There are times in a game when that crucial breakthrough just doesn’t look like coming as the visiting defence stands firm, the chances come and go and inspiration is lacking. Players like Paulo Dybala were made specifically for these moments and once again, two flashes of the Argentine’s left boot proved to be the difference at Juventus Stadium.
#JuveUdinese: five talking points
Dybala’s dead-ball double either side of half-time on Saturday night confirmed the notion that last season’s top scorer is starting to rediscover the form that made him such a standout hit in his debut campaign in Turin, adding to goals against Dinamo Zagreb and Empoli in the Bianconeri’s previous two outings.
As chance would have it, Udinese had already been warned of Paulo’s set-piece prowess when he netted in identical circumstances at the Stadio Friuli in January, ensuring that together with yesterday’s strikes, La Joya now has four braces to his name in 2016, a total bettered only by strike partner Gonzalo Higuain (seven).
Four goals in three matches, over 100,000 likes on demand on Facebook; everything’s coming at Paulo Dybala...
While Massimiliano Allegri was keen to stress the importance of focusing solely on his team’s results over the course of the season in the build-up to Saturday’s game, the events that unfolded at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo earlier in the day certainly will not have gone unnoticed.
Victory for Juventus - a seventh from their first eight league outings - and defeat for last term’s runners-up at the hands of Roma who leapfrog them into the second place, extended the Old Lady’s advantage at the top of the table to five points, a sizeable gap in mid-October.
If last season’s comeback exploits demonstrated anything, however, it is that nothing should be taken for granted at this level and, with testing ties against Milan, Sampdoria and Napoli on the horizon, the hard work is only just beginning for the reigning champions.
For the record, Juventus have only failed to win the title once with the same number of points after eight matches; that occurred in 2003/04 when they finished third behind Milan and Roma.
While most eyes were rightly on Claudio Marchisio who returned to the matchday squad for the first time since April, a second Juve recoveree perhaps undeservedly slipped under the radar.
Sidelined for over a month through injury, summer signing Medhi Benatia eased back into action in the best possible fashion last night, the defender producing an unerring display at the heart of Juventus’ defence.
With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci rested, Benatia joined Andrea Barzagli and Patrice Evra in an unfamiliar backline that rarely looked threatened by the visitors despite Jakub Jankto’s early goal midway through the first period.
Medhi’s performance was one of both quantity and quality, registering a staggering 97.6 per cent pass completion rate, making five clearances and three interceptions all while winning a team-high 75 per cent of his duels.
As the fixtures began to pile up and cool heads are required more than ever, expect to see more of the serene Moroccan in the coming weeks.
A disappointing loss to Inter and goalless draw with Sevilla in September briefly threatened to derail the Bianconeri’s early season momentum but five straight successes later in all competitions and those setbacks now seem rather a long time ago.
Juve’s four-game winning streak is the longest active run in Serie A but that pails in comparison to their overall form at Juventus Stadium in the past 12 months; since losing to Udinese on the opening day of last season – their only league loss in Turin in 69 matches - Allegri’s charges have won 20 times in a row on home turf, conceding just five times in the process.
Some players won’t play in 350 top-flight matches in their careers so Gianluigi Buffon registering his 350th Serie A victory last night should demonstrate just how unique the Juventus captain really is.
Not that Gigi was counting of course….