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Joy of six beckons for new-look Juve

Rome (AFP) – Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus’s new-look attacking formation is here to stay after his side opened up a potentially decisive four-point lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday.

A 2-0 win at Sassuolo came as nearest rivals Roma went down to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sampdoria while third-placed Napoli also lost ground after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Palermo.

And with a game in hand – against lowly Crotone – Juve now look to be firmly on track to claim a record sixth consecutive Italian title.

Allegri’s men had Sunday’s match wrapped up by mid-way through the opening period and, despite failing to build on that, it was an other successful outing for the attack-orientated 4-2-3-1 formation the coach has recently been testing.

“With the players I have, we have to play this way. The important thing is that the system suits the team,” the coach said afterwards when asked if he would revert to a more cautious set-up for upcoming crunch matches at home and in Europe.

“We didn’t get the third goal and, in this and other areas, we can improve but I was very happy with the performance. Congratulations to the boys.”

Allegri also insisted he was happy with his personal situation at the helm of the Turin giants – a question posed because of rumours Arsenal are interested in him as a successor to Arsene Wenger.

“I’m with Juve. I’m happy here and I want to continue, as long as that is also what the club wants, obviously,” Allegri said.

Macedonia striker Ilija Nestorovski fired Palermo ahead after six minutes at Napoli, who needed a blunder by Josip Posavec to claim their 66th-minute equaliser. The Palermo ‘keeper allowed Belgian midfielder Dries Mertens’ 25-yard shot to slip through his legs.

– Inter advance –

Roma led twice against Sampdoria in Genoa, but their title aspirations were dealt a deflating blow as strikes from Czech forward Patrik Schick and Colombian striker Luis Muriel turned the match around in the space of three minutes midway through the second half.

“We were ahead, we had the game in our hands own hands but we didn’t have the maturity to control it,” admitted bitterly disappointed Roma coach Luciano Spalletti. 

“They were pressing very well and we didn’t move the ball around well enough to counter that.”

Gonzalo Higuain scored his eighth goal in six league matches to give Juve an early lead at Sassuolo.

Argentina striker Higuain has now hit the net 15 times in his first season in Turin and it was his pass that allowed German midfielder Samy Khedira to double the lead, and effectively kill the match as a contest, after 25 minutes.

With Atalanta held to a 1-1 draw at Torino and AC Milan beaten 2-1 at Udinese, it was a good weekend for fast-rising Inter Milan.

Stefano Pioli’s squad moved up to fourth place with a seventh straight league win to sustain a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes since Frank de Boer was sacked as head coach in November.

Inter cruised to a 3-0 win over bottom side Pescara on Saturday and have now won nine times on the trot in all competitions.

Defender Danilo D’Ambrosio and Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario put Inter on cruise control before half-time and Brazilian-born Italy striker Eder came off the bench to complete the  comfortable win after the break.

Inter face Juventus next weekend in an encounter increasingly looking like a last-chance saloon for the chasing pack.

Inter’s rise was at Lazio’s expense with the Roman club dropping back in the race for European football next season after a shock home defeat to lowly Chievo, for whom Roberto Inglese sealed the points with a 90th-minute strike against the run of play.

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