Serie A ready to reclaim 'beautiful' crown
Italy may be gearing up for its annual August shutdown when the whole country takes off on a collective holiday but at least itÃ¢ÂÂs business as usual in the football world with the release of the new Serie A fixture list.
For many, the 2008/09 campaign will propel the Italian league back to the forefront of European football and reclaim its title of the Ã¢ÂÂmost beautiful championship in the world.Ã¢ÂÂ
The evidence is compelling: Jose Mourinho back in the hotseat, Juventus a genuine title contender, AC Milan with Ronaldinho in their ranks, perennial runners-up AS Roma and fit-again Francesco Totti, a reinforced Fiorentina; and a host of pretenders in Napoli, Udinese, Sampdoria and Genoa looking to make that breakthrough.
Ronaldinho: Hoping to help make Serie A beautiful again
While in past seasons, the not so random computer selection made sure the top clubs were kept apart in the opening six rounds so it was well into October before we saw any fireworks, this year we have a real humdinger on the opening day.
Fiorentina against Juventus is more than a football match at the best of times and the faithful from both sides will be curtailing their hols early to secure tickets ahead of the August 31 clash.
And no doubt the game will land the primetime Sunday evening slot, making it compulsory viewing throughout the world although probably not on UK or Ireland television screens whose calcio lovers are set to miss out on all the fun.
Not wishing to rub salt into the wound of any gaping TV schedule but there is also MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs baptism of fire at Sampdoria while the Ã¢ÂÂderby of the sunÃ¢ÂÂ between Roma and Napoli will take place in the blistering heat of the capital.
And thatÃ¢ÂÂs just the first day and we only have to wait until the fifth game for the first derby of the season when Milan meet Inter quickly followed by the cities of Turin and Rome taking centre stage.
Fiorentina vs Juve: More than a football match at best of times
The fact that the fixtures are then reversed for the second half of the season means that those corresponding games will banish the winter blues while further ahead Milan have been handed the run-in from hell in May when they meet Juventus, Udinese, Roma and Fiorentina.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs no wonder that Serie AÃ¢ÂÂs finest will be getting battle-hardened throughout the remaining month of pre-season with a number of high-profile friendlies.
The action gets under way on Tuesday evening when Inter, Milan and Juve take part in a triangular tournament Ã¢ÂÂ and as one newspaper headline put it: Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs for real.Ã¢ÂÂ