AC Milan will open their 2014-15 Serie A account on Sunday when they receive a visit from Lazio, pitting two coaches making their debuts with their respective teams against each other.
Pippo Inzaghi and Stefano Pioli are both tasked with turning around the fortunes of two of Italy's most storied clubs and fans will be expecting both coaches to start the new campaign on a positive note.
Sunday's opener will be pivotal for both clubs' Serie A season, setting the tone for either a season of redemption or more of the same.
Date: Sunday, August 31
Time: 5 p.m. BST/Noon, ET
Venue: San Siro, Milan
TV info and live stream: The match will be broadcast on BT Sport 1 (for UK viewers) and Rai International (for US Viewers), with mobile coverage available via the BT Sport app and BeIN Sports Connect.
Once the pride of Italian football, both Milan and Lazio endured nightmare campaigns during the 2013-14 season. Neither club finished high enough to qualify for any of the European competitions, prompting drastic changes for both the Rossoneri and Biancocelesti.
Their approaches were largely different, however. Milan are banking on the young talent available to the squad and the excitement surrounding Inzaghi's coaching tenure, offloading numerous top players from years past in the form of Mario Balotelli, Robinho and Ricardo Kaka.
Lacking the funds associated with a top club, Milan pursued value-targets in the transfer market, like Jeremy Menez, Adil Rami and Pablo Armero. As reported by Football Italia, Adriano Galliani believes spirits are up following victory in the Trofeo TIM:
"I noted a really good atmosphere. Winning the TIM Trophy was good for self-confidence. Inzaghi? He’s really motivated - he has an intense desire and calls me continuously. He’s more than focused."
The attacking trio of Stephan El Shaarawy, Menez and Keisuke Honda should be Milan's greatest weapons in 2014-15, and they will get their first chance to shine on Sunday.
The upcoming campaign will be a make-or-break year for El Shaarawy in particular. The young winger regressed after a promising first six months with the club, held back by injury and a lack of synergy with Balotelli.
Once again the top option in front of goal, El Shaarawy will have to prove he's truly a potential world-class option for the Rossoneri during the 2014-15 season.
Lazio hired Pioli to do what Inzaghi plans to do for Milan, but with the exception of Helder Postiga and Giuseppe Biava, the Romans hardly lost any key contributors from last season.
Marco Parolo and Stefan de Vrij were the two big arrivals for the Biancocelesti in the summer of 2014, and they should add to a squad that is far more talented that last year's ninth-place finish would indicate.
Stefano Mauri told Football Italia Milan will present the club with a stiff challenge:
Milan did not have a good pre-season, but in the TIM Trophy they have shown to be ready. It’s up to us to prove that we are stronger - we hope to start in on the right foot and bring Lazio back to the top.
The new players and Coach have brought enthusiasm and desire. Changing the Coach is never easy for several reasons. The relationship between the players and Coach is always important, and right now it is to understand what the Coach wants.
Not unlike El Shaarawy, Marchetti regressed tremendously during the 2013-14 season, and in order to save his spot on the Italian national team, he'll need a big 2014-15 season to remain ahead of promising youngsters like Mattia Perin and Simone Scuffet.
The upcoming Serie A season is one filled with questions, following the resignation of Juventus' Antonio Conte and Italy's disappointing performance at the 2014 World Cup.
On Sunday, the question of whether Inzaghi and Pioli can right the ship and start their tenures with a strong result will finally be answered.
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