Italy Serie A returns with a bang as leading pair clash

Reuters, Thursday 17 Oct 2013

Millions around the world will watch Napoli vs. Roma in the Serie A on Friday, says Napoli president

File photo: Napoli vs. AS Roma in 2011 Serie A season (Photo: Reuters)

Serie A's leading pair and biggest spenders AS Roma and Napoli clash on Friday evening in a match which has the sort of international appeal that Italian domestic football used to dish up on a weekly basis.

The match brings together two teams whose early performances have given a much-needed lift to a league generally seen as in perennial decline and challenged the dominance of Juventus, champions for the last two seasons.

Hosts and leaders Roma have made a remarkable start under new coach Rudi Garcia, winning all seven league games, blasting 20 goals and conceding only one.

Their last two games have seen them flatten Bologna 5-0 and beat Inter Milan 3-0 at San Siro.

Napoli, under former Chelsea, Inter and Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, are only two points behind, with only a draw at home to table-propping Sassuolo costing them a 100 per cent record and 18 goals in the bank

"Millions of people around the world will watch the match," said Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, a film producer who said he would watch the game from Los Angeles where he is on a visit.

"Napoli have never been afraid of anyone because we have a great coach and great players. I think the scudetto will be three-horse race, although I hope others such as Inter Milan and Fiorentina can join it."

"I hope it's a civilised battle, focused on maximum sporting respect, both on the field and in the stands and I appeal to our fans to be as extraordinary as they always are, whether we win, lose or draw."

Napoli spent around 86 million euros ($116.03 million) in the transfer market during the close season, with 37 million going on striker Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid.

However, De Laurentiis pointed out that they still made a profit on their dealings thanks the 64 million euros they received from Paris St Germain for Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani.

"We have shown the Napoli can create something positive," said Di Laurentiis.

"We are one of the few clubs who are in the black."

Roma, led by evergreen 37-year-old forward Francesco Totti, were the second biggest spenders and could not be more different than the erratic, bickering outfit who struggled into sixth place last term.

Unfortunately, Serie A was forced to bring the game forward to Friday, just three days after the World Cup qualifiers, because of a protest march due to be held in the capital on Saturday.

As a result, some of the players involved in matches in South America may only return on the day of the game itself.

Juventus, who are level with Napoli on 19 points, are at sixth-placed Fiorentina on Sunday (1300).

They will be missing strikers Fabio Quagliarella, who has been ruled out for three weeks with a thigh muscle injury, and Mirko Vucinic, who is also injured, leaving either Sebastian Giovinco or Fernando Llorente to partner Carlos Tevez in attack.

Troubled AC Milan, who host Udinese on Saturday, were ordered into a pre-match training camp by coach Massimiliano Allegri after a poor start which has seen them take eight points from seven games.

"It is not punitive," chief executive Adriano Galliani told the club's official television channel.

"We told the players and coaching staff that Milan cannot be satisfied with 12th place in Serie A. They must be concentrated and stay together, so the 'ritiro' seems to be the best option."

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