'Snow and Udinese were not enough to put the brakes on this flying Juve side. Now Milan must try to keep pace with the Old Lady, as she continues her charge and gathers momentum'
Taken from Sunday's edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, the quote above seemingly echoes the general consensus that the Scudetto race is rapidly becoming a two-sided affair. Having now broken free of Saturday night's opponents, opening up a six-point gap over third-placed Udinese, the Bianconeri's next task appears to be plotting an escape from the tireless hunt of Massimiliano Allegri's side.
Following a great tactical display and a much improved all-round performance, not even the Turin snow halted Antonio Conte’s men in their quest to temporarily open up a four-point lead over their closest rival. Despite the 300-esque appearance of the eleven Juve warriors doing battle under heavy snowfall (plus General Conte in his little woolly hat), the combination of the Juventus Stadium itself and the tifosi acting as the proverbial 12th man were enough to help inspire Juve to a hard-fought victory. Fresh from the Coppa Italia win over Roma in mid-week, the fans inside the stadium created an atmosphere befitting of the finest from around Europe.
The game itself was in stark contrast to the reverse fixture against Francesco Guidolin’s side in December. That goalless draw was almost a distant memory within 120 seconds of the kick-off as Marcelo Estigarribia could have opened up the scoring with a glorious chance. However, two goals from Alessandro Matri, his eighth and ninth of the season, either side of an Antonio Floro Flores strike, were enough to warm up the Old Lady and give Conte all three points. While some may still question the title credentials of Juve, waiting each week for a sign of weakness and slip-up, their relentless charge continues as they recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since November.
Conte’s next challenge comes at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, taking on Roberto Donadoni’s Parma. The one lingering criticism of this Juventus continues to be the question marks over their clinical edge. The prime guilty party for this had been top-scorer Matri, but with a brace on Saturday, you can hardly lay fault at his feet? However, Conte also had other reasons to be displeased with his side’s display;
“We’ve got to improve the way we control the result. We lost the ball too many times in the middle of the park, allowing counter-attacks to Udinese.
“I got very angry at our sterile possession, which was just playing into Udinese’s hands”
Milan’s win against Cagliari on Sunday night cut the gap to a solitary point, however the Rossoneri now face a daunting fixture list in February, including Champions League commitments and a two-legged Coppa Italia semi-final with Juve to look forward to, the first leg of which is on February 8.
31/01 – Parma (A)
05/02 – Siena (H)
12/02 – Bologna (A)
01/02 – Lazio (A)
05/02 – Napoli (H)
12/02 – Udinese (A)
The general line from those within the club will undoubtedly be that we must concentrate on our games and not worry about those around us. However, should Juve maintain their current form, the next few weeks could finally see some daylight break in between themselves and Milan while the likes of Lazio and Inter remain further back.
With just a few days separating us from the transfer deadline, it’s possible there will be some movement in and out of Turin.
Confirmed is the departure of Amauri, desperately sad news for most Juventus fans who no doubt will need time to recover from the despair of seeing him leave. Luca Toni will follow him through the exit door with a move to Al Na$r. Meanwhile, Martin Caceres returned to the club from Sevilla, an excellent signing, one which will without question improve the squad.
Rumours suggested Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan was the primary target, but President Massimo Cellino declared he would not join Juventus during a furious outburst following the loss at Milan. Elsewhere the merry-go-round involving where Milos Krasic will end-up continues, Zenit the latest to be linked. Rumours also intimate that Eljero Elia is wanted by Newcastle United.
Think Juve can widen the gap at the top in the forthcoming weeks or will their wastefulness in front of goal eventually haunt them? Does Conte really need Nainggolan with likes of Giaccherini and Marrone stepping-in when needed? Post your thoughts below.
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