Serie A returns with a bang as leading pair clash

Serie A returns with a bang as leading pair clash

ITALY - Serie A's leading pair and biggest spenders AS Roma and Napoli clash on Friday evening (1845 GMT) in a match which has the sort of international appeal that Italian domestic football used to dish up on a weekly basis.

The match brings together two teams whose early performances have given a much-needed lift to a league generally seen as in perennial decline and challenged the dominance of Juventus, champions for the last two seasons.

Hosts and leaders Roma have made a remarkable start under new coach Rudi Garcia, winning all seven league games, blasting 20 goals and conceding only one.

Their last two games have seen them flatten Bologna 5-0 and beat Inter Milan 3-0 at San Siro.

Napoli, under former Chelsea, Inter and Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, are only two points behind, with only a draw at home to table-propping Sassuolo costing them a 100 per cent record and 18 goals in the bank.

"Millions of people around the world will watch the match,"said Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, a film producer who said he would watch the game from Los Angeles where he is on a visit.

"Napoli have never been afraid of anyone because we have a great coach and great players. I think the scudetto will be three-horse race, although I hope others such as Inter Milan and Fiorentina can join it."

"I hope it's a civilised battle, focused on maximum sporting respect, both on the field and in the stands and I appeal to our fans to be as extraordinary as they always are, whether we win, lose or draw."

Napoli spent around 86 million euros ($144 million) in the transfer market during the close season, with 37 million going on striker Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid.

However, De Laurentiis pointed out that they still made a profit on their dealings thanks the 64 million euros they received from Paris St Germain for Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani.

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