Juventus hosted Hellas Verona in the first match of 2016 and, just in case you're wondering, the Bianconeri didn't lose their implacable rhythm on the domestic championship with the holiday break.
Hellas Verona visited Turin craving for points, with the Mastiffs the only squad who have yet to win a game in Serie A and they are dead last in the table. On Verona's bench was an old acquaintance, Luigi Delneri, who brought us memories of that Juventus with Milos Krasic, Marco Motta and Luca Toni, amongst others.
Max Allegri employed a 3-5-2 formation again. However, it came with a surprise — instead of Daniele Rugani, Martin Caceres supplanted an injured Andrea Barzagli in the starting lineup. Alex Sandro replaced Patrice Evra on the left flank and Álvaro Morata partnered with Paulo Dybala in attack. Delneri used a 4-2-3-1 configuration with Giampaolo Pazzini as his lone attacker.
The match began red hot. Verona surprised Juventus — and all of us — with a high pressure in the early instants, but the home team could adjust quickly to that strategy.
At 6th minute Stephan Lichtsteiner was fouled harshly on the edge of Verona's penalty area. Juan Cuadrado immediately jumped off the bench as a precaution, but the Swiss Express was able to continue. Paulo "La Joya" Dybala took advantage of the free kick and performed a delightful curled shot over the wall that made Verona's goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini look like a statue.
Five minutes later, Hellas Verona responded, as Giampaolo Pazzini turned back the clock and elaborated an acrobatic volley that was saved spectacularly by Gianluigi Buffon.
After that, Juventus began to bombard Verona's goal with long-range efforts. First, Paul Pogba was really close with a thundering shot that passed just wide of Gollini's near post. Minutes later, Morata and Claudio Marchisio tested the young keeper reflexes with a pair of wicked shots. Gollini kept the score 1-0 for a moment, but Juventus' pressure was too much.
Seconds before halftime Juventus earned another set piece in the attacking third, with it was marked near the touchline. Dybala delivered a magnificent bending cross and...Sciacquatevi la bocca! Leonardo Bonucci sent the ball home with a furious header. At halftime Juventus was ahead by two goals.
Juventus slowed the tempo in the second half. Delneri made a couple of substitutions trying to be more aggressive, however, Hellas Verona didn't create a clear opportunity. The match was in Juventus' hands, and Allegri decided to manage the game and simply took his foot off the gas. Still, it looks like nobody told that to Simone Zaza who entered for Morata at the 79th minute. Three minutes later, Pogba assisted Zaza leaving him 1-v-1 with Gollini, and the ex-Sassuolo attacker calmly rounded the keeper and sent the ball to the back of the net.
Juventus achieved their eighth victory in a row. They´ll visit Genoa to play against Sampdoria on Sunday hoping to close the first half of the league schedule with another triumph.
Buffon 7.5 He hardly appeared in the game, but his only save was world-class and served to demoralize Verona's attackers.
Litchtsteiner 7 A usual performance by the Swiss Express. He worked really hard on the right flank. He attacked at will.
Cáceres 7 He filled Barzagli's shoes appropriately. He was hardly tested on defense.
Bonucci 7.5 He had great command of Juventus' backline. Also, his header for Juve's second goal was superb.
Chiellini 7 Another game another scar for King Kong. He handled Pazzini properly.
Sandro 7.5 This kid is a beast. Always a threat with his crosses and an enforcer on defense.
Marchisio 7.5 A maestro in the middle of the pitch. Controlled the tempo of the match with simplicity and wisdom.
Khedira 7 Solid game by Sami. He played a great game on defense but failed to deliver a couple of passes offensively.
Pogba 8 Easy to know when Paul is having fun. He bullied Verona's players with his skills. He was always a menace thanks to his powerful shots. The assistance to Zaza was thing of beauty.
Dybala 8.5 I'm speechless, another Man of the Match performance for the tiny attacker.
Morata 6.5 The Spaniard is struggling right now. He tried but was out of luck. Better times lay ahead.
Sturaro 6 Entered for Khedira. He worked a lot, but was reckless sometimes. He must calm down and learn how to read the stages of the game.
Zaza 7.5 He showed great instincts with his movements and scored like an expert hitman.
Rugani s/v Entered for Cáceres at the 83rd minute.
Allegri 8 Dominated the match tactically. His side was always on command and slowed the tempo because they'll play on Genoa on Sunday.
Things I think I think
- Marchisio will not play on Sunday thanks to a suspension. Place your bets for his substitute as regista. Sami, Pogba or... Hernanes.
- Maybe I'm going to bring some controversy in the comments below, but Simone Zaza has some similarities to Javier Hernandez and (with a huge leap of faith to) Pipo Inzaghi in my opinion. They have a so-so technique, however, they have this killer nature and know really well how to move on attack thanks to their instincts. Also, when they're hot, they're really hot!
- Paulo Dybala is making Maurizio Zamparini look like a genius, and guys that's a hard task.