Juventus eased past Roma in a 4-0 home triumph to take advantage of Milan’s earlier slip, the Rossoneri barely managed a 1-1 home draw against Bologna thanks to a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalizer.
The Bianconeri are now three points ahead of Milan. Juve remain undefeated in the league and are still on course to achieve a precious domestic double if they can maintain this high level of intensity.
The win over Roma witnessed a quick double by Arturo Vidal who found the back of the net twice inside the first eight minutes of the match. Vidal has been one of Juve’s best performers this season yet the credit for this big win must be shared between the Chilean midfielder and forward Mirko Vucinic who had a hand in all of the four goals.
Vucinic assisted on the second and fourth goals while his pass led to the penalty won by Claudio Marchisio. Vucinic also passed to Paolo De Ceglie who crossed for Vidal’s first goal.
Juve’s remaining schedule appears to be easy on paper yet the Bianconeri have struggled at times when attempting to break the defensive walls setup by smaller sides. As for the Rossoneri, their schedule is not difficult either but it does have one tricky match against bitter city rivals Inter.
What must Juve do in order to retain their lead and win the league title?
1) Intensity: Juve’s players have been playing with such high intensity. This has left opposition players incapable of keeping pace with the Bianconeri attacks. If Juve keep playing at this intensity, then the smaller sides will have little if any chance to match the Bianconeri. Smaller teams have attempted to fight and work very hard in order to restrict Juve but the work ethic of the Bianconeri players has been phenomenal in recent weeks.
2) Vidal: Even prior to his double against Roma, the midfielder has been having a great first season in Turin and if Juve do win the title, the Chilean will be one of the decisive factors in this quest. Andrea Pirlo dictates the pace of the match and offers his teammates with scoring opportunities, but without Vidal his job would be much harder. Vidal covers so much space and often retrieves the ball to allow Pirlo the freedom to roam and cause havoc with his pinpoint passing.
3) Pirlo: The former Milan star has to be the season’s best pick up and when considering he came via a free transfer and deprived the Rossoneri of another creative force, it is easy to see why he is considered by many as one of the main reasons behind Juve’s return to the top of the table.
4) Defense: Juve’s defensive line has been immense this season with the club conceding only 18 times in 33 matches. There is no doubt Gianluigi Buffon is a great goalkeeper but his defenders have made his job much easier. Giorgio Chiellini remains an aggressive leader of the back-line while Andrea Barzagli must rank as one of the most shrewd transfer moves in Italy over the last two seasons.
Juve’s defensive prowess has been enhanced by the rejuvenated Leonardo Bonucci who is peaking at the right time. The addition of Martin Caceres during the January transfer window was a smart move while summer signing Stephan Lichtsteiner has solved Juve’s problems in recent seasons at the full-back position.
Having the right players alone will not lead to an impressive run of 33 undefeated league games. Coach Antonio Conte has done a tremendous job by instilling the Juve spirit and the grit which characterized his playing career into his squad.
The current Bianconeri appreciate the meaning of putting on the club’s shirt and have played as a unified team setting aside personal agendas in order to achieve the team’s ultimate objective which is to return to the top of Italian football. The next five matches will determine whether the players have enough passion and determination to overcome adversity and win Serie A.