Four minutes to go for Juventus’ record-chasing Gigi Buffon

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After letting in four goals as Juventus were eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich in midweek, Gianluigi Buffon needs only shut out Torino for four minutes on Sunday to set a new record.

Currently enjoying a 19-game unbeaten run that has seen Buffon keep the ball out the net for their past 10 league outings, Juve take a three-point lead over Napoli across Turin for the derby on Sunday as they continue their quest for a record-equalling fifth consecutive Serie A title.

If Juventus succeed at the end of May, it will match their run of five successive titles between 1931 and 1935 and would be a feat not even Bianconeri goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff achieved in his time with the club.

But 74-year-old Zoff, who was 41 when he hung up his Juventus and Italy gloves, has another reason to be keeping tabs on this weekend’s game.

Buffon passed Zoff’s club record of 903 unbeaten minutes in Serie A when Juve beat Sassuolo 1-0 last week.

Buffon has now gone 926 minutes without conceding, leaving him just three minutes away from Sebastiano Rossi’s all-time Serie A record of 929 minutes unbeaten, which he set with AC Milan in 1994.

“I was sure it was going to happen and obviously now Buffon is going to beat the record of Rossi,” Zoff said last week.

“Rossi, myself and Buffon all set this record playing with a big side. I think he (Buffon) deserves to beat it.”

– ‘Living legend’ –

If Buffon succeeds, it will slightly ease the pain of seeing another chance of Champions League glory slip through his and Juve’s hands on Wednesday.

Juve had raced into a 2-0 lead on the night against Bayern, and a 4-2 aggregate lead, only for the Germans to hit four goals without reply to win the last-16 tie in extra time and advance to the quarter-finals.

Juve almost held on, only for a Thomas Mueller goal right at the end of the 90 minutes to level the tie on aggregate and force the extra half hour.

“I’m sorry to have conceded in the 90th minute,” said Buffon. “But I’m proud of the lads. We leave the competition with our heads held high.”

It leaves Buffon, now 38, having to wait at least another year if he is ever to taste Champions League glory.

A two-time runner-up in the competition with Juventus including in last year’s final with Barcelona, Buffon’s biggest European title at club level is the UEFA Cup he won with Parma in 1999.

A record 10-time winner of Serie A’s top goalkeeper award, Buffon’s record-equalling World Cup feat of five clean sheets in the 2006 edition helped steer Italy to the title, and he was pivotal as the Azzurri reached the Euro 2012 final only to be outclassed 4-1 by Spain.

Although Buffon, on 571, is still far behind fellow club legend Alessandro Del Piero (705) for the most Juventus appearances, when Sunday comes the ‘living legend’ — as Buffon is regularly described in Italy — can make Rossi’s record his own.

For Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, it would be the “coronation of an extraordinary career”.

“I’ll be happy for Gigi if we keep a clean sheet at Torino,” he said.

“Records aren’t necessarily going to enhance his greatness, but this one would be full of meaning, (it would be) the coronation of an extraordinary career.”

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