Juventus underlined with their Italian Super Cup win over Lazio that they will still be the team to beat this season, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.
Their pre-season form had raised the hopes of every other side in Serie A. The difficulties of slotting in their new signings had people wondering if the big name acquisitions might adversely affect a well-oiled winning machine. And then, when the competitive matches started, Juventus blew away all the doubts in devastating fashion.
It is hard to credit that the start of their Super Cup demolition of Lazio started in a slightly fortuitous manner. It took an injury to Claudio Marchisio to get Paul Pogba on to the pitch. Within moments he had broken the deadlock and, in the process, suggested that Antonio Conte will have a job keeping him out of the side this year.
Prior to that strike, midway through the first half, neither side had really shone. There was more perspiration than inspiration on display from both teams prior. But a deadly spell at the start of the second half ended any thoughts of the Biancocelesti sneaking back into the match.
The route to the rout came via Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right flank. He motored through to tee up Giorgio Chiellini who was making a cameo appearance as a striker on a lightning counter-attack. Then he finished off a neat Mirko Vucinic flick himself. The panic in the heart of the Lazio defence was almost palpable.
The icing on the cake for Juventus came with a goal for Carlitos Tevez who had looked a little bit off the pace and out of the play up until then. The strike gave him confidence and he started to look much more at home in a black and white shirt. You get the feeling he will find the net plenty of times this year as he develops a greater understanding with his new teammates.
A flicker of resistance from the Roman side was easily enough snuffed out in the closing stages. Gigi Buffon denied Miroslav Klose their best chance but it was unlikely to kick-start any kind of revival. The capital club looked short of the quality required for that sort of comeback.
There was time, in the closing stages, for yet another pathetic display of the racism which haunted the Italian game last season. Jeers for Paul Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah provided a depressing finale to the match. If Calcio wants to make a new start, it needs to tackle such idiocy head on.
On more sporting matters, the early indications were that Juve will set the standards for Serie A once again this year. Their old guard are still going strong and their new signings can make a significant contribution. Coach Conte will be driving them on to produce both in Italy and Europe.
As for Lazio, they need not hit the panic button just yet. They won’t come up against many teams in Italy as strong as the Bianconeri and can surely carve out a role in the top half of the table once again. On this display, they might struggle to retain their Coppa Italia or challenge at the very top end of the League. However, they have made a habit of defying the critics in the past and may well do so again.
All in all, the Super Cup was a tasty little appetiser for the season ahead. There was some sweeping, entertaining and attractive football on show for much of the match. It bodes well for a championship which is trying to re-establish itself as one of the best in Europe. If it can kick out the distasteful acts of racism, Serie A still has a lot to offer. Let’s hope those good elements shine through in the weeks and months ahead.