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Milanese Serie A dominance under threat

Published: Friday 9 September 2011, 10.08CET
Title rivals are queueing up as AC Milan's Scudetto defence begins against ambitious S.S. Lazio tonight, though coach Massimiliano Allegri said the champions are "more confident" than ever.
by Roberta Radaelli
from Milan
Milanese Serie A dominance under threat
Milan celebrate beating Juventus in a pre-season challenge last Sunday ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 9 September 2011, 10.08CET

Milanese Serie A dominance under threat

Title rivals are queueing up as AC Milan's Scudetto defence begins against ambitious S.S. Lazio tonight, though coach Massimiliano Allegri said the champions are "more confident" than ever.

AC Milan finished six points clear of FC Internazionale Milano last season to end their San Siro rivals' five-year Serie A reign, but as the new campaign kicks off this weekend, the title race may be more than a tale of one city.

Third last term, UEFA Champions League contenders SSC Napoli have championship credentials, while a Juventus side not involved in Europe this season will expect to improve on seventh in 2010/11. Capital rivals S.S. Lazio and AS Roma have also shown considerable ambition.

After a delayed start due to a players' strike, Milan kick off the season against Lazio tonight, with coach Massimiliano Allegri charged with conjuring a repeat performance of last year, though this time without the same degree of summer investment.

Nonetheless, with Andrea Pirlo's moving to Juventus and Mathieu Flamini out through injury, the Rossoneri loaned Alberto Aquilani from Liverpool FC and signed US Città di Palermo's Antonio Nocerino, on transfer deadline day. Taye Taiwo and Phillipe Mexès have also come in as free agents, from Olympique Marseille and Roma respectively.

"We have the Scudetto badge on our chest and it's going to be different from last season, not because we are favourites but because my players now know each other very well," said Allegri. "We have to improve certain aspects of our play but we are more confident."

As for their challengers, Allegri said: "Napoli did very well last term and now have newcomers like [Mario] Santana, [Miguel Ángel] Britos, [Marco] Donadel and especially [Gökhan] Inler and [Blerim] Džemaili, who are top players. Then there's Juventus, and I also wouldn't underestimate Lazio, who I'm sure will fight for the title. They signed [Miroslav] Klose and also have Hernanes, a fantastic player who can get even better."

New Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini lost Samuel Eto'o to FC Anzhi Makhachkala last month, but the signings of Club Atlético de Madrid's Diego Forlán and Lazio's Mauro Zárate should go some way to easing that loss. The greatest change for the Nerazzurri may be a tactical one, with the former Genoa CFC coach seemingly eager to field a three-man back line.

New Spanish boss Luis Enrique is proving a breath of fresh air at Roma, though UEFA Europa League play-off elimination by ŠK Slovan Bratislava was hardly a dream start to his tenure. Bedding in myriad recruits, including goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, defenders Gabriel Heinze, José Ángel Valdés and Simon Kjær, midfielders Miralem Pjanić, Fernando Gago, and Erik Lamela and forwards Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, Bojan Krkić and Fabio Borini, may also require time.

Last updated: 09/09/11 18.33CET

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