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By ESPN Staff

Italy sighs ahead of match-fixing hearing

MILAN, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A preliminary hearing takes place in Naples on Saturday aimed at deciding whether 37 people accused of sporting fraud in Italy's match-fixing scandal should be sent to a criminal trial.

Last year a sports tribunal stripped Juventus of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated them to Serie B after being found guilty of trying to gain favourable referees to influence results in 2004-2005.

AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Reggina and Arezzo suffered points deductions because of their involvement in the latest of a number of match-rigging incidents in Italy in the past 25 years.

Former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi was banned from football for five years with referees, club directors and former Italian federation officials also punished.

Now the scandal has reached the criminal courts after two Naples prosecutors decided charges against individuals could be brought, forcing soccer-mad Italy to relive the pain of last season, although clubs should be safe from further punishment.

Moggi possibly faces prison if sent to trial and found guilty while Lazio president Claudio Lotito and Fiorentina honorary president Diego Della Valle are among the accused.

The early hearings and a possible trial could take months but the Italian League caused an early stir late on Thursday by hinting it could look for compensation as a victim of the match-fixing if anyone is found guilty.

Juventus achieved immediate promotion last season and are now third in Serie A having managed to retain a loyal fan base and keep hold of some of their best players.