Scudetto favourites Juve begin season on a high

22 August 2013 12:16

Reinforced Juventus begin the defence of their Serie A crown with an away trip to Sampdoria on Saturday, when newly-promoted Verona host Milan in the opening match of the 2013/2014 season.

Juventus were virtually untouchable last season as coach Antonio Conte led the Bianconeri to a second consecutive scudetto with a nine-point cushion on Napoli.

And the Turin giants have already fired a warning shot to their scudetto rivals by routing Lazio 4-0 in the Italian Super Cup at the Olympic Stadium.

Former Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, one of Juve's two major signings along with Fernando Llorente, marked his official debut for the Old Lady with a second-half goal on Sunday and says Juve can go far this season.

"This Juve side can go far, and win another scudetto, but we still have room to improve," said Tevez, who took the bold step of likening Conte to another former coach, Alex Ferguson, whose near 27-year tenure of Manchester United ended last season.

"In some ways Conte reminds me of Ferguson. He leaves nothing to chance."

Conte's only major absence for Saturday's away trip is injured midfielder Claudio Marchisio, although with Frenchman Paul Pogba in fine form that is unlikely to worry the Juve handler.

The 44-year-old is already considered one of Italy's most astute coaches and Sunday's victory has installed the Bianconeri as firm scudetto favourites.

Napoli, Milan and to a lesser extent Inter -- who finished a disappointing ninth last season and will miss Europe altogether -- will be hoping it does not all go Juve's way.

Napoli face Bologna at home on Sunday still feeling buoyed by their second-place finish, under former coach Walter Mazzarri - now at Inter - which secured a long-awaited return to the Champions League.

But the departure of Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, whose league-leading 29 goals played a huge role in that achievement, to Paris Saint Germain is likely to be felt.

New Napoli boss Rafael Benitez has signed Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain as a direct replacement and will expect results from the Franco-Argentine, who scored 121 goals in a six-year spell with Real.

Benitez -- who also brought in goalkeeper Pepe Reina on loan from Liverpool as well as Real Madrid pair Raul Albiol and Jose Maria Callejon -- believes Napoli's demanding fans are ready to get behind him.

"The side is evolving, the city is feeling buoyant and the fans are behind us. That is a key factor for us," said the Spaniard.

"I don't know what can happen, but I'm sure we will be very, very competitive."

Milan's third-place finish last year was impressive, given they lay in 13th place 17 points adrift of Juventus after only 12 games last season.

Massimiliano Allegri hung on to his job by the skin of his teeth and after a 1-1 draw away to PSV Eindhoven in the third qualifying round of the Champions League on Tuesday, the Rossoneri open the Serie A season at the Marcantonio Bentegodi stadium in Verona.

Newly-installed captain Riccardo Montolivo, who replaced Fiorentina-bound Massimo Ambrosini, believes the woes suffered by the seven-times European champions last season were merely a blip.

"We are more of a team than we were a year ago," the Italian international told the Gazzetta dello Sport recently.

"We are stronger and we feel ready for the season.

"Juventus are the scudetto favourites. but a lot of clubs - Inter, Roma, Fiorentina, Napoli and Milan - won't be far behind.

"Our main aim is to be consistently among the top three."

Fixtures (times GMT)


Verona v AC Milan (1700), Sampdoria v Juventus (1945)


Inter Milan v Genoa (1700), Cagliari v Atalanta, Lazio Udinese, Livorno v Roma, Napoli v Bologna, Parma v Chievo, Torino v Sassuolo, Fiorentina v Catania (all 1945)


Source: AFP