SERIE A: Juventus kick off their title bid with trip to Sampdoria

Reuters, ROME

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 - Page 18

Italian champions Juventus kick off their bid for a third successive Serie A title with a trip to UC Sampdoria, following the announcement of next season’s fixtures in a ceremony in Milan, Italy, on Monday.

Title hopefuls AC Milan visit Hellas Verona, playing their first match back in the top flight in 11 years, while Walter Mazzarri’s Inter and Rafael Benitez’s SSC Napoli both begin with home matches against Genoa and Bologna respectively.

Promoted US Sassuolo play their first-ever top-flight match away at Torino.

CURVA SUD CLOSED

AS Roma, who start their campaign with a trip to rivals AS Livorno, play their first home game of the season against Hellas Verona with the Curva Sud section of their stadium closed.

The club were handed the punishment after hardcore fans in that part of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico racially abused AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli during their last game of the season against Napoli.

FIVE DERBIES

Serie A will also host five city derbies for the first time this season.

The Rome derby between Roma and SS Lazio takes place in week four, the same week Milan host fellow title hopefuls Napoli.

Last season’s runners-up will field a restructured squad under Benitez following the sale of striker Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain.

The UEFA Champions League-winning coach has recruited Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol from Real Madrid, as well as goalkeeper Pepe Reina from Liverpool.

STANDOUT FIXTURES

Other standout fixtures include Juve’s trip to Inter in week three, while the champions host AC Milan in week seven and Napoli in week 12.

In late November, Hellas Verona will host neighbors AC Chievo Verona in their first derby match in 11 years and their third-ever meeting.

Chievo have spent 11 of the past 12 years in Serie A, while Hellas, who were traditionally the bigger team, floundered in the lower leagues and suffered financial problems.