Ninety-nine days since lifting a history-making fifth consecutive Scudetto crown to the Spring sky, the champions are back.
The new season: let the games begin
Our last visit to Juventus Stadium spelled the end of a truly extraordinary and frankly unprecedented season, rounded off in style with a thrilling 5-0 victory over Sampdoria; the next this evening marks the beginning of another new dawn in Turin.
The path that led Massimiliano Allegri’s men to that afternoon of celebration in May was one that not only produced new national records for consecutive victories (15) and minutes without conceding (973), but also confirmed beyond doubt that everything is possible as far as the Bianconeri are concerned.
After becoming the first Italian club to win back-to-back domestic doubles a matter of days later in Rome and bidding good luck to a host of their international stars for the European Championships in France, it was then that the planning, plotting and preparations for the latest defence of the title could begin. And how.
Behind the scenes, with the summer’s showpiece tournament just three days old, the first brick had already been laid as Miralem Pjanic touched down at Caselle airport on 13 June to become the first of five eye-catching summer captures.
The arrival of last season’s Serie A leader for match-winning assists (12) was swiftly followed by that of one of the most decorated players in the game’s history, Dani Alves.
Medhi Benatia and Marko Pjaca would join them in putting pen to paper while the eagerly anticipated signature of Gonzalo Higuain ensured that the coming campaign has the potential to better the achievements of last season both at home and in the Champions League.
There would be high-profile departures in the form of Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata, key performers in Juve’s recent success-studded seasons, as well as three highly popular dressing-room figures and serial Scudetto winners in Simone Padoin, Martin Caceres and Rubinho.
The club has placed on record its thanks to all of the above, wishing them every future success. Nevertheless, there can be no doubting the depth of strength that remains among the Bianconeri’s battle hardened and richly talented ranks.
In Gianluigi Buffon and the men in front of him, Juventus now lay claim to Serie A’s strongest defence, in Pjanic its leading assist maker of the past three campaigns and in Higuain, scorer of 36 goals, 20 of which coming in the last 18 outings in 2016, its record-breaking marksman.
On the field, a memorable two weeks in Melbourne and Hong Kong saw the team begin working towards the big kick-off in cooler climes while experiencing valuable pre-season tests against Champions League rivals Tottenham Hotspur (2-1) and hosts Melbourne Victory (1-1) and South China (2-1).
The sight of Paulo Dybala and defender Benatia appearing on the scoresheet showed that goals may well come from all over the field this term: literally if Carlos Blanco Moreno’s stunner from half-way is anything to go by…
On returning to home soil, excitement for the new campaign could truly begin in earnest.
Regrouping together at full strength for the first time in Vinovo, Massimiliano Allegri’s men continued the momentum built Down Under to impressively defeat West Ham 3-2 at the newly inaugurated London Stadium on 7 August with fans treated to not only a glimpse of Alves, Higuain and Pjaca in Juventus jerseys for the very first time but also the familiar sight of Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic combining as clinically as ever for the game’s two opening goals.
Registering a 2-2 draw with Espanyol in Modena in between – an encounter that saw the deadly attacking duo further add to their respective tallies – the entire Bianconeri family then headed to the mountains for the traditional festivities of Villar Perosa.
In the stands, the supporters revelled in the final chance to toast a magical 12 months and bid their heroes one last good luck for the new campaign. On the field, meanwhile, there was to be a first Juve strike for Higuain and a final taste of competitive action before tonight’s encounter with Fiorentina.
Echoing the words of coach Allegri, a continuation of the form that saw Juve win 26 times in 28 matches at the back end of the 2015/16 season tonight is absolutely essential and, with a typically productive and fruitful summer behind them, the champions are in an excellent position to do so. After all, if anything last season demonstrated the importance of keeping calm, standing together and fighting until the very end.
No side has ever won Serie A six times in a row and the long journey to that distant target begins today at 20.45 CEST at Juventus Stadium.
New faces, new season, same goal, same focus.
Fino Alla Fine, Forza Juventus.