Juve opens defense of Serie A crown without Conte
Turin, Italy (Sports Network) - The biggest story in Italian football this summer was another mix-fixing scandal that involved current Juventus manager Antonio Conte.
The boss was implicated with a number of other players and coaches, and as part of his plea bargain, will serve a touchline ban for the entire 2012-13 season.
Conte, who was guilty of not reporting match fixing while at Siena, will still be able to train the team during the week, but will not be allowed on the sideline during the day of a match.
But despite Conte's absence, Juve returns to action against Parma on Saturday as favorites to retain the title.
The club added a number of quality players this summer including Sebastian Giovinco, Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah and Lucio, which should bolster a squad that went unbeaten in Serie A play last term.
Juve will have the added pressure of returning to the Champions League this season, but is still a clear favorite after chief rivals AC Milan endured turmoil of their own this summer.
Milan entertains Sampdoria on Sunday to begin its season, but the Rossoneri does so without a host of talented veterans in Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Filippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano.
The departures were partly due to the club trying to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations, while Milan was only able to bring in replacements who are not quite up to the standard of the departed players.
Giampaolo Pazzini, Kevin Constant, Cristian Zapata, Francesco Acerbi and Riccardo Montolivo were among the new arrivals, but they will have a tough time putting together another title charge, especially with oft-injured striker Alexandre Pato already battling health issues.
Inter Milan endured a disastrous campaign last season as the club finished sixth. Andrea Stramaccioni was hired as the permanent manager of the club, which saw Diego Forlan, Giampaolo Pazzini and Lucio depart.
However, the additions of Samir Handanovic, Matias Silvestre, Walter Gargano and Rodrigo Palacio will help, as will the arrival of striker Antonio Cassano from Milan.
Inter opens the season at Pescara and will be eyeing at least a top-three finish this term in order to return to Champions League play.
Udinese finished third last season to qualify for the club's second successive Champions League place, although repeating that feat could prove to be difficult.
Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah and Samir Handanovic each left Udinese this summer, but at least the club can still rely on striker Antonio Di Natale, who will try to get off to a good start on Saturday at Fiorentina.
Napoli was unable to secure another berth in the Champions League after a fifth-place finish, and the departures of both Ezequiel Lavezzi and Walter Gargano won't help matters.
Luckily for manager Walter Mazzarri, he will still be able to count on striker Edinson Cavani, who led the club with 23 goals last term.
Napoli opens its season at Palermo, while Atalanta starts at home against Lazio, but also with a two-point deduction because of match fixing.
The Bergamo outfit started last season six points in the hole and was still able to survive, so two points will be less daunting. But the opener against Lazio will be tough with the Rome-based side featuring a talented attacking duo of Miroslav Klose and Hernanes, who combined for 21 goals last season.
With teams like Milan and Napoli maybe taking a step back, Roma is a team that take advantage as the capital club added both Mattia Destro and Federico Balzaretti after finishing in seventh place last term.
Roma could also benefit from a season without European play in order to focus on improving upon its seventh-place finish in Serie A last year.
Catania will be the first opponents for Roma, while the other matches on the opening weekend include Bologna traveling to Chievo, Genoa hosting Cagliari and promoted side Torino visiting Siena.