Juventus is back in the Serie A title discussion as it prepares to host Bologna on Sunday, a punchy new style of play in place for a club looking to bounce back from last season’s disasters.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side, like Italy’s three other big boys, impressed on opening day as it won 3-0 at Udinese and put on the sort of aggressive, attack-minded display not usually associated with the conservative coach.
Federico Chiesa hailed his team’s “modern style of football” after blasting it into the lead after 108 seconds in Udine and finally showing signs that his injury problems might be behind him.
Allegri himself was more circumspect about the tactical changes, keener to highlight how Chiesa needs to play up front.
“He has to score 14-16 goals this season… he is wasted on the wing,” he said.
But there was something new about Juve’s approach, an optimism which was lacking last season, even before its trials and tribulations in front of the sporting courts ended with a 10-point penalty and a one-season ban from European football.
Juve scored only 35 times from open play last term. Their matches were frequently stodgy affairs. An early exit from the Champions League and a January thumping at the hands of Napoli underlined their limitations.
And while Chiesa said Juve’s target is a return to Europe’s top club competition, observers in Italy immediately made Juventus one of the title favourites.
With their principal rivals – Milan and reigning champion Napoli – all in transitional periods, Juve looked as hungry, and as capable, as they have since they broke the bank to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.
AC Milan will greet its home fans for the first time this season against Torino on Sunday, with the wind in its sails after its new additions made a positive start last weekend.
Christian Pulisic and Tijjani Reijnders, two of nine new faces, excelled at Bologna and there is hope on the red and black side of Milan that it can reach 20 league crowns before local rival Inter.
Simone Inzaghi’s Inter is at promoted Cagliari on Monday night and also in high spirits, but possibly the most intriguing fixture of the weekend is Fiorentina taking on Lecce – which beat Lazio at the weekend.
Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano looks set to name the same team which hammered Genoa 4-1 on the opening day and made people wonder whether the Tuscans might be a dark horse for the top four.
However, Brentford is trying to snatch away star attacker Nicolas Gonzalez after bidding over 40 million euros, a sale which would leave fans again wondering about owner Rocco Commisso’s ambitions for the club.
Player to watch: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
After missing out on Napoli’s opening day win at Frosinone with injury, star winger Kvaratskhelia will return to action for the champion’s home debut of the campaign when Sassuolo visit on Sunday night.
Kvaratskhelia is the other half of a devastating attacking partnership with Victor Osimhen which drove Napoli to its first league crown since 1990.
The 22-year-old scored 14 times and set the same number of goals last season and is in process of negotiating a contract extension at Napoli.
3: The last time Juve were 3-0 up at half-time of their opening fixture was in against Venezia in 2001. They won the league that year.
26: The number of goals scored in an entertaining opening weekend.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Monza vs Empoli – 10 PM IST
Frosinone vs Atalanta – 10 PM IST
AC Milan vs Torino – 12: 15 AM IST
Verona vs Roma – 12:15 AM IST
Fiorentina vs Lecce – 10 PM IST
Juventus vs Bologna – 10 PM IST
Napoli vs Sassuolo – 12 AM IST
Lazio vs Genoa – 12 AM IST
Salernitana vs Udinese – 10 PM IST
Calgiari vs Inter Milan – 12: 15 AM IST