x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

New year brings fresh hope in Italy and Serie A

Italian football may face a myriad of issues but there is lots to be glad for and look forward to as well, writes Ian Hawkey.

Antonio Cassano hears cheers when he plays for Italy but jeers when he's in front of the AC Milan fans.
Antonio Cassano hears cheers when he plays for Italy but jeers when he's in front of the AC Milan fans.

The year 2013, announced Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister, should begin with a positive outlook, as the country climbs slowly from recession.

Italy's favourite sport has grounds for optimism, too, but some challenges. Here is an A to Z of issues and people to shape the 12 months ahead:

Asamoah, Kwadwo A principal reason for Juventus' impressive title defence so far. They will miss their Ghana wing-back, on African Cup of Nations duty, this month.

Balotelli, Mario What price his returning to Italy by September?

Conte, Antonio Expect the Juve coach's star to keep rising.

De Rossi, Daniele Roma's highest earner needs to find his niche in the current set-up.

El Shaarawy, Stephan On course to be a startlingly young Serie A top scorer.

Financial Fair Play Uefa will get tough, and top clubs warier of economic recklessness.

Goal-line officials Extra refereeing assistants have five more months to convince audiences of their value. The jury is out.

Hamsik, Marek Napoli need their best creator on form to return to the Champions League.

Insigne, Lorenzo The young Neapolitan may yet become as influential for Napoli as Hamsik. Juventus: champions-elect.

Klose, Miroslav Six more goals and the Lazio striker brings up 200 in his club career.

Lamela, Erik One of many good reasons to stay in for televised Roma games.

Match-fixing A disease that still requires extra-vigilant policing.

Nagatomo, Yuto Will eclipse Hidetoshi Nakata as the leading Asian footballer in Serie A history.

Omessa denuncia The term for not reporting an attempt at match-fixing, now a familiar part of the game's vocabulary, which means there is no excuse for it.

Petkovic, Vladimir An early candidate for coach of the season.

Quagliarella, Fabio Might the scorer of spectacular goals for Juventus finally shake his image as supersub than regular starter?

Racism Scourge that still lurks around too many Italian stadiums.

Sassuolo On course for promotion and to bring a new name to Serie A.

Totti, Francesco Another year, another Indian summer.

Underdogs What AC Milan will be, severely, against Barcelona next month.

Varetti, Marco The 20-year-old Italy midfielder needs to regain his place in the Paris Saint-Germain XI to justify the hype.

Wembley Venue for the Uefa Champions League final, an event due a Serie A presence.

X-rated Reception Inter Milan's Antonio Cassano will continue to hear from AC Milan fans.

Yepes, Mario Nearly 37, impossibly tasked with leading the Milan defence through their post-Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva phase.

Zamparini, Maurizio Can the Palermo president go 12 months without sacking a coach? Don't bank on it.



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