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SERIE A WEEKEND PREVIEW: AC Milan and Sampdoria look for winning starts under new management

The ink is barely dry on Stefano Pioli’s two-year deal as AC Milan manager and yet already the club’s impatient ultras already want him out before his players have even kicked a ball.

Impatience can perhaps be forgiven for AC Milan supporters, who since 2014 have seen their side go from one of the biggest names at Europe’s top table in the Champions League to being no more than Serie A’s also rans.

For a team whose history has seen them win seven European Cups – only Real Madrid have won more – it has been half a decade, if not more, that arguably ranks their worst era since World War II.

Flanked by AC Milan chiefs Paolo Maldini (left) and Zvonimir Boban, Stefano Pioli puts pen to paper to confirm his two-year deal as the club’s new manager

So is Pioli the man to turn the club around? Supporters would claim not. They state his average coaching career reads a win percentage barely eclipsing 50 per cent and that his managerial tenures are short enough to make Jose Mourinho’s reigns feel like they last as long as dynasties.

Yet when you chew up managers at the rate of nearly two a year over this miserable spell there comes a point when you can’t really be choosing new bosses like a kid in a sweet shop.

So whether the Milan fans like him or not, it is up to Pioli to turn around the season that has started in catastrophic fashion and resulted in his predecessor Marco Giampaolo being sacked at the start of the international break. 

With four defeats from seven, Milan are in 13th place which is poor even by their low standards set in recent years. They head into this weekend just three points off the bottom three and that makes Pioli’s first game in charge a rather intriguing one on Sunday.

Pioli replaces Marco Giampaolo who was sacked after just seven games into his tenure

Pioli replaces Marco Giampaolo who was sacked after just seven games into his tenure

He welcomes Lecce to the San Siro, and they are the team who currently occupy the final relegation spot.

Lecce are back in the top flight for the first time since 2012 and have not won any of their last nine trips to AC Milan stretching back 22 years – losing the last eight of them.

It’s an ideal fixture for Pioli to get off to a winning start but he does inherit a side seemingly in disarray.

Given Giampaolo was sacked despite winning his last game against Genoa, three points must be delivered on Sunday in style.

It’s not all a hiding to nothing though for Pioli. Despite their lowly league position, a charge up the table from a couple of wins is not far away.

A perfect weekend for the latest manager to take the seemingly poisoned chalice at the San Siro could see him debut with a win and leave his side just a point off a Champions League place.

Rock bottom Sampdoria have turned to Claudio Ranieri to help steer them away from relegation as he poses with club owner Massimo Ferrero at his unveiling this week

Rock bottom Sampdoria have turned to Claudio Ranieri to help steer them away from relegation as he poses with club owner Massimo Ferrero at his unveiling this week

Samp circus goes on

Milan are not the only side who will see a new boss taking the reins this weekend as Claudio Ranieri marks his Serie A return when he takes charge of Sampdoria for the first time.

Leicester City’s title-winning manager was last in charge at Roma in an interim post before being allowed to leave over the summer.

But he has now been parachuted back into Italy’s top flight tasked with trying to get Sampdoria firing again following seven defeats in eight that leaves them bottom of the table.

Unlike Pioli though, all the attention at the club in recent days has been on deeply unpopular owner Massimo Ferrero – who has vowed to meet angry supporters face-to-face.

They still want Ferrero gone after he failed to sell the club to a consortium led by former striker Gianluca Vialli in the summer. Since then Eusebio di Francesco has been and gone as manager, Ferrero has had to be escorted out of Geona after being confronted by angry fans during a lunch and Sampdoria have turned into a side that can neither defend nor score.

It is hopeful that Ranieri can at least steer them towards the safer region of mid-table but it could come at the cost of entertainment. His first match is fittingly against his former side Roma on Sunday who following a positive start to the campaign head into the weekend in fifth place and well in contention to break into the top four. 

Sassuolo will play their first match since the death of owner and president Giorgio Squinzi

Sassuolo will play their first match since the death of owner and president Giorgio Squinzi

Sassuolo play first game since owner’s death

Emotions will be running high when Sassuolo return to action to get Sunday’s fixtures underway in Serie A. 

The death of owner and president Giorgio Squinzi hit the club hard and they will be playing their first game since the 76-year-old’s sad passing before the international break.

So close was his death to their last fixture against Brescia, the match was postponed and that means they return to the field after more than three weeks without a game. 

Squinzi was an AC Milan fan so it’s a little quirk in the fixture list that Sassuolo’s return match is against Inter Milan – a fitting send off if they can get three vital points to help pull them away from a relegation scrap.

But what state will the players be in? Will they feel the benefits of a three-week break or will they be rusty and mentally hit by recent events.

Either way a clash with Inter is not ideal, with Antonio Conte’s side looking to get back to winning ways after their six-match winning start to the season was ended by Juventus last time out. 

Fiorentina have won their last three games with the help of in-form forward Franck Ribery

Fiorentina have won their last three games with the help of in-form forward Franck Ribery

ELSEWHERE: Fiorentina hope to continue renaissance 

WEEKEND FIXTURES

SATURDAY

Lazio vs Atalanta (2pm)

Napoli vs Hellas Verona (5pm)

Juventus vs Bologna (7.45pm)

SUNDAY

Sassuolo vs Inter Milan (11.30am)

Cagliari vs SPAL (2pm)

Sampdoria vs Roma (2pm)

Udinese vs Torino (2pm)

Parma vs Genoa (5pm)

AC Milan vs Lecce (7.45pm)

MONDAY

Brescia vs Fiorentina (7.45pm)

 

Fiorentina endured a miserable start to the season, failing to win any of their first four matches.

But they have hit back in recent weeks, with the blossoming yet slightly odd forward line of Federico Chiesa and Franck Ribery helping them win their last three games – resulting in the latter winning Serie A’s player of the month at the ripe old age of 36.

They play again on Monday, travelling to Brescia who like Sassuolo have also not played for over three weeks.

Sinisa Mihajlovic could be back on the bench for Bologna as he continues his recovery from leukaemia as the former Torino boss takes his side to table toppers Juventus.

Bologna have not been defeated in the previous two games he has attended this term.

Despite their poor Champions League form, third-placed Atalanta will hope to continue their fine domestic form when they visit top four chasing Lazio.

Meanwhile the pressure was on Aurelio Andreazzoli before the international break but despite somehow surviving the chop that befell some managerial colleagues, the Genoa boss will once again be under watch this weekend.

Sitting second from bottom they travel to Parma where another defeat will do little to ensure his long-term future at the club. 

Sinisa Mihajlovic is set to be on the bench again for his Bologna side's trip to Juventus

Sinisa Mihajlovic is set to be on the bench again for his Bologna side’s trip to Juventus

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