Juventus confounded critics with Champions League victory at Manchester City, as Alvaro Morata scored the winner to maintain an impressive recent record in the competition.
City had been pinned as heavy favourites heading into the contest at the Etihad Stadium, owing to an unbeaten start to their domestic campaign.
Juve, meanwhile, had suffered two defeats at the beginning of a new Serie A campaign for the first time in their illustrious history, which was followed by an unconvincing home draw with high-flying Chievo.
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When the Citizens took the lead through an unfortunate own goal by defender Giorgio Chiellini just short of the hour-mark, it was expected that the beleaguered Old Lady would simply crumble.
However, the Italian champions displayed great courage in firstly getting back on level terms through Mario Mandzukic, before Spanish striker Alvaro Morata struck an unstoppable tracer-missile of an effort beyond Joe Hart and into the bottom corner to claim all three points.
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Much has been made of the void left by departing stars Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal, while the Bianconeri were rightly lauded for holding on to dynamic midfielder Paul Pogba.
Few words had been mentioned about another player they managed to keep tucked away safely under lock and key, who may prove to be just as important to their cause.
Real Madrid let Morata leave for Turin last year, with his first-team chances severely limited by the presence of stellar names such as Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
They intelligently placed a buy-back clause in his contract, though, which could be activated for a fee of £22 million.
Sports news outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport say that Real will attempt to trigger the clause next summer, but they also believe Juventus are ready to offer a new deal to Morata in a bid to convince him to stay, as it is he who commands the final say on the matter.
While all of that uncertainty is rumbling in the background, the 22-year-old is simply going about his usual business of plundering goals on Europe’s biggest stage, just as he did in helping Juve reach the final last term.
Morata notched five times in 12 Champions League outings during 2014-15 – only nine of which were starts. He was integral throughout their exhilarating run to Berlin, and his splendid finish against City could be as crucial domestically, as it is for their ambitions of making another assault on the continent’s greatest prize.
Confidence appeared to be at the lowest ebb possible after gaining a solitary point out of three opening matches in Serie A, therefore attaching added significance to Morata’s goal.
The 2-1 triumph will certainly boost morale within the squad, plus there’ll be a strengthening belief on the back of the result that suggests they can overcome sobering early difficulties to mount a serious challenge on the Scudetto once again.
Juve’s retention of the Spain international may have gone largely unnoticed amid the hullabaloo surrounding Pogba et al, but it’s Morata who is leading the club’s revival from the front.
And they should all they can to keep him, as he – more than most – represents the future at Juventus.
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