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Saturday December 23 2017
Juve sail through Scudetto challenges

On paper it seemed as if this month would be a minefield, but Adam Digby saw the Bianconeri squeeze the life out of their title rivals.

When the Serie A fixture list was revealed back in the summer, Juventus supporters were rightly concerned about their run of games during December. As the 2017-18 campaign got underway, their fears about facing Napoli, Inter and Roma during the final month of the year grew greater still, the three clubs emerging as genuine threats to the Old Lady’s dominance of Italian football.

Indeed, after six years of marching to the title almost unchallenged, the quartet remain in contention. Yet rather than struggling, the Bianconeri have used those head-to-head clashes to underline their superiority, with a narrow 1-0 win over Roma on Saturday evening meaning they had taken seven points from those encounters.

And they did so in perhaps the most painful possible manner. A trip to the cauldron of the Stadio San Paolo came first and, after being showered with vitriol from the same fans who once worshiped him, Gonzalo Higuain bagged the decisive goal. Celebrating with gusto, the Argentinian has since been criticised by former team-mate Lorenzo Insigne for showing just how much he enjoyed netting against the Partenopei.

Yet while Insigne believed Higuain’s celebration was “disrespectful,” for Juve and their big No. 9 it was simply taking care of business. A 0-0 draw with Inter followed, the result failing to show just how poorly the Milanese side fared, and that brought us to the clash with Roma, which Alessandro Florenzi insisted would “tell us a lot” about the quality of the Giallorossi.

Once again, Max Allegri’s men would suck the life out of the game, nullifying the visitors and limiting their chances to score. When they did find a sight of goal, it was ironic that it would be Wojciech Szczesny – who left the Stadio Olimpico to join the Turin giants this summer – who stood tall to deny them.

The Polish goalkeeper made some outstanding stops, his late save when one-on-one with Patrik Schick preserving a lead given to them by another former Roma star. Medhi Benatia needed two attempts to break the deadlock following a first half corner, but just like Higuain, he clearly relished putting his old club to the sword.

Throw in another excellent midfield performance from Miralem Pjanic and the travelling supporters tucked away in the far corner of Juventus Stadium could be forgiven for feeling as if the Ghost of Christmas Past had visited them three times in one night.

Yet much like their fellow Scudetto hopefuls, it will be in the coming weeks when we see Roma’s true colours. Napoli followed up their loss to the Bianconeri by dropping points against Fiorentina, while Inter have lost to both Udinese and Sassuolo since facing the Old Lady, not to mention needing a penalty shoot-out to see off third tier Pordenone in the Coppa Italia.

There remain many questions for Juve of course, not least of which Allegri’s overly conservative team selection. While the result justifies his choices, it is unthinkable that this defensive approach is sustainable or to imagine playing another six months with Federico Bernardeschi, Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala sat on the sidelines instead of being in the starting XI.

But for now, all that matters is that Juventus secured yet another win. Or, perhaps more importantly, inflicted a defeat on a title rival and turned what looked like a difficult December into a showcase of their superiority.

Have your say...
This Juve team will be forgotten but the history books will show the domination.This is an extension of Lippi's great work in the early 1990s.Conte rediscovered that type of winning mentality and way of playing. It is not easy on the eye and proof is that Juve's manager is afraid to play his best attacking players against the top teams as they tend to lose when they do that. Instead sitting back, countering, scoring and then killing the game with silly dives and slow the opposition down tactics!
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:27pm
Juve play to win. They do not care how they win as long as they win. They don't take much risk in a game apart from short spells when they are usually effective in scoring. Then sit back and invite the opposition. Hit them on the counter, score from a corner, freekicks or Higuain precise shots are there favourite methods of scoring.Napoli and Roma try to play the game, hence why they don't win enough as they lack the quality of player to play such a system.Inter defended properly v Juve!Congrats
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:20pm
Benatia's celebration is like firing a machine gun to Clownucci. LOL
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:17pm
Also this team has managed to beat every top team we've come across in the UCL besides Bayern at least once. And I've said it before and I'll say it again , and again. If we win the scudetto only cause of such weak competition could you please explain getting to 2 UCL finals in 3 years ?! And beating the likes of real and Barca to get there !!
on the 24th December, 2017 at 10:47am
Madlini'sheir, that might be true but it's stupid to compare any current Italian team with its decades ago counterpart as the serie a used to be the talk of the town and where every players wishes to play and since farsopoli its now we're top talents only come as a stepping stone. That being said this current juve has many star players which would easily make any team such as dybala,higuain, pjanic, Sandro and Costa.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 10:44am
Funny. When juve had problems and conceded goals after after goals a few months ago, everyone said "Finally, serie A is competitive again". Now when juve fixed their defensive issue, the same people said that juve are great because there is lack of competition??

