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The European club soccer season is almost fully under way, with only one of Europe’s top five leagues, Italy’s Serie A, yet to begin. But the wait for a new season of Serie A soccer is almost over as the first match day of action kicks off this weekend, beginning with a showdown between reigning champions Juventus and Parma on Saturday, August 24 at noon EDT (streaming on ESPN+) at Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma.
What To Expect
The “Old Lady of Italian soccer,” Turin-based Juventus is the undisputed biggest and best club in Serie A, and that’s backed up by history. Juventus has won a record 35 Italian top division titles dating back to 1905, including the last 8 since 2012. That current run alone would put Juventus fifth of all time in Italian top division titles behind itself, Genoa (9), Inter (18) and AC Milan (18).
Last season, the rich got richer as Juventus bought Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for some $340 million for four years. That move was made in a bid to get the club over the hump in the UEFA Champions League, which Ronaldo won with Real Madrid three times in a row before moving to Juventus. That strategy hasn’t paid any dividends yet, as Juventus was knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax in the quarterfinals. (Juventus went out and bought Matthijs de Ligt, the man whose goal knocked it out, from Ajax for €75 million in the wake of that defeat.) But it did help the Old Lady continue her run of domestic dominance as Juventus accumulated 90 points in Serie A last year, 11 more than second-place Napoli.
This season, Juventus will have a new man leading its charge to a ninth consecutive title and its first Champions League title since 1996. Massimiliano Allegri—who engineered the bulk of Juventus’s current success and is perhaps the club’s most successful manager—stepped down last season after five years with the club. Replacing him is Maurizio Sarri, who spent the entirety of his nearly 30-year long managerial career working his way through the ranks in Italy before a sojourn to Chelsea last season. Juventus is still the heavy favorite to claim the title again, but it will be interesting to see whether it is put to the test under Sarri.
After Juventus, the two most popular clubs in Italy are the two Milan giants, Inter and AC Milan. These clubs were the dominant force in Italian soccer for a spell between 2006 and 2011, when Juventus was relegated all the way to Serie B for its involvement in Calciopoli, the infamous match-fixing scandal, but their fortunes turned when Juventus returned to prominence. Inter, however, has qualified for the Champions League the last two years, and is managed by wildly successful coach Antonio Conte, so its fortunes are trending upward. AC Milan is still a ways behind, though, and hasn’t qualified for the Champions League since 2013.
One of the best things about Serie A—and Italian soccer in general—is its wealth of fantastic clubs. The fourth-most-popular club, and the second most successful in recent memory, is Napoli from the soccer-crazed city of Naples. There are the two powers from the capital, Roma and Lazio. Although not nearly as successful or large, Torino shares Turin with Juventus and still manages relatively high finishes. Atalanta shocked the soccer world by finishing third in Serie A last season, its highest-ever finish, to qualify for the Champions League. No matter where you look in Serie A, there are interesting teams and interesting stories.
Derby d’Italia, Juventus vs. Inter: October 6, 2019, at Inter, March 1, 2020, at Juventus. These two giants from the northwest are the most successful clubs in Italy, and it’s a must-watch affair each time they play.
Derby della Maddonina, Inter vs. AC Milan: September 21, 2019, and February 9 , 2020, at the San Siro. Named for the Maddonina atop the Duomo, this rivalry between clubs that share a stadium has deep-seated class connotations for Milanese fans.
Derby della Capitale, Roma vs. Lazio: September 1, 2019, and January 26, 2020, at the Stadio Olimpico. Although Rome isn’t as soccer-mad as some of the cities in the north and south, the rivalry between the city’s biggest clubs is as intense as they come in Italy.
Derby della Mole, Juventus vs. Torino: November 3, 2019, at Torino, April 5, 2020, at Juventus. Juventus has completely dominated its historic intercity rivalry with Torino—the oldest derby in Italy, dating back to 1907—but it’s still a fascinating game to watch.
Juventus vs. Napoli: August 31 at Juventus, January 26, 2020, at Napoli. The rivalry between Juventus and Napoli is a clash of Italian cultures, with Juventus representing the north and Napoli the south.
How to Watch
ESPN holds the rights to broadcast Serie A in America, which makes it sound like Italian soccer is a cinch to watch in the U.S. But despite ESPN’s ubiquity, it isn’t always easy to find games on their airwaves. ESPN typically airs a live “Match of the Week” every week of the season. Sometimes this match finds its way to ESPN proper, but more often it is relegated to ESPN2 or ESPNews.
However, ESPN does have an option for Serie A fans to get their fix through streaming. Most Serie A matches will stream live on ESPN+, so a subscription to that service is pretty much all you need to watch in America.
A handful of Serie A games will also be shown each weekend in Italian on fuboTV through a deal with Italian broadcaster Rai Italia.
TV: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes
STREAMING: ESPN+, fuboTV