Following a frantic summer of squad-building, ambitious Monza make their Serie A debut on Saturday night, as they host Torino at Stadio Brianteo.
While the hosts came through the Serie B playoffs in dramatic style to reach the top tier – where they aim to make a big impact – their visitors enjoyed a season of mid-table security after several scrapes with relegation.
A first top-flight campaign awaits Monza in 2022-23, after finally escaping Calcio’s lower echelons thanks to the funding of former Milan ownership duo Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi.
The Biancorossi’s boardroom features one of the most successful pairings in Italian football history, having previously dominated while at San Siro, and they will not settle for anything less than a suitable return for their investment.
Following a loss to Cittadella in the 2021 playoff semi-finals, last season Giovanni Stroppa‘s men managed to traverse a tricky tie against Lombardy rivals Brescia, who they downed 4-2 on aggregate before beating Pisa 6-4 over two legs at the end of May.
Since that exciting finale, numerous new signings have been registered at a dizzying pace, including hometown hero Matteo Pessina, who returns to Monza as captain following a spell with Atalanta that featured a role in Italy’s Euro 2020 win.
Other arrivals also bring plenty of top-flight experience to the promotion-winning squad too, as Italy goalkeeper Alessio Cragno comes in from on loan, as do Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi and Arsenal’s Pablo Mari, who spent the first half of this year with Udinese.
Time to settle in will be brief, though, as Monza – who progressed past Frosinone in the Coppa Italia last week – must tackle Napoli, Roma and Juventus by mid-September, and their club-record 19 wins from last season are already forgotten as they kick off a new era.
Despite arriving in Lombardy as the established Serie A side, Torino could be forgiven for travelling with some trepidation, given the combination of past precedent and recent events in the transfer market.
The Granata have won only one of their last six opening-day matches, amid a period of mediocrity since finishing seventh in 2019, and could find themselves without two integral cogs in the team which Ivan Juric led to 10th place last term.
Bedeviled by injury and lack of form throughout 2021-22, captain and chief goal threat Andrea Belotti is apparently on the verge of joining Jose Mourinho‘s revolution at Roma, while defensive rock Bremer has already departed for city rivals Juventus – a kick in the teeth for the club’s long-suffering fans.
New recruits have been few and far between in Turin this summer, with Pietro Pellegri making his loan move from Monaco permanent and Nemanja Radonjic‘s temporary switch from Marseille among the low-key deals agreed so far.
That has not pleased the demanding Juric, whose well-drilled side turned the club’s reputation for defensive disaster on its head last year – facing fewer shots on target in Serie A than any other team except Juve.
Three wins from five in pre-season, though, were followed by progress to the Coppa Italia second round, as Torino saw off Palermo 3-0 last weekend, partly thanks to goals from Pellegri and Radonjic.
An abundance of fresh talent could be both a blessing and a curse for Giovanni Stroppa on Saturday evening, as he seeks to blend 17 signings with his existing Monza squad.
Pablo Mari may have joined too late to feature in the hosts’ defence this weekend, but ex-Inter defender Andrea Ranocchia should start, while his former colleague at San Siro, Stefano Sensi, is likely to occupy a spot in midfield. Matteo Pessina is still struggling for fitness.
After netting crucial goals in both legs of the playoff final – and scoring as a substitute last Sunday – Danish striker Christian Gytkjaer will hope to push past new boys Andrea Petagna and Gianluca Caprari to lead the line up front but may have to be content with a place on the bench.
Jose Machin serves a suspension this week, as must Torino’s Alessandro Buongiorno – and the visitors will also be without injured pair Mergim Vojvoda and David Zima. Given Bremer’s departure, that leaves them short in defence.
Nevertheless, Toro coach Ivan Juric is set to stick with his familiar 3-4-2-1 formation that served him so well last season and at Hellas Verona, with Antonio Sanabria starting as the lone striker in Andrea Belotti’s absence.
Having signed Aleksei Miranchuk from Atalanta in midweek, the Russian midfielder could start, but West Ham loanee Nikola Vlasic is not set to be deployed until next week’s meeting with Lazio.
Monza possible starting lineup:
Cragno; Marlon, Ranocchia, Carboni; Birindelli, Valoti, Barberis, Sensi, Augusto; Mota, Caprari
Torino possible starting lineup:
Milinkovic-Savic; Djidji, Adopo, Rodriguez; Singo, Lukic, Ricci, Aina; Miranchuk, Radonjic; Sanabria