In April 2015, Juventus beat Villarreal 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie in Turin. It was a dreadful game, decided by a penalty from Arturo Vidal. Asked afterwards about the almost total absence of excitement, an irritated Massimiliano Allegri replied, "If you want to have fun, you should go to the circus."
When Juve met Villarreal in the Champions League again last year, and played out a 1-1 draw at El Madrigal, their coach went even further, criticising his own team for attempting to play attractive, expansive football. "I would prefer to see a Juve that is winning, but less pretty," Allegri admitted in his post-match interview with Mediaset.
He appears to have got his wish. After a trying and turbulent 2022-23 campaign in which Allegri was labelled a "dead man walking", he was surprisingly granted a stay of execution during the summer - partly because Juve could not afford to sack him - and is now making the most of his reprieve.
Indeed, this season's Juve have become the masters of winning ugly and go into Sunday's Derby d'Italia with Inter knowing that victory in Turin would see them replace their hated rivals at the top of the Serie A standings. Consequently, while Allegri is doing his best to play down talk of a sustained Scudetto challenge, many Italian football fans are now wondering if such a tough team to watch might actually win the title...