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Defending champion Juventus visits Roma looking for first Serie A points after shock defeat

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MILAN — After the shock of losing its opening Serie A match at home for the first time in its history, defending champion Juventus would have been hoping for an easy second match to get it up and running.

Not so. This weekend sees Juventus visit Roma — the team which finished as runner-up to the Bianconeri the past two seasons.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri can take heart from the statistic that since Serie A began in 1929, Juventus has never found itself without any points after its first two matches.

Moreover, since the 1-0 defeat to Udinese, Juventus has added another player to its squad, bringing former Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado back to Italy on loan from Chelsea.

Juventus had already been busy in the transfer market as it attempted to fill the gap left by the departure of star players Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez.

It had brought in top names such as Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Simone Zaza and reinforced its squad still further by signing Alex Sandro from Porto for 26 million euros ($29 million) last week.

"We're going through a change. We need to be patient, but that doesn't mean we're not here to win: when we have a full squad it will be a different matter," defender Giorgio Chiellini said.

Also on Sunday, newly-promoted Carpi and Frosinone will be looking for their first ever Serie A points when they take on Inter Milan and Atalanta, respectively.

Elsewhere, it's: Chievo Verona vs. Lazio; Genoa vs. Hellas Verona; Napoli vs. Sampdoria; Torino vs. Fiorentina; and Udinese vs. Palermo.

On Saturday, AC Milan hosts Empoli in the evening match after Sassuolo visits Bologna.

Here are some things to know about the second round of Serie A:


HE'S BACK

Former AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli is back at his boyhood club after completing a season-long loan deal from Liverpool on Thursday.

PHOTO: Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny shouts indications to his teammates during a Serie A soccer match against Hellas Verona at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny shouts indications to his teammates during a Serie A soccer match against Hellas Verona at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')

Balotelli spent a year and a half at Milan before joining Liverpool last summer, and scored 30 goals in 54 appearances.

However, he had a dismal time at Liverpool, netting just one Premier League goal in the year following his 16 million pound (then $27 million) move.

"I am grateful to Milan, because, to tell the truth, I did not expect them to bring me back," Balotelli told the Gazzetta dello Sport, in comments posted on Milan's website. "The 'yes' from (club owner Silvio) Berlusconi was the biggest surprise of them all."

Balotelli hasn't featured in a competitive game for four months and may not play against Empoli on Saturday. If so, his first game back at the club could be the derby match against Inter Milan — the club he started his career at — after the international break.


SILENT ROMA

Roma's 1-1 draw at Hellas Verona in the opening match appeared to put the capital club on the back foot right from the start — until Juventus' surprise defeat the following day.

That left the Roma faithful relishing even more the test against the four-time defending champion.

However, the team won't have the backing of its usually vociferous support on Sunday, with the Roma ultras planning a silent protest after new segregation and security measures in the Curva Sud were enforced by the city.

"Those who come to the stadium to support the team must do just that, support the team," Roma director general Mauro Baldissoni said. "Deciding to do a fans' protest is a choice which goes against what should be their very role, especially in a match of particular importance which sees Roma playing Juventus, its most serious rival in the past two years."


EUROPEAN DISAPPOINTMENT

Lazio will have to swiftly get over its disappointment of failing to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League as it turns its attention back to Serie A.

Lazio, which had won the first leg 1-0, lost 3-0 at Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday to end its dream of reaching the group stage of Europe's premier club competition for the first time in eight years.

"This is proof that we probably aren't ready yet for this level, but we also want to grow and can do well in Serie A, the Europa League and the Italian Cup," Lazio coach Stefano Pioli said. "We are preparing ourselves to step up to this level, we aren't there yet, but have a quality squad and I'm sure we will get back on our feet quickly."

Juventus, which lost last year's final to Barcelona, and Roma are in Thursday's draw as Italy finds itself once again with only two teams in the group stages.

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