Mourinho hoping for improved style in new season | sports | Hindustan Times
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Mourinho hoping for improved style in new season

Defending champion Inter Milan begins its defense of the Serie A title this weekend with a game at home to newly promoted Bari and a desire to play quality football more consistently this season.

sports Updated: Aug 21, 2009 11:13 IST

Defending champion Inter Milan begins its defense of the Serie A title this weekend with a game at home to newly promoted Bari and a desire to play quality football more consistently this season.

With a fifth consecutive league title up for grabs, Inter coach Jose Mourinho is hopeful that his team can win more plaudits for its style of play than in previous years.

"I think the most important thing for a team is a well defined philosophy of play and we can certainly say we have that," Mourinho said. "Without taking anything away from what we won in the past, last season we played some great games, but without much consistency.

"I've seen quality play, but things are not automatic yet. The squad is mature and tactically aware, now we need to work to make everything natural."

Mourinho is likely to pair new signings Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito in attack, but holding midfielder Esteban Cambiasso is out till October with a knee injury, meaning Patrick Viera is likely to deputize.

Bari, which returns to the top flight after an eight year absence, will travel to the San Siro without their main offseason signing Riccardo Meggiorini, who is suspended. The side could also be missing last year's leading scorer Paulo Vitor Barreto. There was better news for the southern club earlier in the week when it was revealed that United States real estate businessman Timothy Barton is set to complete his purchase of the club in October.

It means though that funds for new players will only be available in the January transfer window, leaving the club to make survival the overriding priority.

"Barton does not have a magic wand," general manager Alessio Mora said. "This year we will do everything to achieve our primary objective: safety. After that, we will aim higher." Juventus is considered to be the best bet to dethrone Inter and begins at home to Chievo Verona.

Last season the side finished second, 10 points behind Inter. Claudio Ranieri was fired before the season's end and Ciro Ferrara has taken over as coach after impressing as caretaker for the last two matches.

The squad has since been strengthened, with Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro returning after three years with Real Madrid, playmaker Diego being signed from Werder Bremen and defensive midfielder Felipe Melo joining from Fiorentina.

"During preseason we saw some positive, important signs," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "We are much better than last year and this can only help our enthusiasm and our confidence. "We have to go out onto the pitch with the desire not to give anything to anyone, because every point matters. We expect 38 finals and the match with Chievo will be the first."

AC Milan opens its campaign away to Siena on Saturday. For the first time since 1985, Paolo Maldini will no longer be part of the squad after finally retiring following 900 appearances in the red and black shirt.

Midfielder Massimo Ambrosini has been given the captain's armband following an offseason in which coach Carlo Ancelotti and star playmaker Kaka left the club, though the midfielder remains confident about his team's chances, particularly after Andrea Pirlo turned down overtures from Ancelotti's new club Chelsea. "Milan has never started a campaign not believing it can win," he said.

"When I see that Alessandro Nesta is fit and Thiago Silva providing security and freshness, Filippo (Inzaghi) still doing great work and Pirlo choosing us; when I see all this, it makes me confident."

However, new coach Leonardo has struggled to inspire his side in pre-season matches and Milan only won its first friendly on Monday against Juventus.

Worse still, new striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar will have to sit out the trip to Tuscany as he serves a one match ban carried over from his time in Spain's La Liga.

Fiorentina travel to Bologna in Saturday's other game. In Sunday's other matches, it is: Catania vs Sampdoria; Genoa vs AS Roma; Lazio vs Atalanta; Livorno vs Cagliari; Palermo vs Napoli; and Udinese vs Parma.