Football: 6 talking points ahead of the new Serie A season

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo in action during a soccer friendly match between Juventus A and Juventus B at Villar Perosa, Turin, on Aug 12, 2018.
Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo in action during a soccer friendly match between Juventus A and Juventus B at Villar Perosa, Turin, on Aug 12, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Juventus supporters invaded the pitch to take a picture with Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the first half of the friendly football match between Juventus A and Juventus B at Villar Perosa, on Aug 12, 2018.
Juventus supporters invaded the pitch to take a picture with Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of the first half of the friendly football match between Juventus A and Juventus B at Villar Perosa, on Aug 12, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
AC Milan's Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain during the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy football match between Real Madrid and AC Milan in Madrid, on Aug 11, 2018.
AC Milan's Argentinian forward Gonzalo Higuain during the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy football match between Real Madrid and AC Milan in Madrid, on Aug 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

MILAN (REUTERS) - The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus has led to increased focus on Italian football. Here are six talking points ahead of the Serie A season which starts on August 18.

Another record for Ronaldo?

Cristiano Ronaldo has made a habit of breaking records and might already have another in his sights: Gonzalo Higuain's total of 36 Serie A goals in a single season.

Given that Ronaldo scored 311 goals in 292 LaLiga matches for Real Madrid, and that there are 38 matches in a Serie A season, that target is within his range, fitness and injury permitting.

On the other hand, Serie A defences have a reputation for being meaner than in La Liga. It is also likely that coach Massimiliano Allegri, with his sights firmly on the Champions League, will rest Ronaldo in some league games - whether the Portuguese likes it or not.

Higuain faces No. 9 jinx at Milan

Gonzalo Higuain had no hesitation in accepting the No. 9 shirt following his loan move to AC Milan from Juventus even though his immediate predecessors have struggled.

Portugal forward Andre Silva, who wore it last season, scored twice in 24 Serie A appearances after a 40 million euro move from FC Porto. Alexandre Pato failed to score in four appearances in 2012/13 and nobody was allocated the shirt in 2013/14.

Two players wore it in 2014/15 without success - Fernando Torres scoring once in 10 games and Mattia Destro three times in 15 - while in the following season, Luiz Adriano managed four goals in 26 outings.

The most impressive performer was Gianluca Lapadula who scored eight in 27 outings in 2016/17 - only to be loaned to Genoa at the end of the season.

 
 

Will Napoli gain more than they lose under Ancelotti?

Chain-smoking coach Maurizio Sarri turned Napoli into neutrals' favourites thanks to their flowing, attractive football.

But, after another second-place finish last season, there was a sense that Sarri - now at Chelsea - had taken the team as far as he could.

Still, the feared sell-off of Sarri's team has not taken place and the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti could give new hope to a team that lacked killer instinct.

Ancelotti certainly knows what it takes to win domestic titles, having won them in Italy, England, France and Germany. His pragmatic approach is likely to be less entertaining than Sarri's and it remains to be seen if they have gained more than they have lost.

Goalkeeping battles

Talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has left Juventus but if Wojciech Szczesny thought that meant he would automatically get the number one spot, the Pole has been given a rude awakening by the club's signing of Mattia Perin from Genoa.

It is also a bold move for Perin who is touted as one of Italy's most promising goalkeepers but now risks losing out on regular first-team football.

There is set to be a similar battle at AC Milan where Pepe Reina, 35, has moved on a free transfer from Napoli and will challenge Gianluigi Donnarumma.

There was initially widespread speculation that Donnarumma, who made his Milan debut at 16, would move elsewhere but that has not happened, leaving the pair to fight for a place.

Surprise packages?

Atalanta, under Gian Piero Gasperini, have qualified for the Europa League for the last two seasons and are likely to be among the dark horses again.

Fiorentina, whose 3-0 win over Napoli effectively settled last season's title race, have a remarkably young side while Torino and Sampdoria could also spring the odd surprise.

Meanwhile, Parma, kicked out the league and forced to start again in the fourth tier in 2015 after going bankrupt, are back in the top flight are a remarkable three successive promotions.

Can Inter Milan avoid their mid-season slump?

The mid-season slump has become an unhappy part of the routine at Inter Milan recently.

Last season, Luciano Spalletti's team were unbeaten and top of the table after 16 matches. But a goalless draw with Juventus on Dec 9 sparked an eight-match winless run and they plummeted down the table to finish fourth.

In 2015/16, Inter won their first five league games and led the table going into the winter break under Roberto Mancini, only to finish fourth after a post-Christmas slump.

In 2016/17, they finished seventh.