Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus return to Serie A action on Sunday night as they host Ivan Juric’s Verona.
The early signs suggest the Bianconeri may be among several sides vying for the Scudetto this term, with Napoli, Inter, Atalanta and Milan seemingly all genuine contenders as calcio’s monopolisers attempt to move into a new era under Il Maestro’s tutelage.
They’ve started their league campaign unbeaten but are currently four points adrift of early tempo-setters Milan, while an Alvaro Morata brace handed Pirlo his maiden Champions League victory as a coach in the week.
Verona, meanwhile, have coped admirably thus far following the departures of key stars Sofyan Amrabat – who returned to Fiorentina following a loan – and Marash Kumbulla in the summer, highlighting the effectiveness and brilliance of Juric’s aggressive man-marking system.
Pirlo will be without summer addition Federico Chiesa following his red card on debut at Crotone, while Giorgio Chiellini is likely to miss out with a hamstring problem with Merih Demiral poised for a start as Matthijs de Ligt continue to recover from shoulder surgery.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Weston McKennie both miss out as both are still self-isolating, but there could be a maiden start for Paulo Dybala under the new boss.
As for the visitors, Mert Cetin, Andrea Danziand Marco Benassi are all out injured, while Koray Gunter and midfielder Antonin Barak are still self-isolating.
Juventus remain unbeaten under Pirlo but have perhaps flattered to deceive following their impressive 3-0 victory against Sampdoria on Il Maestro’s competitive coaching bow.
The Cruyffian ideals are stark and there’s certainly reason to believe that Pirlo will evolve into a fine coach, but the 1-1 draw at Crotone last time out in Serie A highlighted that there’s still some way to go for this Bianconeri unit.
This might finally be the season where their supremacy is usurped in Italy.
However, they bounced back from their disappointing draw last weekend with an assured performance away at Dynamo Kyiv which culminated in a 2-0 triumph and the ideal start to their Champions League campaign.
They’ll have their work cut out on Sunday afternoon against a side whose success is based on rigid defence, aggression and shrewd organisation.
Juric has proved himself to be a top coach in Verona, with his side coping thus far despite key exits in the summer.
The Gialloblu have collected seven points from their opening four games – conceding just once – and currently sit seventh in the table, a point and two places below Juve.
Juric will make this as tricky as possible for Pirlo and Juventus, such is the ruggedness of his system. They remain as stern as ever despite losing the talented Kumbulla and efficient ball-winner Amrabat, but they undoubtedly lack the firepower to cause this Juve defence issues.
Although concerns remain regarding the Bianconeri’s capacity to defend at transitions – they were much-improved in the week, mind – Pirlo’s established a stout 4-4-2 defensive shape since his arrival and they’ll be tough to penetrate.
Sunday’s clash is poised to be a tactical war of attrition, with perhaps a sequence of Dybala magic swinging the contest Juve’s way.