Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Airport arrival lounges throughout Italy have been chock-a-block with weary footballers returning from all points around the world.
Stretching hamstrings and regaling each other about World Cup exploits or laughing off defeats, they now have to turn their attention to the bread and butter of the domestic grind.
While some of the worldly travellers may appreciate a weekend kicking back on the bench, for those left alone at home for the last couple of weeks they can’t wait to get back to their day job – especially those who have been cast aside on the road to South Africa.
Diego and Alessandro Pato must have felt really forlorn while watching – if they did indeed stay up to the wee small hours, Italian time, to follow the coverage – the Samba Boys dancing around in celebration after putting Argentina to the sword.
The pair will welcome a return to parity with their Seleção team-mates this weekend when they look to drag the spotlight back onto their gleaming young faces.
Diego has been a real revelation for the ever-sceptical Italian press, who have been comparing him to that other Diego - now in the throes of distress across the Atlantic - after his two-goal blitz at Roma two weeks ago.
Slightly over the top, one feels, but with Ibra and Kaka off the scene we can all live with a bit of Diego-mania.
You can’t make a judgement on a player’s absolute quality over two games, but the signs are there that the former Werder Bremen man has all the attributes to conquer the Italian game.
It took both Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane a season to find their feet but the latest phenomenon has already created one and scored two.
No doubt at the back of his mind the player will want to make a statement to Dunga in every game he plays – and by the looks of it he will have to shine all the time to win over the national boss.
The same goes for Pato, who by all accounts is a sensitive young soul, and was particularly taken aback at being left out of the qualifiers – although from the outside looking in there doesn’t seem to be much feeling between Dunga and the youngster.
Having said that, the striker has been Milan’s sharpest operator during their docile start to the campaign, nabbing both goals at Siena and being the only Rossonero to cause Inter any problems in the derby.
It’s matters at home that now take priority and the pair will need to be in inspiring form this weekend.
Juventus are back at their “lucky ground” in Rome to face Lazio – who, like the visitors, have won both of their opening games.
Unlike Juve, the home side didn’t have to worry about the majority of their squad being called up for international duty and will be looking to exploit any fatigue amongst Ciro Ferrara’s men.
Pato will once again be handed the goalscoring duties when Milan head to Siena, but Leonardo’s counter-attacking game-plan away from home is tailored-made for the No.7’s pace.
So it’s business as usual for Serie A’s finest – but for two in particular the return to action has even more significance.
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