High-flying Hellas Verona and much-changed AS Roma have been handed the honour of raising the curtain on the new Serie A campaign and chances are we will see an entertaining encounter at Bentegodi. With both sides famous for playing attack-minded football, the opening league fixture should produce plenty of fireworks.
Considering the area they originate from, it is hardly surprising that Hellas Verona is widely regarded as one of the most romantic clubs in Italy, and they have become a real joy to watch since returning to the elite division. The club officials new they didn’t have money for world-class players so they instead made sure to make as many bargain signings as possible, with the arrival of Luca Toni on a free transfer probably the best piece of transfer business in Italy’s top flight in recent years. Since joining from Fiorentina, the now 38-year-old has bagged impressive 42 goals in 72 league outings and he remains the focal point of Verona’s attack in spite of his birth certificate slowly fading away. Having recovered from a poor start to achieve a mid table finish last season, the Gialloblu will be aiming for a top 10 place this season, and with the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini and Luca Sigilardi further reinforcing the front line, last year’s record of 49 league goals is likely to be beaten. Given that coach Andrea Mandorlini has absolutely no selection issues ahead of the Roma clash and that Luca Toni was on the scoring sheet in the Coppa Italia clash with Foggia, the hosts have plenty of reason for optimism.
Even if they failed to mount a serious title challenge in the league last term, Roma at least secured their place in this year’s Champions League group stages, making sure the previous campaign was not a complete waste. With the sporting department not exactly satisfied with the players at Rudi Garcia’s disposal, the Giallorossi decided to make a number of high-profile signings, but they clearly learned from their mistakes as all summer signings arrived on initial loan deals. The likes of Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Wojciech Szczesny and Norbert Gyomber all joined this summer and few more could follow in the final week of the transfer window. With so many new footballers arriving in a short period of time, coach Rudi Garcia will need time to rebuild the squad, but 3-1 and 6-4 wins over Valencia and Sevilla respectively are enough to suggest the Giallorossi will remain as entertaining as ever. Roma arrive at Bentegodi hoping to prove they have what it takes to challenge Juventus for the league title, meaning they can be trusted to adopt a positive approach. Former Verona star Juan Manuel Iturbe misses out through suspension, while Douglas Maicon is a major doubt and Kevin Strootman is a long-term casualty.
Seeing as they are high on confidence after the opening Coppa Italia win over Foggia, Hellas Verona certainly will not be afraid to attack their more illustrious opponents as they fear nobody at their Bentegodi. Meanwhile, Roma have been scoring goals for fun in pre-season, so everything suggests we will witness a high-scoring match.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 10/11
Bookmaker: William Hill