Week 2 of the new championship gave us a couple of blockbusters to salivate over. The fixture computer, whether you believe its validity or not, brought together four heavyweights as the season really moved into top gear.
In the Milan derby on Saturday night, José Mourinho took a huge gamble by thrusting his new €16m acquisition, Wesley Sneijder, straight into his starting XI, a decision that took a lot of people by surprise, including his opposite number, Leonardo. Mourinho had stated his need for a new midfield playmaker and had almost lost the fight for Sneijder, as the Dutchman had stated a desire to stay in the Spanish capital and jump ship to Atlético Madrid. He finally arrived just 48 hours before the big match and was given the playmaker’s role for the Derby della Madonnina. Dejan Stankovic was moved back into a midfield trident with Javier Zanetti and Thiago Motta, allowing Sneijder to supply the ammunition for Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito.The former Real Madrid man started tentatively and it seemed that Mourinho’s decision had been a little premature, but once the Nerazzurri had wrestled the initiative away from their hosts and Thiago Motta had given them the lead, Sneijder began to relax and became more instrumental as the half wore on. After taking a crunching tackle from Gennaro Gattuso which led to the Milan midfield dynamo’s dismissal, Inter’s new fantasista had won the hearts of the tifosi. He continued to dictate the play after the interval until Mourinho decided to replace him on 74 minutes. Sneijder left the field to a standing ovation from the Nerazzurri fans housed in the third tier of the San Siro’s Curva Nord. After the match, Mourinho lapped up the praise given to him from the press and surprisingly, Milan supremo Silvio Berlusconi, who had left his seat in the Tribuna a long time before time was called on his team’s 4-0 humiliation.
Just 24 hours later we witnessed a mercurial display from the new darling of Turin, Diego, who masterminded his side’s impressive win in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. His impish display culminated in two wonderfully taken goals to keep Juventus hot on the heels of Inter. The first came courtesy of a horrendous error from Marco Cassetti but the strength he showed to hold off the challenge of John Arne Riise, take the ball 40 metres and place the ball in the bottom right hand corner was reminiscent of another supremely gifted South American No.10 called Diego Maradona. Roma could not live with the Brazilian playmaker as he ghosted around the field, evading his markers. On 81 minutes when Roma coach Luciano Spalletti decided to replace Simone Perrotta, it was an act of mercy on the part of the Tuscan tactician. Serie A has a new superstar and when he was replaced on 85 minutes, the Juventus tifosi crammed into the Distinti Nord gave their hero a standing ovation.
Last season’s surprise package Genoa have carried on where they left off – progression to the group stage of the Europa League has seemed to galvanise their season. After an opening day win at home to Roma, Sunday night’s visit to Bergamo to face Atalanta would be an altogether different test. Coach Gian Piero Gasperini is trying to play down the Rossoblu’s title ambitions this season but after withstanding an early barrage from the home side, they got their noses in front on the stroke of half time thanks to a header from big defender Emiliano Moretti. Gasperini stays loyal to his 3-4-3 formation with the whole squad working their socks off for one another. This famous club is no longer one of the also ran’s in the top division of Italian football, they are a serious Scudetto contender. At Lazio, Davide Ballardini is on the verge of great things as the capital club push for a top four finish this year. Roberto Baronio and Matuzalem the focal points of a midfield diamond that seems to be flourishing. A tricky away day in Verona to face Chievo saw the Biancocelesti run out 2-1 winners thanks to the old stager El Jardinero or, as we all know him, Julio Cruz, who grabbed both goals either side of the break. Many observers are predicting a two horse race for the Scudetto, but after two rounds of matches, we could be set for a season to remember.