So, the time for talking is over, its time to sink or swim. After a summer of debate, transfers, petty squabbles and the usual hirings and firings, the season is finally underway. The first weekend of Serie A gave us a few hints as to what the season may hold for a number of clubs.
The undoubted surprise of the opening weekend came at the San Siro, Milan. Inter were hosting newly promoted Bari. In the build to to their first game, coach Jose Mourinho was finding new targets all week, aiming to build his usual siege mentality. He started off with Lippi's prediction that Juve would beat Inter to the title and his need for a trequartista, and ended, bizarrely with a rant about Islam, Cambiasso's injury and the lack of a trequartista.
The game was a battle from the off, Bari pulling Inter's defence all over the pitch, and they were fortunate to scrape a draw in the end. Inter took the lead thanks to a very generous penalty, which Eto'o looked almost embarrassed to take.
Cambiasso's absence was a huge miss to them, his character and will to win vital to the champions. Taking Sulley Muntari off after 29 minutes seemed extreme, as did blaming the Muslim player's observance of Ramadan, when he was clearly seen drinking while sat on the bench. The trequartista issue seems to have become essential to Mourinho, although finding one is proving difficult, with Cassano seemingly off limits and Sneijder changing his mind as often as Jose is on TV.
Across town, something off a renaisance seems to have hit Milan. A dire preseason of losses, both on and off the field, seemed to point to a season of turmoil and trouble. An impressive performance against Siena will calm the waters, as will assured performances from Thiago, Pato, and most importantly, Ronaldinho. Creating both goals, the former world player of the year looked every inch (and a few more around the middle!) his old self.
While Inter won't give Milan the space a hapless Siena did, the Derby this weekend looks a lot more interesting than it did two weeks ago.
Licking their lips at the prospect of a struggling Inter, Ciro Ferrara's new look Juve jumped into life at home to Chievo. Racing out of the blocks from the first whistle, they continued running until the tough preseason regime took its toll in the second half. Before visibly tiring however, the Old Lady put in a great performance, debutant Diego at the heart of everything going forward, while Cannavaro looked solid in defence.
A well executed set piece led to Iaquinta's header, with Chievo fortunate not to lose much more heavily. The Veronese did create a few chances, but Juventus had enough to hold them off comfortably. The likely addition of Fabio Grosso should provide the one thing lacking from this game, width.
Palermo, Napoli, Genoa, and Roma served up two entertaining games. All four had plenty of chances to win, with Palermo and Genoa holding onto three precious points. The first week had plenty of excitement everywhere you looked.
Every game in Serie A had goals, Inter didn't win, Milan did. Juve were, well, Juve. Genoa are top. Roma, Inter, and Fiorentina are all in the bottom half. The unpredictable, always entertaining, never dull Serie A season has begun!
This time next week the squads will be completed and the European Group stages will be drawn. With the Milan derby and Roma versus Juventus, we should have a much clearer idea of what the season may bring.
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