Alex Sandro has arguably been one of Juventus’ most consistent performers since arriving at the club from Porto in July of last year.
#JuveAtalanta: five talking points
Leading the Serie A charts for chances created throughout the campaign so far, Alex no doubt will have been delighted to finally add a goal to his continual creative output this term, netting a superb first strike of the season to get the Bianconeri up and running against Atalanta last night.
Often seen going round the outside of his marker and heading to the byline for a cross, Juve’s number 12 demonstrated the other weapon in his offensive armoury by darting inside, skipping past two defenders and placing a shot perfectly past goalkeeper Marco Sportiello at the near post.
Three goals in black and white now for Sandro – Saturday’s was his first ever at Juventus Stadium – and few would bet against him adding more to his tally in the coming months such is his importance to the Old Lady’s plans.
The goals aside, the roar of appreciation afforded by the home fans to Mario Mandzukic as the Croatian was substituted 13 minutes from time was probably the loudest of the evening.
As Mario was withdrawn from the action, he could take a moment to look back on the latest showing in an impressive run of form in the past month and a half that has seen the big man scoop November’s MVP award – a trophy presented to him before kick-off last night – and net five times in seven matches in all competitions.
Even before rising highest to head home Juve’s third goal of the evening from Miralem Pjanic’s right-wing corner, Mandzukic’s was a complete performance at Juventus Stadium.
Tireless in his pressing from the front, immovable in possession both with his back to goal and when running directly at the Atalanta defence from his inside-left berth of the Bianconeri attack, Mario saved perhaps his best intervention of the game for his own penalty area, producing two terrific goal-line clearances in quick succession with the score at 2-0 just before half-time.
One shot, one goal, 16 out of 27 passes completed, seven tackles, two blocks: a match-winning performance.
Two more perfectly placed set-pieces, two more decisive assists for Miralem Pjanic.
Pjanic has now had a hand in eight goals (four goals, four assists) so far this term in Serie A, more than any other Juventus player and last night’s understated but excellent performance was among his best since swapping Rome for Turin in the summer.
Operating just off strikers Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain, the Bosnian was free to roam between the lines and pick gaps in front of the Atalanta defence, completing 73 per cent of his attempted passes in the opposition half.
With Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira and Stefano Sturaro regaining and recycling possession behind him, Pjanic thrived in his less defensively-disciplined role against the Nerazzurri and drew the praise of coach Massimiliano Allegri: “Pjanic played well and showed his quality. He's obviously very handy on set pieces and two of our goals came from corners this evening. He's got a bit more freedom playing in the hole and I think he can do well there.”
A humbling away defeat the previous game, a full week to regroup and prepare for the next, a packed out home crowd: all things considered, there was only ever going to be one likely result at Juventus Stadium last night.
After Saturday’s convincing 3-1 success, Juve have now triumphed in every single one of their last 24 home league fixtures, a run stretching way back to the start of October 2015.
Remarkably, Allegri’s men have even started on their second lap of top-flight teams; Fiorentina, Sassuolo, Sampdoria and now Atalanta have now all been dispatched twice in that time.
Only Roma, the final visitors to the home of the champions this year on 17 December, stand in the way of a perfect 2016.
Looking beyond the events on the field, the final word here is reserved for the families of the 71 staff and players of Brazilian club Chapecoense.
The memories of those who tragically lost their lives in the air disaster in Colombia were honoured at Juventus Stadium last night with a minute of silence before kick-off: with the lights dimmed and the team’s badge projected on the big screens, supporters and players alike took the opportunity to poignantly pay their respects.
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