So when we posed the question on Facebook last night as to which five topics should be discussed on Juventus.com the following day, some of you pointed out that one point alone would be enough to sum up Wednesday night’s action: the return of Claudio Marchisio.
#JuveSamp: five talking points
Pulling on a black and white jersey for the first time in 192 days since limping out of April’s defeat of Palermo, the patience of both Marchisio and the home fans was rewarded last night as Juve’s number 8 slotted seamlessly back into midfield against Sampdoria at Juventus Stadium.
While colleagues Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado, Miralem Pjanic and Mario Mandzukic will rightly steal the headlines for their creative and goalscoring contributions, the roar that welcomed the announcement of Claudio’s name before kick-off and the standing ovation that ushered him from the field with 20 minutes remaining were the standout moments of a productive evening for the champions.
While it may be a few more weeks before we see Marchisio completing the full 90, last night’s performance was a timely reminder of the balance and composure he brings to the middle of the park, completing 88 per cent of his passes while recovering possession on a match-high nine occasions.
There's something about the captain’s armband that seems to bring the very best out of Giorgio Chiellini. Yesterday’s brace – both headers from set-pieces – marked Chiello’s fourth and fifth goals as stand-in skipper, adding to the long-range screamer netted in the same fixture on the final day of last season.
Last night’s was Chiellini’s second career double, the first coming back in April 2008, and one that framed a solid return to the starting line-up for the Bianconeri veteran after sitting out the defeat to Milan and victories over Udinese and Lyon in recent weeks.
All in all, a perfect demonstration in leading by example.
A thumping header to open the scoring, tireless aggression, constant menace in the opposition penalty area, last night also saw Mario Mandzukic produce the kind of performance that has made him such a key player for the Bianconeri since arriving from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2015.
Operating as an inside forward, the Croatian was seemingly back to his bruising best against Samp, complementing the fleet-footed dribbling of Cuadrado on the opposite flank with power, pace and no little precision down the left.
A first league goal of the season to get Juve up and running was just reward for Mario’s endeavor, as well as a reminder of his penchant of consistently scoring important goals for the Bianconeri, and with Paulo Dybala sidelined until at least the middle of November, the efficacy of the trident of Mandzukic-Higuain-Cuadrado will ensure La Joya’s absence isn’t too sorely missed.
From one flank to the other, Juan Cuadrado demonstrated once again why Juve fans were so eager to bring him back over the summer.
This time last week the Colombian was celebrating a last-gasp winner against Lyon and last night his creative contributions came to the fore once more with two assists for Mandzukic and Chiellini for Juve first and final goals of the contest.
The snake-hipped shimmy, the burst of pace and the inch-perfect cross for the opener was pure Cuadrado and the clearest sign yet that Juan is starting to click into gear. With Dani Alves behind him, you would struggle to think of better right-sided combinations at the moment…
On a night of so many quality performances, it should come as no surprise that our fifth and final point is dedicated to another individual, Miralem Pjanic.
The Bosnian both scored and assisted in the same match for the eighth time in his Serie A career and as the most advanced of Juve’s midfield trio, Pjanic provided a tantalising glimpse into his offensive talents and the plans of Massimiliano Allegri for the remainder of the campaign.
With Marchisio at the base of the triangle, Sami Khedira supplying the box-to-box dynamism and Miralem tasked with picking out the likes of Mandzukic, Cuadrado, Higuain and Dybala in attack, the Bianconeri can count tick off all the necessary requirements for a top-level midfield.
What’s more with Stefano Sturaro and Kwadwo Asamoah returning to full fitness and Mario Lemina and Hernanes already showing the quality of Juve’s central options this term, few sides can rival Allegri’s midfield riches; an area of the field in which his side excelled once more last night.