Big Three go head to head to head
LetÃ¢ÂÂs face it Ã¢ÂÂ these lazy days of late summer are just downright boring if you're stuck in one of the big Italian cities.
Most of the locals have hung out the Ã¢ÂÂSee you in SeptemberÃ¢ÂÂ signs and headed south to the beaches of the Bel Paese, so why shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt the countryÃ¢ÂÂs best-supported teams follow suit and decamp to Bari for a Friday evening triangular tournament?
It's a home from home for Juventus, Inter and AC Milan, who all have significant numbers of fans dotted all over the heel of the peninsula. These fans were out in force in the San Nicola stadium, which is usually only this full during the season when the aforementioned northern giants are in town.
With the new season still two weeks away, the players are still some way from full fitness but the three games of 45 minutes apiece gives a sliver of light on how the three big sisters of Italian football are shaping up under their new coaches.
Unsurprisingly it's Rafa Benitez who can look forward to the new campaign with plenty of confidence, while Gigi Del Neri and Massimiliano Allegri are faced with enough shortcomings to suggest that they will do well to hold off the likes of Napoli, Palermo, Fiorentina and Sampdoria Ã¢ÂÂ never mind compete with last season's clear runners-up AS Roma.
Benitez has inherited a team oozing with quality and Jose MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs Treble-winning year has left the senior players with the hunger to repeat the feats of the last season.
The opening encounter of the evening pitted the Nerazzurri against their old nemesis Juventus, who have been back in training since the beginning of July but already have the look of a side that has been through a long, tough season.
A one-sided affair could have seen Inter two goals up after 10 minutes but they had to wait until the 25th minute, when Wesley Sneijder produced a stunning long-range finish.
Juve of course could well have been saving their energy for Thursday's Europa League play-off first leg against SK Sturm Graz, but there's no getting away from the fact that the team are some way from playing in the manner Del Neri would like.
The aim is to get the ball wide and then quickly into dangerous positions, but the problem is that Diego, Momo Sissoko and Felipe Melo each want to take the ball forward Ã¢ÂÂ which then closes up the space for widemen Davide Lanzafame and Simone Pepe to work in.
The Old Lady needs less haste and more speed. The latter has long gone from RonaldinhoÃ¢ÂÂs armoury, but the old magic is still there at times.
Allegri has accepted that he is going to have to build a side carrying too much deadwood around the immobile but still twinkled-toed Brazilian.
What his compatriot Diego would give to have a side built around him. Juve's No.28 found the equaliser against Milan doing what he does best: taking a position closer to the opposition penalty area and then bursting forward to get on the end of the final ball. You have to admire the man's fortitude, even as the club does everything possible to move him on.
Having flexed their muscles in the first 45 minutes, the Milanese sides let the kids run around well past their bed-time with the only newsworthy note that the two standout youngsters were InterÃ¢ÂÂs 18-year-old Brazilian Coutinho and Milan's young German midfielder Alexander Merkel.
Complacency was the problem in the penalty shootout and it was left to Dinho to demonstrate that he is incapable of taking the straightforward option.
Allegri was left shaking his head. It may become a common sight throughout the season.