As we have seen over the course of the season, when Juventus came out of the international break, they look like a completely different team compared to the one that entered it.
The trend continued on Sunday when a mediocre Juve side-grinded out a 1-0 win over Udinese on a cool and foggy night in Turin.
From the start, Juve established possession. Diego tried to catch Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic napping with a cross-shot less than a minute in. However, the effort was moving right as it got closer to the goal and only found side netting.
The Brazilian playmaker again came close to opening the scoring five minutes in, with a right-footed blast from the top of the box, stinging Handanovic's hands.
Juventus again had a chance from a tight angle to score, this time with Sebastian Giovinco on the left side of goal. The diminutive Italian playmaker shot from a tight angle, but Handanovic wasn't troubled at the near post and smothered Giovinco's shot.
But then after that, the game began to turn into slop with bad passes and clearances, poor field conditions, and not many scoring opportunities. It just showed the international break was taking its effect on both of the teams.
Juventus didn't get their next chance to score until the 37th minute. And what a glorious chance it was. After some slick combination play from Mauro Camoranesi, Diego, and Giovinco, Camoranesi sent in a great cross that found Amauri unmarked in the six-yard box. However, the big Brazilian striker couldn't get a foot on it and saw the ball hit off his knee and go right into Handanovic's hands.
It was a play that summed up Amauri's night, as he was one of the worst players on the field. Other than that one chance, he barely saw the ball.
The first half ended with some bad blood, after both Diego and Handanovic were booked after the Brazilian nicked the keeper in the head trying to chase down the ball. Diego was first shown a yellow but then Handanovic was also shown one after getting to his feet and letting the Juve playmaker know how he felt about the incident.
Juve broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half, when Fabio Grosso scored his first goal in a Juve uniform. Fellow fullback Martin Caceres, who was great in the second half, sent in a pinpoint cross to Grosso. The Italian international was not only unmarked in the six-yard box, but also had a wide open goal to shoot at; he burried it with authority.
The stoppage after the goal allowed Ciro Ferrara to introduce Captain Alessandro Del Piero back into action. The Juve idol had only played 10 minutes this season and, from what he was saying in the press leading up to the match, he was itching to get back on the field.
Del Piero's effect was felt almost immediately as Juve came close to doubling their lead. After a combination play from Del Piero and Diego resulted in a loose ball, Momo Sissoko grabbed a hold of one and sent it screaming just over the crossbar.
However, Udinese came right back with a chance of their own when Antonio Floro Flores sent a rocket in towards the Juventus goal. Gianluigi Buffon looked to have a little trouble reading the direction it was heading, but saved the shot by sticking out his back foot.
Juve again had a chance to double the lead with 15 minutes to go. Off a Del Piero corner, Camoranesi's header deflected off of Udinese defender Dusan Basta's head. An alert, Handanovic made a fine save to prevent an own goal as the ball was heading towards to back post.
Diego had a fine chance with 10 minutes to go, after shaking two defenders. However, once he finally got a shooting lane, there wasn't much on the attempt and it went right at Handanovic.
And much like a good portion of Juve's games, there was drama at the end. In stoppages, the Friulani came close to equalizing it after a mad scramble in the box. Juve supporters had their hearts in their throats thinking another possible three points was going to get away from them, but Buffon smothered the ball and prevented any shot on goal.