Beginner’s Guide to Serie A
The Serie A is Italy’s topflight domestic football league, and home to some of the most popular and successful football clubs in the world. Whilst the Serie A draws only the 5th highest attendance figures in Europe, behind the premier divisions in England, Germany and Spain, it is ranked as the third most powerful European league by UEFA.
Serie A is perhaps best known for the exploits of member clubs AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Despite the presence of several ‘superclubs’ the Serie A is recognised as a comparatively open league, with 8 different clubs having claimed the league title during the past two decades.
20 Italian football clubs compete in the Serie A. The league season is divided into two parts, the andata and the ritorno. The first half of the season has each club playing 19 fixtures in a round robin tournament. These fixtures are then reversed for the second half of the season to ensure that each club plays every other club, both at home and away.
The Serie A operates a relegation system, with the bottom three clubs in the league relegated to the Serie B at the conclusion of each season. The fate of those clubs that are in a tied situation for a relegation position at the end of the season, is decided by the head-to-head record of the clubs involved in the league tie.
The Serie A season traditionally commences in August and concludes in May, running parallel to the other major European leagues. Players have an opportunity to enjoy a mid-season break between the andata and ritorno, during the period that coincides with the winter holiday season.
Serie A in Europe
As the third highest rated league in Europe, the Serie A sends the maximum contingent of four clubs to the Champions League Football Tournament every year. The top three clubs in the league from the previous season qualify directly for the Champions League group stages, whilst the 4th placed club is given an entry to the final qualifying round of the tournament.
The Serie A is the most successful league in Europe when measured by its clubs’ achievements in the Champions League. Italian clubs have won the Champions League on 11 occasions and made it through to the final on 14 others. Inter Milan has won seven of these titles, making it the most successful Italian club in European competition.
Serie A clubs also dominate the UEFA Cup having won 9 UEFA Cup titles – four more than their closet rivals, the clubs from the German Bundesliga. Inter Milan and Juventus have each won the UEFA Cup three times, making them the most successful clubs in the history of the tournament.
The Serie A is home to a particularly fierce ‘derby’ style rivalry, which plays out in the city of Milan. Two of Italy’s most powerful clubs, Internazionale and AC Milan are based in the city, and are often rivals for the biggest domestic titles in the country.
The Rome Derby between Lazio and Roma is another of the most volatile derbies in European football. The two clubs share the Stadio Olympico as a home venue, and neither side therefore has home advantage in derby matches between the two sides. It is not unusual for supporters of the clubs to clash during these matches.
Another major rivalry exists between Internazionale and Juventus, the most successful club in Italian domestic competition. Known as the Derby d’Italia these matches are amongst the most keenly anticipated of the Serie A season.