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!!Juventus 28!!

It’s mission accomplished for Juventus who return to winning ways after the disappointment of finishing last season empty-handed. The European giants are once more Campioni d’Italia after pipping Milan to the Scudetto, in one of the most thrilling and tight title races the calcio viewing public has ever seen.

The Old Lady of Italian football was forced to have a little facelift in the summer. She was looking decidedly tired after the wonder years of Marcello Lippi’s reign. New blood was needed and that duly arrived in the shape of boss Fabio Capello and numerous players in what some dubbed a risky transfer campaign.

There were no doubts about Capello’s ability but question marks remained about director general Luciano Moggi’s summer dealings. Emerson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro, Jonathan Zebina and Manuele Blasi were brought in but they sacrificed the likes of Enzo Maresca, Marco Di Vaio and Fabrizio Miccoli in return.

There were also critics who claimed that Ibrahimovic would take too long to settle and that Cannavaro, after a nightmare spell at Inter, was past his best. Yet all five of the major signings settled in almost instantly, with Cannavaro, Emerson and Ibra – also thanks to David Trezeguet’s injury – quickly establishing themselves as the new spine of the side.

The Turin giants started the season early due to their Champions’ League commitments but that seemed to favour their plans. The re-union of former Parma teammates Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram and goalkeeper Gigi Buffon gave Juventus a defensive security that was so badly lacking last term.

Juventus flew out of the blocks after winning eight and drawing one of their first nine League games. They surprisingly tasted defeat at Reggina but some questionable refereeing decisions, this time against Juve rather than in their favour, contributed to the shock reverse. That was only a minor set-back though, as was Trezeguet’s three-month lay-off given that Marcelo Zalayeta expertly replaced him when called upon.

It was all becoming too easy for Juventus, who by now had a six-point advantage over Milan, until they got a rather rude wake-up call at Inter. Leading 2-0 at the San Siro, they "admired themselves in the mirror" as Capello stated, when the Nerazzurri scored twice in the last 10 minutes to grab a dramatic point.

That was the start of a mini-crisis in form for the Bianconeri as the first signs of tiredness were setting in, with Capello rarely opting to rotate his squad as Milan and Inter had. Yet Juve still had a four-point lead over the Rossoneri, thanks to a narrow and lucky 1-0 win at Bologna, when Milan arrived at the Delle Alpi. The away side dominated the game but Juve were more than happy to pick up a draw and a 0-0 followed.

Despite a lack of quality alternatives for Capello, the outfit used the January transfer window to remove a few more of the ‘Old Guard’. Igor Tudor joined Siena, Bologna signed Nicola Legrottaglie and Mark Iuliano headed for Majorca.

By January 30, the title race was seemingly over. Juventus had stretched their lead over Milan to eight points and the fun and games were up. The San Siro outfit had basically ripped the tricolore shields off their shirts in surrender. They started to stitch them back on just four games later as Juve lost 1-0 to Sampdoria and Palermo, while drawing at Messina. It was all level again.

La Vecchia Signora was struggling badly by now. Trezeguet had returned from his shoulder lay-off but his campaign would continue to be hampered by a virus and then an ankle problem. To make matters worse, Pavel Nedved was also struck down by a knee injury and then concussion which kept him out for some time too. Yet when the going gets tough, Juventus get going. Capello decided that the only way to cope without Nedved was to attack and he switched to a 4-3-3 system that awoke the side.

Testimony of that came in victories over Real Madrid in the Champions’ League but also in the 2-1 win at Roma. The March 5 tie was one of the most eagerly awaited of the campaign after the summer exits of Capello, Emerson and Zebina. The Bianconeri won, even if in controversial circumstances, to underline that they still believed in the title.

Juventus and Milan continued to exchange almost identical blows, with the 1-0 loss to Inter in Turin bringing the teams once more level on points. They went into the San Siro clash in early May all square at the top of the table knowing that whoever won the showdown would probably go on to lift the title.

The then 27-time champions arrived at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in silence. The three-match ban on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, plus the broadcast of the Cannavaro ‘doping’ video, hadn’t gone down too well with club officials. If the media blackout was enforced to unite and focus the squad then it worked as Trezeguet returned to the starting line-up to basically head home the title winner. A victory against Parma, plus Milan’s inability to beat Lecce and Palermo with the Champions' League Final on their minds, made mathematically sure of a championship that was richly deserved.

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