The grin spoke volumes. As Juventus swept in their third goal against ChievoVerona, coach Massimiliano Allegri allowed himself a toothy smile with one of his assistants. Allegri’s mirth confirmed a creeping suspicion that Juve are becoming a fun team.
For all their massive unprecedented success recently, including six league titles in a row and three consecutive doubles, the Bianconeri were never a spectacular outfit. Aside from their fans, no one rushed home from the office or school to watch them.
But their dynamic display in the driving rain at home to Chievo on Saturday night challenged that perception. Hiding from the Turin downpour under a towel, Tuscan-born Allegri relished his side’s flair and embarrassment of riches.
Douglas Costa, the winger unwanted by Bayern Munich, was in devilish form. His close control, twists and acceleration bamboozled the visitors.
And – hold the back page – the brilliant Brazilian has an end product too. Comfortable on either flank, Costa gives Allegri real incision.
Federico Bernardeschi, another of the summer recruits, joined the party from the bench. The champions were two up and Allegri wanted his No 33 to express himself.
The former Fiorentina man did just that, showing poise and powerful running. The Italy international played a large role in Juve’s third goal.
Bernardeschi can cover a variety of positions including wide right in a trident or behind centre-forward Gonzalo Higuain.
But the man in the fabled No 10 shirt was the real star of the evening. Paulo Dybala inherited the famous jersey from Michel Platini, Alex Del Piero, Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba.
Dybala wasn’t in the starting line up, as Allegri kept Tuesday’s meeting with Barcelona in mind. But after 54 minutes the Argentine, nicknamed the Jewell, replaced the magnificent Costa.
If the Brazilian fireball was hoping to nab the man of the match award, his fellow South American’s cameo scuppered that.
The former Palermo forward was on a mission. His dribbling and deft touches were positively Messi-esque. His determination to dominate was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo. The 23-year-old seemed to be playing a different sport to the others.
Dybala scored the final goal after a wonderful run and a hand from the marauding Bernardeschi. He previously contributed to Higuain’s thunderous strike to make it 2-0. The Allianz Stadium lapped up the entertainment.
Last month Allegri confessed that Juve’s crushing 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final hit him hard.
The slim coach considered walking away, but his decision to remain looked a shrewd one on Saturday night. There wasn’t any singing, but his forwards were certainly dancing in the rain.
Of course, it’s vital to remember that the Bianconeri magic show was against Chievo. A modest side with their own help the aged campaign: the average age of their back four and goalkeeper was 35.6, including two men of 38 and a pair of 36 year olds.
Barcelona’s rearguard has attracted criticism in recent seasons, but they will offer a sterner test than Chievo’s seasoned unit. Allegri and Co have a slight edge though.
They eliminated the Catalans in last year’s quarter final, winning the first leg 3-0 thanks to Dybala’s genius, before reverting to type for a solid 0-0 at Camp Nou.
There are a few injury headaches. Rustic, left-sided defender Giorgio Chiellini misses out with a damaged calf. Mario Mandzukic took a knock against Chievo and is out. Classy, but fragile, midfielder Sami Khedira is definitely out.
Barca’s eye-catching 5-0 win in the derby against Espanyol was a reminder of their formidable firepower. Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique added the others. But after their heroics against the Blaugrana last season, Juve won’t be overawed.
Indeed, the Vecchia Signora is in a unique position in Europe. Having lost a record seven Champions League finals, including two in the last three years, the Italian aristocrats are beyond fear.
What’s the worst that can happen? Nine months’ hard work culminating in a dispiriting defeat and a runners’ up medal? Been there, done that.
Don’t expect Allegri to go on the attack from the outset at the Camp Nou. But if the home defence is wobbling, Dybala, Costa and Bernardeschi could wreak havoc. And we might see that toothy, Tuscan grin light up the Catalan night.