Stefano Pioli’s new era at crisis-club AC Milan begins Sunday with a must-win game against lowly Lecce, as Claudio Ranieri starts his reign at basement club Sampdoria at home against former club Roma.
But the focus in Serie A will be on the two new coaches, who arrived over the international break, and will both be looking to celebrate their birthday, which they share on October 20, with wins.
Pioli, 53, took over when Marco Giampaolo was sacked after just seven games, while Ranieri, 67, replaced Eusebio Di Francesco, who he also succeeded asd Roma boss last March.
Former seven-time European champions AC Milan are in trouble on and off the pitch with reportd this week of losses for last season hitting a record 146 million ($162 million).
“Our ambition is to fight for the Champions League,” insisted Pioli.
Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie believes that it is still early days for the 18-time Serie A winners, who have not lifted the Scudetto since 2011.
“Nothing is decided yet, last season the Champions League place was only decided on the last day,” said Kessie, who scored the winner last time against Genoa.
“We are last, but this is not the real value of this team,” said Ranieri, who guided outsiders Leicester City to the 2016 English Premier League title.
Roma captain Alessandro Florenzi expects a difficult match for the fifth-placed capital side.
“It won’t be easy, we know it,” said the defender. “They have changed the coach and this always leads to a reaction from the team.
“And then Ranieri is perfect in these situations, his attitude leads you to give everything on the pitch, playing every time like a final.”
Antonio Conte’s side dropped one point behind Juventus after their first Serie A defeat of the season 2-1 to the champions last time out.
Krzysztof Piatek was the revelation of the 2018-19 season in Italy joining AC Milan for 35 million euros in January after a blistering start for Genoa, who had paid just five million euros for him six months earlier.
The Poland striker was third in Serie A goalscoring charts with 22 goals, but this season the 24-year-old has struggled to reproduce that form with just two goals of AC Milan‘s nine this season, having struck eight in the same period for Genoa last season.
114 – Dries Mertens’ goals with Napoli, one fewer than club legend Diego Maradona
11 – Number of days Stefano Pioli has had to work with AC Milan
7 – Lazio‘s Ciro Immobile leads the Serie A scoring charts
3 – Months Inter Milan striker Alexis Sanchez will be out injured
3 – Matches Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has been on the bench as he undergoes chemotherapy
Fixtures (all times GMT)