Controversy mars Serie A kickoff

Saturday Fiorentina         vs     Udinese    18:00    Juventus         vs     Parma        20:45
Led by Andrea Pirlo, Juventus did not lose a league game in 2011-2012 en route to its first Serie A title in nine years. Net photo.
Led by Andrea Pirlo, Juventus did not lose a league game in 2011-2012 en route to its first Serie A title in nine years. Net photo.

Saturday
Fiorentina         vs     Udinese    18:00   
Juventus         vs     Parma        20:45   

Sunday
Milan         vs     Sampdoria    18:00   
Chievo         vs     Bologna    20:45
Genoa         vs     Cagliari
AS Roma         vs     Catania
US Pescara         vs     Inter
Atalanta         vs     Lazio
Palermo         vs     Napoli
Siena         vs     Torino

ROME - Serie A appeared to take a small step forward last season when Juventus and AC Milan fought neck and neck in a captivating title race and the former broke new ground by opening the only club-owned stadium in Serie A.

But, since then, it has taken two giant strides back with Juve coach Antonio Conte among those given lengthy bans over a match-fixing scandal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure highlighting the league’s lack of appeal to top players.

Conte, who led Juventus to the title in his first season in charge last season, will sit out this campaign after being banned for 10 months. He was accused of failing to report the manipulation of two games when he was with Siena, in Serie B at the time, in the 2010-11 season.

Siena, Torino, Atalanta and Bologna will start with points’ deductions for their involvement in the affair following a summer of investigations and hearings which ended with dozens of players sanctioned.

Even before this latest match-fixing scandal, decrepit stadiums and crowd violence had helped drain Italian football of credibility, leaving Serie A trailing behind the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga in terms of prestige.

The most obvious result of this is in the Champions League where, after dropping below the Bundesliga in the ranking system, Italy has only two teams guaranteed for the group stage, Juventus and AC Milan, with Udinese in the playoffs.

There were more positive signs last season when AC Milan, Inter Milan and Napoli qualified for the last 16. Napoli, in particular, proved revelations as they ousted big-spending Manchester City in the group stage.

The revival of Juventus was also completed when they became champions for the first time since being stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles and demoted to Serie B over the Calcioscomesse match-fixing scandal.

 

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