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One of the most exciting club leagues on the planet, Italy's Superlega Credem Banca begins its 2021-2022 season on Saturday with as many as 23 Olympic medallists spread across the 13 teams set to compete for honours.

Defending champions Cucine Lube Civitanova will feature in the opening match of the championship, on Saturday at 18.00 CET/16.00 GMT, against Kioene Padova. It will be the first opportunity to see the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship winners back in action - with their new players - after a busy off-season.

Among the most noticeable departures are Brazilian outside hitter Yoandy Leal and Luxembourgian opposite Kamil Rychlicki. Lube did well in the transfer market, however, replacing these key players with Rio 2016 Olympic medallists Ricardo Lucarelli and Ivan Zaytsev (who will miss the beginning of the season due to knee surgery).

Veteran outside hitter Osmany Juantorena, middle blocker Robertlandy Simon and setter Luciano De Cecco continue to be part of the team’s core. Lube will also enter the season with a new coach in Gianlorenzo Blengini, who replaces Ferdinando de Giorgi.

“Every new start brings new things”, De Cecco said. “We have different teammates and even working under Blengini is something new for us. But we’re determined to give our best every day and keep Lube at the top.”

Their opening-match opponents, Padova, will rely on German duo Jan Zimmermann (setter) and Linus Weber (opposite), their most well-known players at the international level.

Last year’s runners-up Sir Safety Conad Perugia also went through some changes prior to the start of the season. They lost Serbian Aleksandar Atanasijevic, Maciej Muzaj of Poland and Canadian Sharone Vernon-Evans, but added American Matt Anderson, Italian Simone Gianelli and Rychlicki. Those players will now join forces with Polish star Wilfredo Leon and Argentinean Olympic medallist Sebastian Sole.

Perugia's first opponents on Saturday at 18.00 CET/16.00 GMT will be Top Volley Cisterna, who have a pair of popular Italians in veteran setter Michele Baranowicz and young outside hitter Tommaso Rinaldi, who just recently won the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Men’s U21 World Championship for his country. Outside hitter Stephen Maar and middle blocker Arthur Szwarc, who were both at the Tokyo Olympics with Canada, add some experience into the mix.

Last year’s CEV European Champions League silver medallists Itas Trentino will rely on another U21 world champion, up-and-coming outside hitter Alessandro Michieletto, to have another solid season. The team have lost Lucarelli, Gianelli and Nimir Abdel-Aziz for this season, but were able to hold on to their solid Serbian middle blockers Srecko Lisinac and Marko Podrascanin.

“The summer was magical as I got to play in the Volleyball Nations League and the Olympics and to win gold at the European Championship and the U21 World Championship,” Michieletto explained. “I got to play with three different groups of players and that experience helped me a lot. And now I can’t wait to start another season with Trentino.”


After a prolific international season, Michieletto is ready to lead Trentino

Trentino will face Verona Volley at 20.30 CET / 18.30 GMT on Tuesday. Their opponents have a fairly young roster led by veteran setter Raphael ‘Rapha’ Oliveira and experienced Bulgarian coach Radostin Stoychev.

Another intriguing matchup this weekend will see Leo Shoes PerkinElmer Modena take on True Volley Monza at 18.00 CET / 16.00 GMT on Saturday.

Modena look the strongest they’ve been in several years after bringing in four international stars including Leal, Abdel-Aziz, Brazilian setter Bruno Rezende and French Olympic champion and Tokyo MVP Earvin Ngapeth to join middle blockers Dragan Stankovic and Daniele Mazzone and libero Salvatore Rossini.

In their debut, the new-look Modena will be tested by a Monza side featuring a strong opposite duo in German scoring machine Georg Grozer and emerging Croatian Tomislav Mitrasinovic.