Higuain brace powers Juve
12:00 AM, September 12, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:17 PM, September 15, 2016

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Higuain brace powers Juve

Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon starred as Juventus and Napoli warmed up for their respective Champions League opening group games with comprehensive wins over Sassuolo and Palermo on Saturday.

Higuain, who signed for Juventus from Napoli in a big-money move over the summer, answered his recent critics with a well-taken brace in a one-sided 3-1 win over Sassuolo in Turin.

In Palermo, Marek Hamsik got Napoli off the mark with a 47th minute opener, his 82nd goal for the club overtaking Diego Maradona's 81-goal haul when he helped them to their two league titles, in 1987 and 1990.

Callejon's brace came amid a poor defensive display from an outclassed Palermo, but still took the Spaniard's tally to four in three games.

But it is Juve who are the most fancied Italian side in Europe this season, and Higuain's third goal of the campaign has raised hopes Juve, beaten finalists in 2015, can go all the way, starting with a win against reigning Europa League champions Sevilla on Wednesday.

Higuain, making his Juve debut after several frantic weeks of trying to lose the excess pounds he piled on over a summer, was buoyed after a promising Juventus display.

"This is the kind of Juventus side we need for the Champions League, but we have our feet firmly on the ground," he told Sky Sport.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri admitted "Higuain made the difference", but was quick to underline his squad have yet to iron out many of their early-season creases.

"We still have a lot of improvement to make... we conceded far too many shots by Sassuolo," said the Italian. "Today we played well offensively, but we're still looking for the DNA of our defensive game."

For not the first time since his arrival from Real Madrid, in 2013, Higuain has drawn criticism for starting the season overweight.

Allegri's decision to only start him from the bench in their opening two games, when he hit the winner in Juve's opening 2-1 win over Fiorentina, has already been vindicated.

Although yet to start banging goals in with the regularity that earned him a Serie A record with 36 last season, Higuain's two-goal haul on Saturday suggests he could be on his way to another remarkable season.

He added, defiantly: "I was never really worried, I knew that with some hard work the goals would come."

Juve's performance against a Sassuolo side set to make its Europa League debut, at home to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, was not the only dominant one of the night.

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