Juventus needed 16 minutes to score two goals and essentially finish off a 2-0 victory over Bologna on Wednesday, and then could sit back and relax in preparation for their big match against Napoli this weekend.
While the world still speaks of Cristiano Ronaldo, in this one it was Paulo Dybala's time to shine. Enjoying the space and freedom he had in the 3-5-2 formation, with a midfield that supported him, Dybala ran, created and scored a right-footed beauty to open the scoring.
It didn't take long before Ronaldo set up Blaise Matuidi to double the lead. Bologna tried to make the most of Juve's errors to push forward but struggled to make their mark against such a technically superior team.
Dybala's performance and goal will go a long way into restoring the player's confidence. Allowed to roam free and find spaces to exploit, he played to a level befitting of his talent. While Massimiliano Allegri cannot always offer him such freedom, the manager will have taken note of this performance for the future.
While there's little to feel negative about, Ronaldo is playing with too much anxiety and the desire for goals is affecting his overall performance. It's clear his teammates are yet to understand how to deliver what he needs to score all the time. The chemistry will develop and the fluidity will come, but for the moment he just needs to relax.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- The fact Juventus needed so little time to grab the win and sit back suggests this team is already superior to much of Serie A. Using yet another formation, the squad's versatility and strength in depth, all so cleverly exploited, will stand them in good stead for another successful season. Allegri simply had little to do to secure the points in this one.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Mattia Perin, 6 -- Pulled off a few good saves but it was an easy debut for the Italian goalkeeper. He will be judged when the real challenges come.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 7 -- Read the game better than his opponents, timing his jumps brilliantly, winning back possession and ensuring safety.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 7 -- Fairly untroubled and made a crucial interception early in the game to keep out Bologna. After that, he simply indulged in perfect forward passes that launched Juve's attack.
DF Medhi Benatia, 6 -- A few mistakes which he remedied quickly, but while he did little wrong and had a serene night, he always looks capable of a worrying error.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 6 -- He tried to provide and help the team, offering avenues to exploit, support when required and discipline.
MF Rodrigo Bentancur, 6 -- Growing. So much heart, especially when Juve are in danger. He's still a little too guilty of small errors that in this sort of a game can be forgiven, but not in others.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 5 -- Not his best match. Risked a second yellow card, clumsy, and failed to find his rhythm within the game.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 7 -- There's very little the Frenchman can't do and he's yet to suffer from exhaustion after such a long year. He provided the midfield balance, the support, the clever insertions to exploit space and scored the second goal. He's everywhere, making his impact to keep Juve moving and winning.
MF Joao Cancelo, 6 -- Played on the left on this occasion but still unstoppable when he's speeding on the wing. Found space, delivered perfect balls and contributed perfectly to the attack that nearly resulted in a sensational goal. Of course his workload becomes a lot easier to manage when not asked to provide too much in the defensive phase of the game.
FW Paulo Dybala, 8 -- When Dybala gets the freedom to operate, as he's allowed to do behind Ronaldo and with the support of the midfield behind him in a 3-5-2 formation, he is dazzling. His maze-like runs, beautiful dribbles and confidence returned and showed a glimpse of what he can do. Long may it continue. A goal, a cross that led to Juve's second and consistent applause from the stadium, this should spur the Argentine on.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 6 -- Lost possession often to allow Bologna possession and tried to force a goal too often. He must relax and not play with such anxiety, as it unsettles his teammates who try all they can to produce for him. Nonetheless, even an anxious Ronaldo delivers, registering the assist for Matuidi's goal.
MF Emre Can, 6 -- Must be more cunning for this league. Moreover, he needs to learn not to concede free-kicks in good positions for the opponent. A better team would punish his mistakes.
FW Federcio Bernardeschi, N/A -- Playing with such confidence. Despite being offered little time, he still managed to terrify the opponent.
DF Alex Sandro, N/A -- Not on long enough to make an impact.