Mou & Ibra almost overshadow new season

We might have known that it wouldn’t take long for Jose Mourinho to return to haunt one half of Milan.

The Special One will back at the San Siro when Real Madrid face AC Milan in the Champions League.

He will be something of the evil twin of Ricky Kaka who slipped out of the city without a ciao, ciao - and had to wait until Real played the Rossoneri in Europe to thank everyone for helping him for a leg-up in his career.

Subsequent events have suggested that his time in Italy is probably as good as it will get for the Brazilian but who knows if last season will turn out to be a similar football-epithet for the Portuguese.

One thing is certain when Real pitch up at their hotel they will be mobbed by Inter fans who can’t wait for such a special return.

The draw set the pulse racing to varying degrees for each of Italy’s group stage representatives.

The defending champions, who also swept the awards from goalkeeper to striker at the Champions League draw ceremony, will be content to have pulled Tottenham, Werder Bremen and FC Twente out of the pot – little travelling, excellent stadiums and teams that play in a straightforward manner.

Milan have less to be satisfied with – and as it was last season it will not be the double-header with Real that settles the outcome of the group but the matches against Ajax and AJ Auxerre.

The Rossoneri came away with a win at the Bernabeu last year and then followed that up with a draw at home only undo all their good work with a home defeat to FC Zurich and a draw against Marseille which left them facing Manchester United in the round of the last sixteen as group runners-up.

AS Roma will have similar concerns when they take on FC Basel and CFR Cluj, having lost to both opponents in last year’s Europa League, however, the stand-out games will be against Bayern Munich and the Giallorossi should be looking to top the group.

The Champions League will remain an inciting side-dish for a few weeks yet and amongst all the headlines on whether Zlatan Ibrahimovic will join Milan and why no one wants to move to Juventus, the new season starts this weekend.

Inter won’t be in action until Monday evening at Bologna so for once we will have a new name at the top of the table – or more than likely a long line of team on three points.

Roma should get their campaign off to a winning start at home against Cesena who are back in the top flight for the first time since 1991 – and will no doubt approach the game with the mentality of a Serie B side playing an Italian Cup tie at the Olympic stadium.

Another new arrival, Lecce might fancy their chances, however, at Milan who have lost to newly-promoted sides at home on the opening day in the past.

The third new boy, Brescia would also expect to take something from their trip to Parma although Sebastian Giovinco could finally start to blossom in the more relaxed atmosphere of Emilia-Romagna. 

However, the games of the first round will be Fiorentina at home to Napoli and Bari welcoming Juventus.

All four teams will be worth watching – for differing reasons. How will the Viola fair under Sinisa Mihajlovic, can Napoli do a Sampdoria and make the breakthrough into the top four and will Bari follow their 10th-place finish with a year battling against relegation?

However, all eyes will be on the Old Lady as she desperately searches for a new identity under Gigi Del Neri.

Diego has been moved on and by the time you read this Fabio Quagliarella should have arrived on loan from Napoli but the sum of the parts may not add up to a top-four chasing whole.

There are certainly enough teams pushing for European places, such as Genoa who are home to an Udinese side lifted by Antonio Di Natale’s snub of Juve. Sampdoria need to put their Champions League exit behind them when they meet Lazio who could just as easily explode or implode.

Watch out for Palermo who finished two points off fourth place last term. The Sicilians have cashed in on Edinson Cavani and Simon Kjaer but have kept potentially the player of the year: Javier Pastore. Much will depend on tightening up a defence that conceded 47 times last year.

So, putting the Serie Aaaaargh! head on the block, here comes the predictions for the 2010-11 Serie A season.

1.    AS Roma 2.    Inter 3.    Palermo 4.    Genoa

Europa League Napoli Milan Juventus

Relegated Bologna Cesena Brescia

Italian Cup winners Napoli

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