Never fear, real grown-up Serie A is here

Don’t believe the hype about the English Premier League. Real, grown-up football is back again.While the Premier League has been slogging away, humping long balls into the overcast skies of a late English summer, cooing over a Barcelona has-been and seeing one of their marquee sides lurch into the Champions League with a last-minute face-saver, Serie A’s finest have been lounging around the pool, chatting up the local lovelies.Actually, they haven’t, that’s what Serie Aaaaargh! has been doing. In fact, each and every one of the 20 teams in the top flight have been going through a torturous pre-season boot camp in preparation for what will be a marathon campaign. It’s no wonder the players can’t wait to get back out on the pitch this weekend.

Jose cracks the whip at Inter's boot camp 

So without further ado, like any good Italian housewife, let’s put it all on the line and make a few predictions for the opening day. And where better to start than with champions Inter at Sampdoria?Ah, the long shadow of Roberto Mancini will hang over the Luigi Ferraris stadium on Saturday evening when that pantomime villain Jose Mourinho faces the prince of comedy Antonio Cassano.There'll be plenty of mirth, and not a dry eye in the house, as the Bari bawler tap-dances his way through the depleted Nerazzurri backline to secure a 2-0 victory.

Cassano: Aiming to inflict misery on Mourinho

Joyous celebrations up and down the country ensue, as the rest of title challengers puff out their chests on Sunday and dream of being the new kings of calcio.In keeping with the general feel-good nature and warm glow of the new term, AS Roma and Napoli meet in the 'Derby of the Sun'. Last year’s corresponding fixture finished 4-4 so expect more of the same but with the Romans gaining the edge this time: 5-3 wouldn’t be a surprise. Especially with the way Philippe Mexes defended in the Super Cup.No Francesco Totti – ankle-knack – so freedom of the wide-open spaces of the Olympic Stadium will go to Mirko Vucinic and Julio Baptista to run unbridled. The Beast to nab one goal at least.Has-beens, eh? Ronaldinho, Sheva and the rest of the Milan motley crew will be itching to ram those insults down someone’s throat so beware Bologna: back in the top flight but set for a rude awakening. Dinho has to find the net in a comprehensive 3-0 win. Sheva pops one in as well for good measure just so he can kiss the badge.

Sheva in full-on badge-patting action 

OK, it’s all been fun and japes so far but let’s get down to the serious side of Italian football: Juventus. Never known for her easy-going nature, the Old Lady will have a face like a prune when she arrives in Florence on Sunday evening.Having binned the Fix It So The Top Sides Can’t Meet In The First Month Of The Season computer, there was always a decent chance that the opening day would produce a match the whole of the peninsula could enjoy over a bowl of pasta and a chilled white. Fiorentina would love nothing better than putting one over Juve, but with so much at stake let’s go for a draw. But not any boring goalless or 1-1 draw; instead, a heart-stopping 2-2 goalfest.So, the Premier League may have all the lolly, modern stadiums and ‘top tier’ sponsors. But as the old Italian saying goes: “We may not be rich, but at least we're not ugly. And one day we might even be rich.”

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