Roberto Di Matteo wrinkled his nose at the idea that hearing the Champions League anthem will have any special effect as his team begin their title defence. The same cannot be said of Chelsea's opponents, Juventus. The significance of their return to Europe's elite is not something to be taken lightly. The message on the club's official website this week is unashamedly giddy: Europa, siamo tornati! Europe, we're back.

Although Juve did make a return to the Champions League four years ago, when they qualified with a third-place domestic finish – eventually succumbing to Chelsea in the knockout stages, as it happened – this time is different. This time they are back as Serie A winners, league leaders and Italy's most convincing flagbearers.

The moment when they hear that music at Stamford Bridge will be cathartic. Despite a problem with match-fixing which affects them in the shape of the lengthy ban currently being served by their head coach, Antonio Conte, Juventus's return to Europe's head table as Italy's strongest is very meaningful for the club. It marks the end of what has been a complex and challenging cycle. This is a clean slate.

In May 2006 Juventus were champions of Italy with a squad including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira and Alessandro Del Piero. Within a couple of dramatically charged months Italy won the World Cup while the domestic scene was traumatised. Juve were stripped of their scudetto, handed a whopping points reduction and relegated. An exodus of stars followed.

Gianluigi Buffon was one of the stayers. His reward was felt last season as the captain's brand of excellence and experience helped to push Juve to a memorable triumph. "We are back in the competition from the main door," he says. "We deservedly won the league. We come in full of confidence and pride. We have all the will and determination to prove we can do well."

His veteran status, together with the influence of the playmaker Andrea Pirlo, underpins an emerging team. Buffon admits Juventus are not one of the favourites to win the Champions League but he does regard them as one of the chasing pack.

The rebuilding process has taken place on and off the pitch as they have endeavoured to shake things up from the very foundations.

The move to their own stadium has been instrumental. Their rivals, who play in grounds dearly in need of an upgrade and state-owned, are unable to generate much revenue of their own. Juve, by contrast, are profiting from the bold move to the Juventus Stadium, built on the site of the unloved Stadio delle Alpi.

It is the only truly modern arena in Italy and the only one designed for the club to capitalise from corporate areas – with more than 3,500 premium seats, a section of executive boxes, restaurants, the biggest sports store in the country and a museum. It is light years ahead of anything its domestic competitors have at their disposal.

This reflects the feeling that Juventus are a club on the up and their example is one others are keen to follow. In a period when too many clubs are feeling pinched, undernourished and below par – certainly compared with the high-water marks when both Milan teams provided Champions League winners in the years that followed the calciopoli scandal – Turin's old lady is rejuvenated.

Di Matteo is mindful that this is not the easiest opponent Chelsea could start their title defence against. Conte's team are famed for combining their physical determination with a willingness to attack. Their 3-5-2 system fluidly changes into a 3-3-4 when they have the ball, with the wing-backs, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah, keen to bomb forward.

"They have quality, experience and some dynamic players in the team. They are probably one of the most difficult teams you could be drawn against in this Champions League," said Di Matteo. "I expect a Juve who want to play their game. That is the Conte way. They like to get on the ball and attack but we will try to eliminate the spaces on the pitch and fight back."

It is more than two decades since any club managed to retain Europe's grandest trophy – "because of the fierce competition," reckons Di Matteo. "Every season there are new strong teams coming in like PSG and Juventus. It just has proved impossible for anybody to win it twice. But we will try to do the impossible."

And so will Juventus. After all they are meeting a monumental example of the unpredictability of sport. Buffon was bewitched by what Chelsea experienced last season. "Before Chelsea won the Champions League, in previous years they were always a team to beat and then they failed.

"Then they start struggling, when their star starts to fade, that's when they actually won the Champions League," he mused. "That's what's beautiful about football. The one who is considered the strongest doesn't always win."