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By ESPN Staff

Serie A: Football returns but old demons remain

MILAN, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Serie A was gearing up for an uncontroversial start before AC Milan fans were barred from Sunday's opener at promoted Genoa because of fears of violence.

Last season was damaged by the fallout from a match-fixing scandal and stadium restrictions imposed following the death of a policeman in riots outside a Catania match in February.

The beginning of this campaign was meant to be scandal-free with no teams starting with points deductions, Juventus back after their match-fixing demotion and stadiums open to all.

However, the fear of revenge attacks for the stabbing of a Genoa fan at a match with Milan in 1995 has prompted authorities in the port city to ban away supporters for their own safety.

Genoa, back in the top flight for the first time since that season, were looking forward to a full house but at least they can be consoled by the fact Ronaldo and new signing Emerson are unlikely to start for the European champions.

Ronaldo has yet to play a pre-season friendly after battling back from a hamstring strain.

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has said the Brazilian striker will be fit for Sunday and club officials say Emerson is looking sharp, despite being snubbed by former club Real Madrid in pre-season, but the duo are likely only to make the bench.

Milan captain Paolo Maldini, who retires in May, will not be back until late September following knee surgery.

Inter Milan open their league defence at home to Udinese on Sunday, with manager Roberto Mancini facing a tough dilemma of who to pick from a vast squad swelled by close-season recruits David Suazo, Cristian Chivu and Luis Jimenez.

He selected close to his best team in last Sunday's Super Cup clash with AS Roma but they lost 1-0.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti told reporters: 'The wind is changing, Roma can come to the San Siro believing calmy that they can beat the number one candidate for the Scudetto (title).'

Spalletti's side visit Palermo in Sunday's late game but he has injury doubts over Francesco Totti and new Brazilian defender Juan while midfielder Simone Perrotta is suspended after being sent off before entering the pitch as a substitute in the Super Cup.

Juventus return to Serie A having spent millions on new recruits, who have failed to gel fully in pre-season.

Claudio Ranieri's side though have a relatively gentle reintroduction on Saturday with a home game against Livorno, who lost attacking threat Cristiano Lucarelli to Shakhtar Donetsk in July and replaced him with former Spain striker Diego Tristan.

Lazio also play on Saturday when they host Torino while promoted Napoli entertain Cagliari on Sunday's main matchday.