AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted he was relieved to be starting the new season after Serie A was given the go-ahead following a player strike.
On Monday, the league and players' union came to an agreement allowing the season to begin after the first round of games had been postponed due to strike action. Allegri said that spells good news for the defending champions, who host Lazio tomorrow night in the curtain-raiser.
"Finally we're starting, our last game was in the [pre-season] Berlusconi Cup and three weeks without football is a lot," he said. "It is time, the players can't wait any longer."
Allegri admitted expectation will be higher this season than last. "It's normal, we need to take home the three points. With respect to last year, we're more the favourites but we know that every match will be difficult and to win we're going to have to play like Milan should," he said.
In midweek Milan travel to Spain to tackle Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League and Allegri believes victory over Lazio will be crucial to set them up for the next game.
"We have to play a great match, that's vital, a victory could give us a boost for Barcelona and the rest of the season. [Friday] night's game is the most important from now until the end of December."
The Milan coach, who won the title in his first season last term, is wary of the threat posed by Lazio's new forward pairing of Djibril Cisse and Miroslav Klose.
"Cisse has added physicality and Klose a lot of guile. There will be the risks associated with a difficult game against a team that has improved and has a lot of attacking quality, not to mention a good coach and midfield. Lazio will come here to take us on and not sit back in their own half like last season."
Reja enjoys attacking options
Lazio coach Edy Reja was quietly confident ahead of the clash. "Milan have amazing potential, they'll definitely start well but we have the right quality to do well," he said. "We have eight excellent attacking players to cause them problems. We can get into the spaces they leave open.
"Klose and Cisse are players of depth, we have a quality squad. If we play with concentration, we can make life difficult for Milan. They have an advantage. I would have preferred to start the season with [their postponed first match against] Chievo at the Stadio Olimpico.
"This is a game that can give us confidence, but could also raise doubts, hence it's an important test to see what we are capable of. In any case, we'll have a different attitude to last season, we have more attacking options than last season with Cisse, Klose, [Stefano] Mauri and Hernanes."