Milan (AFP) – Juve are still unstoppable, Gonzalo Higuain is still deadly when he’s overweight and there’s still no stopping Roma icon Francesco Totti.
Here’s five things we learned in Serie A this weekend:
Juventus set out scudetto stall
This time last year Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was nervously biting his fingernails on the touchlines as the Italian giants responded to a Champions League defeat to Barcelona in May 2015 by contriving to completely destroy their start to the Serie A season. Juventus, in early September of 2015, were a walking disaster and only really got into their stride at the turn of the year before embarking on a record-equalling fifth consecutive title triumph. Only three games into this campaign, the Old Lady looks to be in much ruder health as they target a record sixth successive title and a long run in the Champions League. The Bianconeri hold a two-point lead over Napoli and Roma, and host Sevilla in their group opener in Europe on Wednesday when fans will look to Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala to provide the goals following an encouraging performance at the weekend.
Greedy Gonzalo’s appetite is now for goals
He’s been called ‘cicciono’ (fatty) more than once at the start of season but a few extra guilty pleasures over the summer hasn’t dented Gonzalo Higuain’s appetite for goals. It took until Saturday for Juve’s 90-million-euro signing from Napoli to make his starting debut, for the simple reason he was too overweight, and therefore too unfit for Juve’s previous two encounters. Allegri’s decision has been quickly vindicated: having come off the bench and scored the winner in a 2-1 opening defeat of Fiorentina, Higuain made the most of his starting debut to hit a brace, including a spectacular volley, in a 3-1 win over Sassuolo in Turin. To boot, the 29-year-old said his pairing with compatriot and strike partner Paulo Dybala, Juve’s top scorer last season, is “going very well”.
Inter already on the back foot
Besides Juventus, who splashed out 32 million euros to buy Miralem Pjanic from Roma and an Italian record of 90 million for Higuain, Inter Milan were Serie A’s big spenders over the summer notably capturing Joao Mario from Sporting Lisbon and Gabriel Barbosa from Santos. Except, you would hardly notice. With Juve two points clear of Napoli and Roma after three games, Frank De Boer’s side limped to their first win of the campaign on Sunday, Mauro Icardi rescuing an uninventive Nerazzurri side with a second-half brace after Jean-Christophe Bahebeck had struck a 63rd-minute opener. Icardi said the team had De Boer’s wishes of “showing will to play football, determination and lots of aggressivity”. But Inter, who sit 11th and are already five points adrift of Juventus, need massive improvement if they are to fulfil the club’s new Chinese owners’ wishes of challenging for the scudetto.
Totti not ready to retire, after all
Roma’s title challenge fizzled out early last season but there was no lack of drama thanks to the unrelenting Totti retirement saga. In the end, he earned a 24th and final year’s contract but on Sunday the landscape changed. Or did it? Totti, 39, came off the bench in a rain-interrupted encounter with Sampdoria at the Stadio Olimpico to hit a last-gasp winner from the penalty spot under the ‘Curva Sud’ end of the ground which houses much of Roma’s ultra fraternity. He later declared: “The pitch will judge me. If I’m in this kind of condition, and my head tells me to keep on going, why stop?”
Milan can’t wait for Santa
Although Inter Milan’s recent takeover by Chinese tycoon Zhang Jindong has so far failed to produce the goods, AC Milan can’t wait for Santa Claus to come this Christmas. The seven-time European champions are in the midst of a takeover by Chinese investors which should be completed by the end of the year. As part of the deal, the new owners have pledged to set aside several hundred million euros to invest in the squad. After one win and two defeats, the latest a 1-0 San Siro reverse to Udinese on Sunday, coach Vincenzo Montella will be awake first to look under the Christmas tree.