Not that we didn't know that he was a top-notch footballer already, but Leonardo Bonucci has been garnering a lot of praise after Pep Guardiola in the hours following Juventus' 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich. That's caused Bonucci to be under a bit of a microscope in the days following. One of those things involved Bonucci being interviewed the other day and talking about the weekend's fixture against arch-rival Inter Milan.
"Winning that match and going four points ahead of Napoli, who then have to play Fiorentina, would send out an important statement, but we need to stay focused on ourselves. We can't afford to let off any pressure between now and the end of the season, because we've the chance to make this the finest year in the history of the club."
One result down, another one for us to wait and see what happens Monday.
And it was only fitting that Bonucci, a former Inter youth product who was basically deemed surplus a little less than a decade ago, was the one who bagged the goal that ended up being the game-winner. Bonucci got an assist from ... Inter wingback Danilo D'Ambrosio, whose header went the wrong direction and landed right in the path of Bonucci.
Throw in Álvaro Morata's late penalty and Juventus has started a new winning streak and extended their unbeaten run to 17 games. Oh, and that lead atop the Serie A table is now up to four points with second-place Napoli facing Fiorentina Monday night at the Franchi.
Honestly, it could have been worse than 2-0, too.
Juventus left a handful of chances on the table in the first half, causing them to go into halftime tied 0-0 with Inter. It wasn't like Juve were playing poorly by any means. They started the game with their foot fully on the gas, which had some of wondering where that effort from the onset was against Bayern just a few days earlier.
The good thing is, though, Bonucci's strike about 70 seconds into the second half gave Juventus the lead the fully deserved. And, as is the case these days with Juventus, when they get the lead, it stays there. That's what's so different about this club compared to the first four or six weeks of the season. They aren't just getting leads, but their defense has become such a brick wall that 1-0 leads are a little easier to deal with these days.
You see that? Those are the words of a guy who has become one heck of a leader. Two straight draws would have been two too many, indeed, Leo. And not taking advantage of beating a struggling team like Inter might have been even worse.
Luckily we don't have to worry about any of that now. Juventus got the job done, and now we get to sit back and see if Juve can get some help from our purple-clad friends when Napoli play for the second straight Monday.
Random thoughts and observations
- Eight consecutive clean sheets in Serie A for Juventus. When you consider how many injuries have been going on in defense the last month or two, that's pretty damn remarkable.
- One guy who isn't hurt — and better not get hurt — is Gigi Buffon, who made a couple of sweet saves in closing minutes and set some more history on Sunday by breaking his own record of minutes without conceding a goal. It's been 746 minutes since San Gigi last allowed a goal to an Italian opponent. That was all the way back on Jan. 10 against Sampdoria.
- They didn't play great games by any means, but watching Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic work their tails off defensively continues to make me smile. Them not getting goals may irk some people the wrong way, but the effort they're putting in to be complete players is pretty remarkable. We always praised Carlos Tévez for his effort to drop back deep and run like a madman to win the ball back, and the same is true about both Dybala and Mandzukic.
- With that said, Dybala just seemed off on offense today. Maybe it was the slick conditions with all the rain in Turin, maybe it was something else. But Dybala's usually quality control just wasn't there.
- You can answer me this question in the comments: If Hernanes had scored that first-half goal instead of blasting it off the crossbar, what would have your reaction been? It was certainly a pretty decent way to follow up his strong second half against Bayern, if you ask me.
- Here's the part of the post-game thread where we wonder why Giorgio Chiellini was playing even though it has been proven — again — that he wasn't fully fit to play. If this kind of deal for him to miss the second leg against Bayern just like he was forced to miss the first due to injury, one has to seriously wonder what the heck makes him and the doctors think that he is truly 100 percent ready to go.
- The good thing with Chiellini having to be subbed out is that Daniele Rugani got to play. And, in the 60 or so minutes the young Italian defender had to play, he nearly put a wrong step forward. Sometimes it's a good thing as a defender to barely have your name said during a game, and that was definitely the case for Rugani.
- For the record, I like Alex Sandro. I like him a lot. What a player he is now and will continue to be as he develops further.
- Morata's first two moments of impact after coming into the game? Winning a penalty, scoring the subsequent penalty. Not bad, not bad at all.
- If you're looking for where Mario Icardi was all match, it was Andrea Barzagli's back pocket.
- Inter were atop the Serie A table when January arrived. Now they might not even make the Champions League. That's just so Inter, man.