run last season with a trident formation foiling lynchpin Andrea Pirlo and cutting off the Bianconeri’s obvious superiority in midfield. If they can repeat the trick, there might just be something in Juve director general Beppe Marotta’s warning that Inter are among the title favourites.

“It will be a tough match for us, it will be important to determine our quality, but also the quality of our opponents, who I think can compete for Scudetto,” he said. Whatever the result though, a game in Week 3 will not decide the destiny of the tournament.

It could demonstrate, though, how strong Inter really are as a defensive unit. They are yet to concede this term after only Pescara let in more goals than them in 2012-13. Carlos Tevez will provide some questions given his three goals in three games so far. The Argentine has been the key addition to the Old Lady, adding a touch of class in the one department the Old Lady had been lacking in. Will he be the key factor in Juve’s search for a hat-trick of Scudetti?

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Have your say...
Udinese might have something to say about this
on the 18th September, 2013 at 8:56pm
Its juves league to lose. If anyone will take it from them I think the only possible team is napoli. Inter no chance. Milans defence is to weak (im a milan fan!) Kaka isnt the player that left and its very sad that wev returned to our old ways of bringing in old past it players- kaka WAS a milan legend I fear his return will shadow the greatness he once brought to our club. As for others like roma the lack of consistency and big name exits I think will make it another trophyless year for many.
on the 14th September, 2013 at 12:33am
I wish Inter would've brought in some Italian players since they don't contribute anything to la Nazionale
on the 13th September, 2013 at 11:51pm
Inter are basicly the same team as last year but what is different is hopefully the injury problem is over with and mazzari. This is important because aside from the injuries defense was their main problem. Mazzari I believe has fixed this and inter seem more concentrated on the defensive side of things also other than this there are some young new offensive weapons but the core of the team is still there and also some players are starting to step up
on the 13th September, 2013 at 11:11pm
Inter are by far the finished article & are already looking good.
on the 13th September, 2013 at 2:32pm
Juve looks to strong to me. Mazzari aside, Inter still do not have any depth to compete with the top sides.
on the 13th September, 2013 at 1:54pm
Now as a Milan fan I can't finish without a rant...we have no right backs for this weekend! Looks like a combination of Milan Lab and luck have hit again! That swap deal of Antonini for the electric signing of Valter Birsa is looking like a really good bit of business already and I can't wait to see our defence line up tomorrow with Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Emanuelson. Yeah! Kaka if you still belong to Jesus ask him to save us!
on the 13th September, 2013 at 1:09pm
Let's get that W ...FORZA JUVE
on the 13th September, 2013 at 1:07pm
As a Milan fan Juve are already way ahead and the title is theirs to lose. Inter are concerning as are Napoli and Roma and Fiorentina could come from the outside. The rest of the league contains various mines such as Udinese, Sampdoria, Parma, Cagliari, Catania and I think Verona and Sassuolo will cause more upsets. Hopefully its an exciting season in store!
on the 13th September, 2013 at 1:03pm
A bit harsh on Lazio I feel. They were a strong side last season although went off the rails at the end and still don't seem to have recovered. Notwithstanding the relatively quiet summer I think they've got a good coach, they've got Klose, they held onto Radu and Hernanes so they're pretty much the same as last season i.e. could be pushing for a top 3 finish. They are admittedly outside bets compared to other teams who have strengthened.
on the 13th September, 2013 at 1:02pm
Whatever be the outcome of the Inter-Juve match won't convince me of Inter's revival to the status of title challenger or Juve's supremacy and 3rd consecutive scudetto..the first 11 weeks will see the sisters take on themsleves..but it is the pretenders that I fear,in the shape of Udinese,Lazio(maybe Roma,these days)..and the party spoilers,Sampdoria,Catania,Cagliari
If we can replicate last seasons form then I could be looking at a 3rd Viola scudetto
We fear no foe,the confidence is high
Forza!
on the 13th September, 2013 at 11:43am

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