Pirlo’s new-look Juve face Roma challenge
Andrea Pirlo’s new-look Juventus face their first major test this season on Sunday when the Serie A champions tackle Roma.
Juventus kicked off their bid for a 10th consecutive league title with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria to hand Pirlo a win in his first-ever match on the bench.
But the 41-year-old will face a difficult second weekend in the Stadio Olimpico against a Roma side still smarting after being handed an opening round defeat at Verona for fielding an unregistered player.
Since arriving last month Pirlo has brought in younger players such as defender Arthur and US midfielder Weston McKennie, with veterans including Miralem Pjanic, Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi leaving.
Swedish debutant Dejan Kulusevski got the champions off the mark with his debut goal for the club, and this week Spanish striker Alvaro Morata rejoined Juventus where he played with Pirlo from 2014-2016.
There has also been a movement among the backroom staff with former Juventus goalkeeper Marco Storari this week joining the setup with the role of developing new talents.
Pirlo’s contemporary, Italian Storari, 43, played for Juventus for five seasons, from 2010 to 2015, winning four Scudetti, two Italian Super Cups and an Italian Cup.
The changes have given a new impetus to the club, said Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
“When we train we have fun,” said Ramsey. “The work is hard but gives us great satisfaction.
“We started well and with the new coach, and the new staff, new ideas have also arrived.
“There are great players and we can all play together, but Inter have a good team and Napoli and Milan are strong.”
The pressure, meanwhile, is mounting on Roma coach Paulo Fonseca after just one match, which officially ended in a goalless draw against Verona, before forfeiting the game.
There are reports that former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is being lined up by the club’s new American owners.
Northern rivals Inter Milan and Atalanta both open their campaigns after their season starts were pushed back because of their summer European commitments.
Antonio Conte’s Inter host Fiorentina with Atalanta heading for Torino, the side the Bergamo club whipped 7-0 in their last meeting.
AC Milan travel south to promoted Crotone without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has tested positive for coronavirus.
The 38-year-old Swede scored both goals in their opening round win over Bologna.
“It’s an unexpected absence that weighs heavy, also because it adds to the already large number of absentees,” said club technical director Paolo Maldini.
Napoli host Genoa, against whom they have lost just once in their last 21 Serie A meetings, before next week’s clash against Juventus.
One to watch:
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala prepares to make his return against Roma, having been sidelined since July 26 with a thigh injury picked up when Juventus wrapped up their ninth consecutive ‘Scudetto’. Dybala, 26, scored 17 goals in 46 matches last season including 11 in Serie A.
12 – Lazio’s unbeaten run against Cagliari
4 – Juventus are winless in their last four league away games
1 – Inter Milan were just one point behind Juventus last sesaon
Fixtures (all times GMT):
Torino v Atalanta (1300GMT), Cagliari v Lazio (1600), Sampdoria v Benevento (1600), Inter Milan v Fiorentina (1845)
Spezia v Sassuolo (1030GMT), Napoli v Genoa (1300), Hellas Verona v Udinese (1300), Crotone v AC Milan (1600), Roma v Juventus (1845)
Bologna v Parma (1845)