Milan: Serie A returns with a bang on Saturday as leading pair Juventus and Napoli, defending champions and Cup holders respectively, clash (1600 GMT), with the latter still smarting from their stormy Supercup defeat. Both teams are unbeaten with 19 points from a possible 21 and have the best scoring records in the league. Napoli were the only team to beat Juventus last season when they won the Italian Cup final 2-0, while Juventus completed the 38-match league campaign with an unbeaten record.
Last week's World Cup qualifiers, which led to a two-week break in the championship, have taken their toll on both teams with Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon nursing a thigh injury and midfielder Claudio Marchisio an injured shoulder. Napoli striker Edinson Cavani is likely to be feeling the effects of his long journey to play for Uruguay against Bolivia on Tuesday in La Paz, which is 3,600 metres above sea level.
Buffon suffered his injury last Friday in the 3-1 win in Armenia, then missed Wednesday's win over Denmark when, by a twist of fate, he was replaced by Napoli's Morgan De Sanctis. That led to one of Italy's famous conspiracy theories with Buffon having to defend himself against allegations that he was saving himself for the Napoli game. "Ours is a nation of conspiracy," said Juventus chief executive Giuseppe Marotta. "Everything needs to be taken back to sport.
Last years unbeaten champions Juventus will face Napoli, who are also unbeaten this season, in the Serie A clash.
"There is nothing to say about Buffon. He is the captain of Juventus and of Italy and the allegations are unfounded. "Wearing the blue shirt of Italy is the highest aspiration for all players and Buffon is not the kind of guy to give up at the first sign of trouble. He didn't play against Denmark because he thought he wasn't ready." Tension could still be simmering from the season-opening Supercup match in Beijing in August, which Juventus won 4-2 after extra time in controversial circumstances.
"Like all matches, there was some tension but controversy is part of the match," said Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella. "When you go on to the pitch, you don't think of anything except winning." Napoli had Goran Pandev and Juan Camilo Zuniga sent off while coach Walter Mazzarri was dismissed for dissent and the team refused to take part in post-match ceremonies in protest.
Milan, who have seven points after dismantling their team in the close season, have a tough visit to third-placed Lazio (15 points), also on Saturday (1845). Inter, fourth behind Lazio on goal difference, are at home on Sunday (1300) to a Catania side who have made a promising start with 11 points.