If ‘consistency’ has been Massimiliano Allegri’s watchword in recent weeks, his players have certainly taken his message on board by taking 13 from a possible 15 points in all competitions since Juan Cuadrado bundled home an incredible last-minute winner in the Derby della Mole.
The win over Torino may have taken place on the last day of October, but it paved the way for a November of no looking back, as the Bianconeri catapulted themselves from 12th place before kick-off that day to 5th following Sunday’s success in Sicily against Palermo. In this period the boys in black and white have kept three clean sheets, enjoying a more than positive goals for/against ratio of 11:3.
After securing the all-important bragging rights against their cross-city rivals, Allegri’s men made the trip to Germany where they faced a Borussia Monchengladbach outfit that was flying high in the Bundesliga and enjoyed a numerical advantage for much of the second period during their highly competitive Group D contest.
Andre Schubert’s charges took a deserved lead and, cheered on by a passionate sea of green from the stands, were flooding the pitch with their trademark high-pressing style. Juventus, however, held firm, soaked up the pressure and fought their way back into the match in very special circumstances.
Returning to the starting line-up after over a month on the sidelines following heart surgery, Stephan Lichtsteiner showed all of his battling qualities (as well as terrific technique) to drive home the equaliser seconds before the break. The overall context of the goal could not but raise morale amongst those in black and white, even after Hernanes’ dismissal, as they determinedly took a point back to Turin.
The result kept the group’s then third-placed Sevilla at arm’s length – five points to be precise, which would soon become eight after Allegri’s men produced perhaps their best home performance to date last Wednesday evening, beating Manchester City and, in doing so, securing their passage to the Champions League knockout stages while also leapfrogging their English opponents to go top of the pile.
Turning back to domestic duties, Juventus’ next Serie A game following the derby saw them travel to Tuscany with Empoli lying in wait. An all-action first half saw the visitors fall behind to Massimo Maccarone’s strike but they would manage to claw their way back to a winning position before the interval courtesy of goals by Mario Mandzukic and Patrice Evra. Paulo Dybala added the icing late on to a key step in the Bianconeri’s season, sealing back-to-back league victories for the first time in 2015/16.
Thirteen days and an international break later, the players picked up from where they had left off by beating and moving above Milan at Juventus Stadium.
What was, by all intents and purposes, a match lacking in energy and incident will be fondly remembered for two reasons: Gigi Buffon reaching Gaetano Scirea’s landmark tally of 552 appearances and Dybala’s delightful control and volley from Alex Sandro’s cross.
The Brazilian left-back undoubtedly established himself as one of the heroes of the last month, his eye for an inswinger leading to three goals including Cuadrado’s dramatic winner against Torino. The latest of this trio of assists would come on the European stage to the benefit of Mandzukic. This strike, in many ways, epitomised the Bianconeri’s recent run, as they have only ever won when the Croatian forward finds the target.
And this is precisely what happened once again on Sunday evening at the Stadio Renzo Barbera when another pinpoint ball whipped in from the left, this time by Dybala, invited the experienced ex-Bayern man to steal a march on his marker before nodding into the net.
The win would also feature a couple of welcome additions to the script, as Stefano Sturaro capped off a display of immense midfield mobility and dynamism with a striker’s finish into the bottom corner before substitute Simone Zaza too kept his cool to roll the ball past Stefano Sorrentino with aplomb.
To understand the level of progress made over the course of November one only need look at the relevance of the wins in terms of the grander scheme of this season’s objectives.
From trailing former league-leaders Roma by 11 points after what was arguably the lowest point of the campaign – October’s loss to Sassuolo – the Old Lady now sit six points shy of Inter and the Serie A summit.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Bianconeri have sealed their passage to the Champions League last 16 with an opportunity to finish as group winners and thus make life easier for when the knockout stages commence next February.
Until then, as Allegri was keen to reiterate after his charges’ success in Sicily, there remains plenty of work to do and the same professional approach needs to be applied to December’s upcoming fixtures in order for the team to look back on next month with the same sense of satisfaction as that which has accompanied a November that will be remembered for all the right reasons.