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FOOTBALL

Juve primed for more success in new season

Beaten Champions League finalists Juventus are primed for another record-breaking season in Italy in the face of expected challenges from Lazio and Roma, while struggling Milan giants AC and Inter continue their search for Serie A credibility.

Juve primed for more success in new season
Beaten Champions League finalists Juventus are primed for another record-breaking season in Italy. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Barely two months after wrapping up one of their most successful seasons to date, Juventus kick off the 2015-2016 campaign at home to Udinese on Sunday looking to take a first step towards a record fifth consecutive Serie A title.

Having steered his side to the cusp of an unprecedented club treble, only to fall to Barcelona in last May's Berlin final, coach Massimiliano Allegri would do well to register a repeat – especially given the movement of key players over the summer.

Juventus sold midfield maestros Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo to Bayern Munich and New York City FC respectively, while Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez ended his successful two-year spell in Turin by returning to formative club Boca Juniors.

But Juventus have been quick to plug the gaps, recruiting German midfielder Sami Khedira on a free transfer from Real Madrid and signing both Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid) and Paolo Dybala (Palermo) before the height of the summer transfer period.

If any proof were needed the new team can work together, strikers Mandzukic and Dybala hit one apiece as Juve stunned Lazio 2-0 in Shanghai last week to win the Italian Super Cup.

Allegri, as cautious as ever throughout his first season at the club, repeated his mantra of calling for cal

“We start this season from zero. What we've achieved was great, but it's now in the past. Only with hunger and patience will we manage to repeat it,” he said.

Roma finished runners-up last season but Rudi Garcia's men only did so, claiming the league's second automatic Champions League qualifying spot in the process, by the skin of their teeth.

For the past two seasons the Giallorossi have started their bid for a first league crown since 2001 by snapping at Juve's heels, only to trail off somewhere before actually biting a chunk.

Last season's campaign started with a flourish while the summer sun still shone on the Stadio Olimpico, only to begin to fizz out before the snow in Turin had melted by the end of March.

A seemingly unending run of draws shortly after the winter break was decisive for Garcia's side, and the Frenchman has done well in luring Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah to the club on initial loan deals – acquisitions that could make the difference for his stuttering side.

But with French defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa having signed for Lyon and Ashley Cole angling to move after a disastrous first season, Roma could start the campaign with holes in their defence.

“The attack and midfield are fine, but I don't have much time to work on the defence as our new arrivals have come in late,” Garcia told Roma TV.

“That's okay though, we did it last year with (Kostas) Manolas and (Jose) Holebas, we'll do it again this year.”

Lazio were strong finishers last season, beating Fiorentina to the Italian Cup and only settling for third place after a thrilling duel with Roma.

Stefano Pioli's men played some cracking football last season, thanks in large part to the pace and goalscoring of Felipe Anderson.

Lazio will join Juventus and Roma in the Champions League group stages if they manage to overcome Bayer Leverkusen over two legs in their play-off on August 18th and 26th.

Doing so would only further underline the recent inadequacies of the once-heralded Milan giants.

Seven-time European champions AC Milan, and Inter – Italy's last treble winners in 2010 – both failed to qualify for Europe last season and so begin their respective campaigns already shouldering the weight of expectation.

Former Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has taken the Rossoneri reigns while Roberto Mancini will begin his second season in what is his second spell at Inter, whom he led to seven titles, including four consecutive Serie A trophies, in his previous spell in charge (2004-2008).

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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