Before the match, Napoli’s visit to the Allianz Stadium was branded Juventus’ first real test of the season – Valencia doesn’t count given Cristiano Ronaldo’s sending off – and it was a test they passed with full marks, as they inevitably march to another Serie A title.
Amid the fanfare of Ronaldo’s summer arrival, many forget that the Bianconeri have strengthened all over the pitch. Leonardo Bonucci and Joao Cancelo in defence, plus Emre Can in midfield, but it is the Portuguese superstar who is stealing the headlines as he beds into the side, further exerting his influence as each match passes.
Three assists against Napoli, taking him to four for the season, he was a constant menace for the Partenopei backline. Ronaldo had his best game in a Juventus shirt. They bought him to perform in the big games, and perform he did. Moving across the frontline, linking up superbly with Mario Mandzukic and being able to conjure moments of danger from nothing. This is why Ronaldo is in Turin.
That being said, it took Juve a good 20 minutes to find their feet against Napoli. Carlo Ancelotti’s men burst out of the starting blocks and put their opponents under extreme pressure with a high pressing game, which ultimately led to them taking the lead 11 minutes in. That though, only seemed to anger the Black and White machine.
An initial bump was flattened when Mandzukic’s free header sent the Bianconeri fans wild, and the image of Raul Albiol holding his hands up as if to admit it was his fault Juve scored. From that moment, Napoli never had a hope. The feeling that this Juventus side were just too good was apparent in the stadium, and it was a question of when, not if, Juventus would score again.
And score they did, and again, and could have scored again as was their dominance for the remainder of the game. Napoli asked Juventus to play football, and they got the response they likely didn’t want. The team that pushed them so close last year, and even won in Turin, were brushed aside with relative ease, sending an ominous warning to the rest of Italy.
Mario Rui’s sending off could be deemed harsh, and it certainly meant an end to any Napoli resistance, but he was skating on thin ice after being booked early on. He made the referee make a decision, one that was helped by Paulo Dybala’s dramatic reaction.
Jose Callejon had a guilt-edged chance as he danced into the box when the Partenopei were down to ten men, but he fluffed it. These are moments which separate the winners from the losers. Would Ronaldo have missed that chance? Would Dybala? Probably not.
Napoli are still getting to grips with the transition from Maurizio Sarri to Ancelotti, Roma are getting to grips with an exodus and influx of new players, Inter are well… Inter. AC Milan have issues, Lazio have an excellent first eleven, but lack depth. Juventus now have it all, strength, depth, stability, and a player in Ronaldo who can and does make the difference when he margins are thin.
With just seven games gone, Juve have won each of them, a feat they have accomplished just four times in their history and on every occasion went on to win the Serie A title – 2005/06 was the last time though that was revoked. And it will take something truly extraordinary for them not to do it again.