Serie A champions Juventus are expected to win Saturday's Supercoppa Italia against Napoli, despite the game being overshadowed by Antonio Conte’s 10-month ban for match-fixing.
The Juventus coach was banned today for failing to report match-fixing while in charge of Siena during the 2010-2011 campaign. Conte had a plea bargain deal rejected by the Italian federation earlier this month, a proposal which would have seen him serve a three-month suspension and pay a large fine.
Grosseto and Lecce have both been excluded from the second tier this season, while Conte’s assistant, Angelo Alessio, has been banned for eight months.
It is another stain on the Italian game and Juve will have to put the matter to one side quickly if they want to begin the new campaign with a bang (Juventus evens, draw 21/10, Napoli 12/5 after 90 Minutes). Massimo Carrera will replace Conte on an interim basis and he inherits a side which swept all before them on their way to the Serie A title last term .
Going through a season unbeaten is almost unheard of, but is a feat Juve achieved. That record alone is remarkable. However, it is the goals against column which stands out the most. Marshalled by veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Juve conceded just 20 goals in 38 games. Opposing strikers were sick of the sight of the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci by the end of the season.
Juventus did not have things all their own way – 15 draws suggests a lack of a ruthless side at times. They were also, of course, beaten in the final game of the season by tomorrow’s opponents.
Napoli won their first major trophy in 22 years and denied Juventus the double by beating the Turin giants 2-0 in the Italian Cup final in May.
Edinson Cavani inspired the surprise victory that day and he will feature for Napoli this weekend, despite mounting speculation over a move to England. He will be key to their hopes in China (13/2 – Napoli to win 1-0), particularly in the absence of Ezequiel Lavezzi, who made the switch to big-spending Paris Saint-Germain earlier this summer.
Napoli missed out on a return to the Champions League last term. They have added to their squad in a bid to improve on their fifth-place finish. Valon Behrami and Goran Pandev are among those to make the switch to Naples. However, Napoli will struggle to match the achievements of recent years.
Conversely, Juventus look stronger than last season, despite the controversy surrounding their manager. The signings of Martin Caceres and Lucio will make them even more difficult to beat, while exciting youngsters Paul Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah give them added flair.
Juventus will be keen to show they are united in the face of the latest scandal, while gunning for revenge for May’s cup heartache. Napoli are always a dangerous outfit, but expect Juventus to dig deep and win the first silverware of the season (11/5 Half-time/Full-time – Juventus/Juventus).