Ibrahimovic: Milan are still the favourites
Milan and Inter get ready to do battle over Serie A title as Ibrahimovic admits he did not know why players striked.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2011 12:25
Title winners AC Milan end five years of pain by finally getting one over Inter in May 2011 [GALLO/GETTY] 

Juventus have a new stadium, AS Roma harbour ambitious plans to play the same way as Barcelona, but AC Milan are still the favourites to retain the Serie A title, according to striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Milan and Lazio, who meet at the San Siro on Friday are the first teams in action as Serie A kicks off with what was initially scheduled as the second match day, the first round having been postponed by a players' strike.

Ibrahimovic is attempting to win the eighth league title of his career and sixth in a row.

"To tell the truth, I don't know why we stopped. I'm happy that we can finally get going"

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

He has already claimed two Dutch titles with Ajax Amsterdam, one La Liga with Barcelona, three Serie A titles with Inter and another one, last season, with his current side.

"We are still the favourites. We strengthened our squad in the summer and we are stronger than last season, I like all our new signings," said the Swede, adding that he was baffled about the strike which delayed the start of the championship.

"To tell the truth, I don't know why we stopped. I'm happy that we can finally get going."

AC Milan has signed midfielders Alberto Aquilani from Liverpool and Antonio Nocerino from Palermo, defender Philippe Mexes and left back Taye Taiwo.

However, they will play the first third of the season without Mathieu Flamini after a knee operation and have lost Andrea Pirlo after he joined Juventus, while bruising midfielder Mark van Bommel is also injured.

Forlorn over Forlan

Last season's runners-up Inter, who visit Palermo on Sunday were left red-faced this week after it emerged that Uruguay striker Diego Forlan, signed along with Argentina Mauro Zarate to replace the departing Samuel Eto'o, could not play in the Champions League group stage.

UEFA said 32-year-old Forlan was ineligible as he had played for Atletico Madrid in a Europa League qualifier.

Forlan said in an interview with Spanish radio on Wednesday that he did not know the intricacies of the rules.

Despite this mix-up, Inter, who have a number of the old guard still at the club including goalkeeper Julio Cesar and defenders Maicon, Lucio and Javier Zanetti, are seen as Milan's biggest challengers.

Napoli, who start at Cesena on Saturday believe they can at least equal last season's third place, although, with little strength in depth, their chances could slip dramatically if any of their top players are injured.

"The sky is the limit for Napoli, we will do our utmost in all competitions," said Edinson Cavani, who promised not to relax after winning the Copa America with Uruguay in July.

"We have everything it takes to have a successful season," added Cavani, second topscorer last season with 26 goals.

            Big blow: signing Diego Forlan will not be able to play for Inter in Champions League ties [AFP] 

"It's impossible not to do well with such fantastic fans. We are very optimistic."

Their first task is to get to grips with the newly-laid artificial pitch at Cesena, and the Sea Horses' new signing Adrian Mutu.

Ambitious AS Roma host Cagliari on Sunday with Francesco Totti calling on fans to back new coach Luis Enrique - jeered during a Europa League qualifier for substituting the talismanic one-club striker.

Cagliari are one of two teams who fired their coaches last month and Massimo Ficcadenti will make his debut after replacing Roberto Donadoni.

The other is Palermo where Stefano Poli was dismissed for the second time this year and replaced by Devis Mangia.

Juventus, whose new stadium was being officially opened later on Thursday with a friendly against English third-tier side Notts Country, play their first competitive match at the same arena on Sunday against Parma.

Having finished seventh in each of the last two seasons, Juventus have brought in former midfielder Antonio Conte as coach and made a flurry of new signings, including Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal and Montenegro striker Mirko Vucinic.

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