Aesthetically, Alessandro Del Piero’s bunch takes the cake. There’s little doubt about that. A ‘Gol alla Del Piero’ against both Borussia Dortmund and Steaua Bucharest. Free-kicks versus Rangers and the Germans. The collection was a masterpiece.
In comparison, Alvaro Morata’s set of predatory finishes don’t stir the same emotions, but in terms of importance they are streets ahead. The Spaniard equalled the Juve icon’s 1995 club-record of netting in five consecutive Champions League outings when he nodded the Bianconeri ahead against Sevilla.
The goal came at just the right time, capping a dominant first half display. Just as each strike prior, this was decisive. Think back to the goals in both semi-final legs last term against Real Madrid. The equaliser in Berlin versus Barcelona. The winner, a fine goal at that, over Manchester City on Matchday 1.
Victory was a must for a Juve side which has stumbled punch-drunk through the opening weeks. The triumph in England was followed by their only domestic success to date at Genoa. Things looked to be picking up. But after taking one point from outings against Frosinone and Napoli the pressure increased. Juventus needed to win and did so emphatically for a first home triumph this term.
Like Morata, the Bianconeri have risen on the continent. That’s in direct contrast to a difficult start to the Serie A campaign. Two victories have shot Juve up to six points in Group D. It’s more in two games than the Turin club has accrued from six in Serie A.
That will lead to the question of why there has been a gulf between the two. Massimiliano Allegri has not been aided by a series of injuries, ensuring that in each game this season he has fielded a different starting XI. Chances were wasted against Udinese, Chievo and Frosinone. In the big away matches at Roma and Napoli they went missing. That Manchester triumph, a first on English soil since 1996, looked an anomaly. But Juve are growing on the continent. They’ve so far found the clinical edge required on the biggest stage.
Injuries were again a concern ahead of Sevilla. None more so than at right back, where Stephan Lichtsteiner’s breathing difficulties have meant a spell on the sidelines. Allegri was not aided by Martin Caceres’ car crash, an incident the club took a dim view of. His suspension, and the non-inclusion of makeshift fullback Simone Padoin in the Champions League squad, meant Allegri had to find a solution. The cross for Morata’s goal revealed its identity.
Nominally, Andrea Barzagli lined up on the right side of the back three in a 3-5-2, with Juan Cuadrado ahead on the flank. But the veteran defender at times played like a fullback, allowing the Colombian to push forward. In other instances he tucked inside. It was a hybrid resolution that saw both players command the right. For Barzagli the game was capped by that assist.
In the face of multiple absentees, Sami Khedira’s return was a welcome one. The German sustained a thigh problem in pre-season and only here made his debut. Khedira looked assured in his 75 minutes of action, keeping possession ticking over and offering balance in midfield.
And with an experienced figure alongside, Paul Pogba did not feel shackled by responsibility. He has felt the burden in the early weeks with Khedira and Claudio Marchisio – his intended midfield partners – out injured. Pogba has been guilty of trying too much without success. Here he did not over-complicate. Pogba, and the team, were better for it. With the Turin-born player possibly ready to return this Sunday against Bologna, Allegri may finally have his best midfield options available.
Sevilla rarely threatened, only firing one tame effort at Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus looked comfortable in possession and harassed with intent. It was a one-sided affair, although with memories of Frosinone fresh the second goal scored by Simone Zaza with four minutes remaining offered relief. With this win Juventus have command of the group, the only side holding a perfect record.
It was the exact display Juve were after. Zaza mentioned afterwards that the vibe had not been positive of late, so to dispel doubts is a great confidence boost. There was much to admire, this victory showing there’s plenty of fight in the Old Lady, plus her comfort as the Champions League anthem roars.