Juventus back in Europe with a bang

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Juventus last played in the Champions League on April 6 2006 when they were eliminated from the competition in an insipid display against Arsenal at the Stadio delle Alpi.

The Old Lady‘s black and while world then turned a little gray after that and within two months it had fallen apart as calciopoli swept away any vestiges of sporting behaviour within Italian football.

Just over 24 months later and after pounding FC Artmedia to smithereens, the Bianconeri are set to dine at Europe’s top table once again.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Champions League beckons after battering Bratislava

A sell-out 25,000 turned up at the Olympic stadium – and this in traditional holiday season when the northern cities of Turin and Milan are more like the opening scene of New York streets in the film I am Legend – to witness the return.

Outside the ground, another 3,000 were left without tickets and it was one banner amongst the many proclaiming, “We are back,” which summed up the devotion this club inspires amongst it’s fans along with the Italian way with words.

“A true knight never leaves his lady.”

It wasn’t even a joust as Juve ran the Slovakan champions through, with three goals in the first half including an absolute cracker from Alessandro Del Piero – and a fourth in the dying moments of the second.

So, all set fair for Bratislava at the end of the month and just what Claudio Ranieri had ordered from his players: finish this tie off in the first leg.

Certainly, the coach deserves a lot of praise for his astute dealings in the transfer market, not least in signing Italy’s bete noir, Cristian Poulsen instead of Xabi Alonso from Liverpool.

The Dane, as we know, wound Francesco Totti up so much at Euro 2004 that the Roma man ended up receiving a three-game ban for spitting at his assailant.

Totti lets fly at Poulsen at Euro 2004

The dark knight then kicked lumps out Ricky Kaka in a Champions League game and had a subsequent run-in with Rino Gattuso.

Alongside that other force of nature Mohamed Sissoko - how did Liverpool ever let him leave? - he looked an assured and calm presence in the centre of midfield, never needlessly giving away possession and even sweeping some searching passes out wide to that little dynamo Mauro Camoranesi.

Ranieri can be well pleased with the rest of his squad and has enough cover in every position to mount a challenge on two fronts.

In Europe, all roads lead to Rome this season and it would be no surprise to see the Old Lady’s crusade taking them all the way to the capital, knights in tow.