Soccer: Juve favourites to land third straight scudetto

'Others spent more but we have mantle' says Conte

Soccer: Juve favourites to land third straight scudetto

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, August 23 - Juventus are favourites to land their third straight scudetto, and 30th in all, in the Serie A season that kicks off this weekend. The Turin giants, who finished nine points clear of Napoli last year, face Sampdoria in their debut Saturday on a high after thumping Lazio 4-0 in the Super Cup final last Sunday. Coach Antonio Conte said Friday: "Other clubs may have spent more but Juve can't shake off the favourite's mantle". Conte, who has steered Juve through their last two dominant seasons, is unfazed by Samp's two wins against his men last year. The coach spelled out his 10-point rules to winning which, he said, "apply even more when your belly's full after two straight trophies". They are: 1) the team always comes before the individual; 2) the hunger for victory must be fuelled every day; 3) trust the coach and always follow him; 4) training is the cornerstone of success; 5) live a healthy life; 6) on the field, always think of attacking; 7) speed of thought and legs; 8) put your heart into everything you do; 9 Juventus has a glorious history; respect the shirt; and 10) you must be aggressive but correct". Juve's attacking force has been boosted by the arrival from Manchester City of Carlos 'the Apache' Tevez. Most pundits put AC Milan, third last time around, as second favourites with Italy star Mario Balotelli bidding to enhance his status as the most exciting striker in Italian soccer. Milan start their campaign at Hellas Verona Saturday with Balotelli, pictured walking on water on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, aiming to give the lie to Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi's claim he is a "provocateur" who deserves the abuse, often racist, he gets from fans. Verona has one of Italian soccer's worst reputations for racism. Third-favourite Napoli, under new coach Rafa Benitez, host Bologna Sunday with new signing from Real Madrid Gonzalo Higuain aiming to prove he can adequately replace Edinson Cavani, who left for Paris Saint-Germain in a 64-million-euro deal after notching 29 goals last term. Higuain is third favourite to end up as Serie A top scorer after Balotelli, first, and Fiorentina's new signing from Bayern Munich, Mario Gomez, in second. Fiorentina host Catania Monday hoping that Gomez's finishing power will help them improve on last time's fourth-place finish, despite the loss of midfielder Stevan Jovetic. Lazio entertain Udinese of veteran ace Antonio Di Natale - rated alongside Higuain in the likely 'bomber' standings - with their hard-core fans' stand shut after monkey chants against Juve's black players in the Super Cup defeat. Lazio are also without captain Stefano Mauri, banned for six months for match fixing. Inter, with long-time Chairman Massimo Moratti poised to sell his majority stake to Indonesian media magnate Erick Thohir, are hoping that new coach Walter Mazzarri will boost them after last season's dismal ninth-place finish. Chievo, with Giuseppe Sannino; AS Roma, under Rudi Garcia; and Genoa, with Fabio Liverani; are the other teams to have changed coach alongside Napoli and Inter. Livorno, Sassuolo and Verona are the three sides promoted from Serie B. The head of the Italian soccer federation, Giancarlo Abete, said at Friday's launch of the new season the twin challenges facing the sport were racism and match-fixing.

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