ROME: Cristiano Ronaldo will kick his first ball in Serie A at troubled Chievo Verona on the weekend of August 18/19 when new club Juventus begin their bid to win a record-extending eighth league title at the Stadio Bentegodi.
The fixture list for the 2018-19 season of the Italian championship was announced on Thursday with all eyes on where the superstar attacker, signed for 112 million euros ($131.5 million) from European champions Real Madrid earlier this month, would begin what he called “a new adventure”.
Juve are strong favourites to further cement their domestic dominance following the Portuguese international’s arrival, with the league’s other big hitters in a transition period.
Napoli, who finished four points behind Juve last year, will be a different prospect from the free-flowing purists of recent years after replacing new Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri with Carlo Ancelotti, a double winner with the Premier League club in 2010.
Ancelotti begins his new job with a tough away trip to Lazio, who were top scorers last season with 89 goals and only missed out on Champions League football on the final day after a dramatic defeat by Inter Milan.
Three-time Champions League winner Ancelotti follows that up with the visit of AC Milan, themselves hoping to rebuild after being taken over by American hedge fund Elliott Management earlier this month.
Napoli have a tough start to the season. After Milan, they play Sampdoria, Fiorentina, Torino, Parma and Juve. The weekend Napoli visit Juve also sees AS Roma host Lazio in the capital derby.
The first Milan derby will be in the weekend of October 21, in week 9, while the first Derby d’Italia between Juve and Inter is in week 15 in Turin. Juve then immediately plays another derby match, at city rival Torino.
Juve will host Lazio in the second week of the season on August 26, the first proper test for the reigning champions and 33-year-old Ronaldo in what should be his home debut.
Roma, who begin at Torino, have already brought in 11 new players after finishing third and reaching the Champions League semi-finals last season, but doubts remain after they sold fan favourite Radja Nainggolan to Inter and goalkeeper Alisson to Liverpool for a record-busting 72.5 million euros ($84.4 million).
Boosted by their qualification for Europe’s top competition and the signing of Nainggolan, Inter — who visits Sassuolo in the opening weekend — are nonetheless not expected to trouble all-conquering Juve’s charge for the title.
However Massimiliano Allegri’s side are unlikely to have it all their own way, after a draw that gave them a tough finish to the season, with the reverse fixtures against Inter and Torino as well as matches against Fiorentina, Roma and Atalanta in their final six games. Juve end the season away at Sampdoria.
Napoli visit Bologna on the final day, on May 26, the weekend after hosting Inter.
Juve’s opening-day opponents Chievo were let off from being deducted points from last season and relegated after a legal technicality meant charges that they deliberately inflated the figures of transfer dealings with now-bankrupt Serie B club Cesena were thrown out.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2018