Make up your mind, dude. Your opinion is just pathetic. Juve pushed themselves twice as hard when their competitors are ahead. That's their secret, not because "there is no competition".
on the 24th December, 2017 at 10:25am
As for Roma, this time Higuain did let his team down by failing to take his chances. On the other end, both Chiellini and Benatia are guilty of almost throwing away a well earned 3 points if it weren't for Szczesny.

Perhaps more dangerously, a 3 man midfield without Matuidi, even when Marchisio is filling for him, cannot be sustained at all and we may as well go back to 4231. I want to see a double pivot of Pjanic/Marchisio and hopefully that won't be as leaky as matches past.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 10:17am
@Maldini's Heir
Interesring that you say "helping hand from refs" when it's been proven that Inter and Milan are the ones guilty of it, with Milan getting a slap on the wrist and Inter got protection as whistle blowers and runners of that farce.

As for the classic "old players were better", it's not going to fly since football constantly evolves. If you truly believe it anyway, blame the team that broke Italian football for a few years of dominance, ruining that NT as well.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 10:10am
@ ANON1 HEY Whats with the higgy bashing ? Better to be a fat winning goal scoring player than, another player from the rest of you gutter trash teams. Is he fat ? Yes. do his fans care ? No. Will he score again? Yes.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 7:45am
@Maldini's Heir: Napoli didn't sell Higuain and Roma didn't sell Pjanic. They both had release clauses that Juve activated.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 1:08am
@Maldini's Heir, why don't you focus on your team instead of trying to cross compare current Juventus to Juve of the mid 2000s and prior? Currently, your team would get demolished by Juventus' newly promoted Serie A squad in the 07/08 campaign so keep your eyes on your own paper buddy.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 1:08am
After watching both these teams one thing is clear they will never win the CL. Roma looked slow in attack. Old man Derossi walking instead of running with no ingenuity and all attacks started through him which of course he predictably always passed to the wing. Easy for Juve to defend when your midfield is slow and predictable. For Juve, Higuain showed his lack of pace and awareness. Sandro and Matuidi constantly crossing balls in but nobody there because pizza boy Higuin always a step behind.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:24am
in a league which is struggling for competitiveness. The reason Sarri is such a god send is because he’s actually created real competition even if his efforts were undermined by Napoli selling Juve their best player. If Napoli don’t win the title this year I can see Agnelli ringing up his mate De Laurentiis and asking for Mertens. Who needs friends when your enemies are so accommodating.
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:16am
not forget that the invincibles’s leading goalscorer was future Milan failure Matri. In fact the relevant successes of players passing between the two alleged competitors shows the differences between the sides. Pirlo was on his way out at Milan and suddenly returned to being a great under Juve. Bonucci comes across to Milan and forgets how to defend. Perhaps there’s some kind of force field that surrounds Juve. Or maybe their just a properly run club in a league which is struggling for
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:15am
really holds back the acheivements of the current Juve side is how much of a helping hand they’ve received from their so called competition. Sure back in the day Juve got a helping hand from refs but it was nothing compared to Napoli and Roma selling them their best players or Inter and Milan performing various acts of self-harm. The fact is that the other teams have engaged in various degrees of farce while Juve have just churned out results with what’s mostly been a pretty average squad. Let’s
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:13am
This record breaking Juve side is probably the most underwhelming. Buffon and, possibly, Pirlo are probably the only next level players who have played for this side. Conte’s team of invincibles or Allegri’s near European champions would probably struggle against Capello’s Calciopoli side of Buffon, Cannavaro, Thuram, Vieira, Nedved and Del Piero or Lippi’s or Trapattoni’s sides with Baggio and Vialli. Such comparisons are usually silly since they can’t be tested but one of the things that
on the 24th December, 2017 at 12:12am

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