At a time when the Calciopoli scandal has returned to the forefront of Italian popular consciousness, Juventus finally appear to be putting the saga behind them on the pitch.
Sunday's 3-0 win over Palermo in Turin took La Vecchia Signora back to the top of Serie A - with a game in hand on all the sides directly below them - and preserved the only remaining unbeaten record in the division. It also gave Juve three consecutive victories in the league for only the third time since the start of the 2009-10 campaign.
The early-season success has arrived despite several potentially distracting episodes linked to the club's troubled recent past, including the lengthy jail term given to former general manager Luciano Moggi earlier this month over his role in Calciopoli and Juve's decision to launch a claim for €444 million in damages from the Italian Football Federation over the affair.
Following consecutive seventh-place finishes in the last two seasons, the ground for a title tilt in 2011-12 did not appear particularly fertile, but Antonio Conte's strong leadership has turned Juve into a redoubtable force. Appointed in May after leading Siena back into the Italian elite, the 42-year-old former Juve skipper has stamped his authority on the squad with a succession of bold decisions - notably dropping both talisman Alessandro Del Piero and last season's star signing, Milos Krasić, in recent weeks.
Key to Juve's positive start to the season has been new-found stability in defence and enterprise in attack. Stephan Lichtsteiner, a summer arrival from Lazio, appears to have solved the club's long-standing problem at right-back and his marauding runs down the flank typify Juve's attacking mind-set under Conte.
Both full-backs were in evidence against Palermo, with left-back Giorgio Chiellini teeing up Simone Pepe's 20th-minute opener before Lichtsteiner created the second goal for Alessandro Matri. In midfield, Andrea Pirlo has brought poise and panache since joining from Milan and Conte has not been afraid to pair him with local boy Claudio Marchisio despite neither player being a renowned ball-winner.
"I'd say the biggest thing that Conte has brought to the club is his pro-active mentality," says Adam Digby, an Italian football journalist and life-long Juventus fan. "Luigi Delneri and Claudio Ranieri were very reactive coaches, but Conte looks to force the opponent on the back foot and react to Juve, which is how it has to be for such a big club. Teams always sit back against Juve, so trying to play on the counter-attack is doomed to failure."
Juve's insistence on kicking up a fuss over Calciopoli will not improve their popularity in the eyes of opposition fans but it has helped to foster the impression that the whole club is pulling in the same direction and is refusing to give up without a fight. In the sleek, compact Juventus Stadium - the first club-owned arena in Serie A - Juve also have a new symbol of communal identity to rally behind, as well as a menacing atrium in which to unsettle opposition teams. "The stadium is always full and the fans are so close to the pitch," says Digby. "It would be intimidating at the best of times, but it's doubly so in Italy, where both are so rare."
After two years of stark underachievement, Conte is understandably cautious about setting lofty targets. "We'll talk again about that at the halfway point, when we've played everyone," he said when asked about Juve's chances of winning a 28th Scudetto. "That's when we'll add up the numbers and we'll see where we are and what we want to become."
Juve are undeniably in good shape though, and their cause is further strengthened by the fact they have no European commitments to dilute their resources. Next Saturday's trip to second-placed Lazio will give a clearer indication of exactly how high they can aspire, but the title is becoming a more realistic objective by the week.
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